Article by Stewart Lawrence, National Monitor
Marijuana is one of those “hot button” issues — like abortion and immigration – that leave supporters and opponents so intensely divided that no middle ground seems possible. Currently, the federal government classifies marijuana as a “Schedule 1” substance. It’s a crime – indeed, a felony – to possess and distribute the drug, even in relatively small amounts. And half the states in the country still have harsh “pot” laws on the books.
But some 23 states including the District of Columbia have all but legalized the drug. And several have begun allowing consumers to purchase “medical” marijuana in “dispensaries,” ostensibly to treat chronic pain from diseases like cancer.
So is marijuana dangerous or not?
Well, it depends. For many adults, puffing on a joint may be no different than having a regular drink or two. Most pot smokers, according to federal statistics, are light-to-moderate users. Except among strict teetotalers and religious purists, there isn’t a terribly strong argument against adults choosing to smoke a little grass.
But when it comes to marijuana use by school-age youth, all agreement ends. Daily pot smoking by primary and secondary school students has been growing steadily, according to the authoritative Monitoring the Future study, an annual survey of teen lifestyle habits. Even as tobacco use has declined sharply among youth– with noticeable reductions in alcohol use, too — pot use has not.