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Should Marijuana Be Legal

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When examining the prevalence of alcohol and marijuana it becomes apparently that alcohol use is more prevalent than marijuana use. This was evident with a recent study stating that 77% of 12th grade students having tried alcohol in past month, which is more than triple the marijuana use, with only 20% of students reported use in the same time period1. It is important to note, the reports that the low number of marijuana use can be contribute to the illegal nature of the drug. However, later in the report it states that the 58% of adolescence drinkers also have used marijuana1. The lifetime prevalence rate for marijuana is 49.7% among high school seniors, annual rate is 37.8% and the 30-day rate is 23.1 % 1. Meanwhile, the alcohol lifetime prevalence is 80%, with over 62 % reporting drunkenness1. Almost one fourth of the men and one eighth of the women used in another study between the ages of 18-25 used alcohol and marijuana in combination2.
Prevalence of drinking and smoking marijuana is a concern because it introduces a bevy of toxins which may disrupt healthy brain development. These toxins can disrupt the activity in the hippocampus, a vital limbic system organ located within the brain's medial temporal lobe that regulates emotions and memory3. Aberrations in hippocampal asymmetry and left hippocampal volumes were studied by comparing adolescent alcohol users, both marijuana and alcohol users, and healthy controls using neuroimaging and neuropsychological data. The results revealed that the alcohol alone users had more right to left asymmetry than healthy controls and double drug users. In addition, the reports states that aberrations of the hippocampus could contribute to verbal, learning and memory problems and make subjects more likely to get in physical altercations and legal issues3. The study also reported that marijuana could be neuroprotective in combination with alcohol use because there was no difference between both drug users and healthy controls3. Concurrent use of cannabis and alcohol actually reduces blood alcohol levels3. However, users were shown to report behavioral problems more often than single-substance users (i.e. poor school performance, operating a vehicle) and represent the fifth largest group presenting with drug problems to emergency rooms and legal problems3.
One of the main reasons why people use alcohol and smoke marijuana in conjunction is to improve their intoxication, or to increase the effect of the first drug taken3. Marijuana doesn’t affect the alcohol absorption in the body, but the alcohol supports the marijuana use effects3. Alcohol has the ability to act as a depressant of the CNS and when it is administered orally, is rapidly absorbed by the gastrointestinal tracts and enters the bloodstream3. Alcohol enables the blood vessels to absorb Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) more readily yielding enhanced marijuana effects and intoxication3. Some of the short –term effects include changes in emotional behavior, compromised judgment, decreased attention, perception and memory loss, impaired motor coordination and “greening out”3. The “greening out” phenomenon is where people feel sick after smoking marijuana and experience pallor, dizziness, nauseous, perspire excessively, and may vomit3. In the long term users may see liver damage (i.e. fatty liver), improper brain growth, mental illness (i.e. dementia), heart diseases (i.e. hypertension), lung diseases (i.e. bronchitis), decrease sperm count in males and increase risk of cancer3.
Drinking and smoking can impair how a person performs their family role and can include substantial mental health problems for the abuser and their family members. 66% of child abuse can be traced to smoking and drinking4. Smoking marijuana and drinking contribute to the $ 39.8 billion the Canadian gov’t spend on treatment like rehab facilities and depression therapies4. During pregnancy, children are highly susceptible to numerous physiological and mental deformities4. Substance abuse has accounted for 75% of battery charges and in North America4. Also, 32% of homeless people in Canada have reported marijuana and alcohol issues. A growing societal issues is impaired driving which leads to approx. 65,000 injured/killed and costs $20.62 billion in Canada4. Individuals who have drinking and smoking problems are on sick leave more frequently than other employees5. Resulting in significant cost to employees in terms of lost wage and in extreme cases unemployment also employers who have to compensate for lost productivity which accounts for $24.3 billion and costly drug testing protocols5. In Canada, up to 13% of workplace accidents may be linked to substance abuse5.

Work Citied
1) http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1081/ADA-120002980 Shillington, A.M. "Beer and Bongs: Differential Problems Experienced by Older Adolescents Using Alcohol Only Compared to Combined Alcohol and Marijuana Use." Taylor & Francis. 9 Apr. 2015. Web. 1 July 2015.
2) http://www.jsad.com/doi/10.15288/jsa.1988.49.378: Norton, Robert. "Prevalence and Patterns of Combined Alcohol and Marijuana Use.” Journal of Studies on Alcohol: Vol 49, No 4. 4 Jan. 2015. Web. 1 July 2015
3) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1821342/pdf/nihms18755.pdf “Medina, K. L., Schweinsburg, A. D., Cohen-Zion, M., Nagel, B. J., & Tapert, S. F. (2007). Effects of Alcohol and Combined Marijuana and Alcohol Use During Adolescence on Hippocampal Volume and Asymmetry. Neurotoxicology and Teratology, 29(1), 141–152. doi:10.1016/j.ntt.2006.10.010”
4) https://www.unodc.org/pdf/technical_series_1995-03-01_1.pdf UNDCP. "The Social Impact of Drug Abuse." World Summit for Social Development. 6 Mar. 1995. Web. 1 July 2015.
5) http://www.ccsa.ca/Resource%20Library/ccsa-011332-2006.pdf : Adlaf, E. "The Costs of Substance Abuse." Canadian Center of Substance Abuse. 6 Mar. 2006. Web. 1 July 2015.

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