Teacher to Parent - Legalizing marijuana would yield negative impacts on students

Jody Stallings headshot


Q: Legalization of marijuana now seems inevitable. What might be the impact on students?

On this issue, state legislators are doing the precise opposite of what we’ve always warned our children when it comes to drugs: avoid peer pressure and just say “no.” On the contrary, they’re in a breathless race to legalize pot for no better reason than other states are doing it.

Instead of shrugging and saying to ourselves, “meh, what’s wrong with legalization?” Perhaps we should take a deep breath and ask, “what’s right about it?” Will it make things better for children in the long run? Let’s consider.

Will marijuana make our kids smarter? No. It makes them stupid. A study by Duke University found that repeated pot use among adolescents resulted in an eight point average decline in IQ from childhood to adulthood. The American Academy of Pediatrics asserts that the negative effects of marijuana include impaired short-term memory, decreased concentration, lower attention span and diminished problem solving ability, all of which make it more difficult to carry on an intelligent conversation, much less learn anything.

Will marijuana make our kids work harder? No. It makes them lazy. A study at Imperial College London, University College London and King’s College London showed that marijuana use results in lower production of dopamine, a biological chemical necessary for motivation.

Will marijuana make our kids safer? No. It’s more likely to kill them. States that have legalized pot show increased homicide rates. A study published by the Society for the Study of Addiction showed that driving while under the influence of pot doubles the risk of a car crash. The Denver Post has reported increases in marijuana-motivated murders, home invasions and organized crime in Colorado where pot is legal. And a recent spate of deadly teen-age lung illnesses has been linked to the vaping of the marijuana compound THC, according to The New England Journal of Medicine.

Will marijuana make our kids happier? No. It emotionally disintegrates them. A study published in JAMA Psychiatry showed that teens who use pot are more likely to experience depression and suicidal-related outcomes.

Will marijuana make our kids more independent? No. It turns them into addicts. The CDC flatly asserts that one in 10 marijuana users will become addicted. For people who begin using younger than 18, the number rises to one in six. According to a study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration, pot is linked to more abuse and dependency than all other illicit drugs combined.

Will marijuana strengthen families? No. It tears families apart. New York University studies demonstrate that cannabis use is linked to a higher likelihood of emotional dysregulation, which can result in hysterical outbursts, fits of anger, wild accusations, passive-aggressive behaviors and conflict incitement.

Will marijuana make our kids mentally healthier? No. It fractures their minds. Alex Berenson’s book, "Tell Your Children: The Truth About Marijuana, Mental Illness and Violence," explains the multitude of studies showing that marijuana triples an individual’s chance of developing a serious psychosis. It also exposes the direct scientific links between pot use and schizophrenia. Consider that today’s legal pot is at least 25% THC, the chemical that alters brain communication to make one “stoned.” Compare this with pot from 30 years ago which was about 2% THC and the effect on the mind of today’s child is far worse than when you were a teen. This is why psychosis diagnoses in places like Colorado have skyrocketed along with legalization.

Some might argue that a portion of this data shows marijuana has a mere “connection” with bad outcomes, not necessarily a causal relationship. Even if true, this would be no consolation. It would only mean that marijuana is not always the dissolution’s source, but its symptom. It would support what we already suspect: that people are struggling to find real meaning in their lives, and they will go from one temporary high to another to cope with its absence.

The cure isn’t legalizing something dangerous to numb the emptiness. The cure is to find what it is we’re missing.

But we won’t find that by giving our children unfettered access to a drug that will only make them dumber, more violent, less healthy, more psychotic, less safe and more addicted.

This takes us back to our original question: what, exactly, is right about marijuana? I can think of only one thing: it gets people high. It gives them a fleeting, mellow escape from the problems and emptiness in their lives. But surely whatever temporary gratification it produces could never compare to the enduring joy of having healthy, happy children with stable, loving families of their own.

If marijuana is legalized, your children will absolutely one day use it. If, like alcohol, it is readily available and has no social or legal stigma, they will probably end up using it a lot, some daily, most regularly, for the rest of their lives. It will be available literally everywhere, as it now is in Colorado where the number of marijuana shops outnumber all of the Starbucks and McDonald’s combined.

It will truly become, as the legislation suggests, “recreational” and once that happens, there will be no turning back. We’ll be stuck with it forever.

Why would anyone with a conscience say yes to that?

Jody Stallings has been an award-winning teacher in Charleston since 1992 and is director of the Charleston Teacher Alliance. He is the recipient of the 2018 first place award in column writing from the South Carolina Press Association. To submit a question or receive notification of new columns, email him at JodyLStallings@gmail.com. Follow Teacher to Parent on Facebook at facebook.com/teachertoparent and on Twitter @stallings_jody.

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