Seeking Balance in the Use of Marijuana (Part 2): The Politics of Pot

Marijuana has been used for thousands of years for medicinal and other purposes. It was made illegal in the USA through the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937. Pharmaceutical companies had to discontinue their research and use of it in medicines. Marijuana and its derivatives were later classified as a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. The legalization of this herb called Cannabis for medicinal purposes and even for recreational use in
many states has brought marijuana back into the public discussion.

THC concentrations have significantly increased through plant breeding practices over the past 50 years. The negative impact on brain function, especially in prenatal development in pregnant mothers, children of nursing mothers, and our youth, raises serious concerns for many who examine the evidence. The wisdom of our lawmakers is in question when recreational
marijuana is supported, yet lobbying efforts are winning the political game across the USA.

Many argue that the broader costs to society do not justify the revenue generated through taxes. Here are some points to consider if you are voting on this issue.

Traffic Accidents and Fatalities: Marijuana is the drug most frequently reported in connection to fatal accidents, as well as impaired driving accidents in general. A 2012 Meta-analysis of the data concluded with: “Drivers who test positive for marijuana or self–report using marijuana are more than twice as likely as other drivers to be involved in motor vehicle crashes.”

Another study reported it “doubles the risk of a motor vehicle accident.” THC levels and performance impairment have been tested and verified in laboratory studies. The evidence is clear from other research that marijuana impairs perception of time and speed, reaction time, motor coordination, and attentiveness.

Increased Crime: Crime has significantly increased where marijuana is legalized. Consider the report by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. “The crime rate in Colorado has increased 11 times faster than the rest of the nation since legalization, with the Colorado Bureau of Investigation reporting an 8.3% increase in property crimes and an 18.6% increase in violent crimes.” This makes sense when considering the impaired judgment and impulse control
which is a consequence of marijuana use.

Brain Impact on Youth: Statistics show that young people use marijuana at a higher rate after it is legalized. Their brains are still forming until they are 25 years old, and the serious negative impact on them has been clearly documented. The younger the brain, the worse the long term negative impact of marijuana use. The loss of an average of eight IQ points persists even into midlife, according to a longitudinal study of regular marijuana users.

Gateway Drug: Increased use of marijuana does predict an increased risk of the use of other illicit drugs. This is both through social contacts who introduce the person to other illicit drugs, as well as the impact on different regions of the brain. Impaired pre-frontal cortex activity leads to decreased judgment, and the specific dopamine system impact can result in an increased addictive potential from opioids, if ingested. Who will bear the cost to society of losses to the
work force, treatment and increased need for health care due to these problems?.

Increased Black Market: The black market for marijuana has greatly increased in states where legalization has occurred, contrary to the false arguments of pro-marijuana supporters. The overproduction of marijuana is one reason noted. Another is the desire to avoid paying the extra cost from taxation. Another possibility is the competition for higher THC levels among
recreational users, increasing significantly the potential for dependence and even permanent psychotic episodes in some people.

Profits to Big Corporations: Large tobacco and alcohol companies, insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies, and even banking interests are lobbying for legalization of marijuana. George Soros and the lobbying group Drug Policy Alliance have contributed hundreds of millions of dollars to the cause, influencing politicians in this direction for over 15 years. Alcohol companies and the pharmaceutical industry have changed their opposition into
support, seeing new potential for profits. The argument that legalization of recreational marijuana will benefit our local economies has to be examined more carefully.

Problems due to Federal prohibition: Commerce and even travel across state lines presents potential legal problems, and even international travel is in jeopardy for those involved in the marijuana business. This State versus Federal “rights” issue is making it difficult for the banking industry at present, although congress is currently debating that issue.

Conclusion: It is reasonable to advocate for marijuana with lower levels of THC – the part that gets people “high” – to be used in research to determine its health benefits. This is particularly true of the CBD oil component from marijuana which does not get people high. Putting it under Federal oversight through the DEA and FDA will not only increase research, it can then standardize dosages and diminish contaminants like pesticides and heavy metals currently in many marijuana products. However, the health and social consequences of marijuana use strongly indicate legalization of marijuana for recreational use is a mistake for society in general. Judicial reform and racial bias in sentencing are concerns that can be addressed in other ways.

Ronald S. Newman, Ph.D. is a psychologist in Mays Landing on Route 50 who can be reached at:, or 609-567-9022. References upon request.
Originally written for the Hammonton Gazette, July 2019, who have first rights to publish.

Seeking Balance in the Use of Marijuana (Part 1)

The negative impact on the brain leads to great concerns in regard to normalizing recreational use of marijuana for the general public.

After researching this issue from a professional perspective, I believe there are both positive and negative factors to consider before choosing to use marijuana in any form.


Medical Conditions:  The National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s extensive 2017 review of the health effects of cannabinoids found that only three therapeutic uses had conclusive research support: 

1) treating some forms of chronic pain, 2) decreasing spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis, and 3) reducing nausea associated with chemotherapy. Other possible conditions being researched are glaucoma, epilepsy, wasting syndrome associated with AIDS, and inflammation (as in rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis).

Thousands of studies on the benefits of marijuana’s components are ongoing, with potential benefits to many other conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and neuropathy in diabetes.

CBD Oil: CBD oil is a non-THC part of marijuana that does not get a person “high”. Investigations are ongoing as to whether CBD oil provides equal benefit, or whether THC – the part that gets you “high”- is more effective for treating various conditions, especially pain. CBD oil as a safe alternative to THC is promising, although most companies get CBD from hemp as opposed to marijuana. Also, caution is needed since investigations show great variations in actual dosage compared to labels among different companies selling it.  

High quality CBD oil has much testimonial support as an alternative to THC, and claims of an improved pain management effect with a small dose of THC added that is insufficient to get a person “high”.  This may be useful in the treatment of conditions such as problems with anxiety disorders or even Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Rigorous studies are needed before empirical conclusions can be made. Quality control problems and lack of FDA or NIH approvals cause many to be cautious at present.  Due to THC in many CBD products, stories of many people having employment problems from positive drug tests are also of real concern for occupations such as truck drivers and police officers.


Risk of Psychosis? Cannabis use in teens increases the risk for psychosis.  Clients with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia experience a more severe course of illness and poorer life functioning.  The research shows, however, that other genetic factors, such as family members who have these conditions, may bring an even greater increase in risk.  Genetic vulnerability to this problem certainly indicates that those with hereditary risk factors should avoid marijuana use. 

Brain Function: Cannabis use in teens results in lower cognitive functioning and is also correlated with lower prestige occupations than their parents, lower income, higher unemployment, a greater need for socioeconomic assistance, increased criminal behavior, and lower satisfaction with life.  Brain scans show decreased blood flow to the brain indicating lesser brain function, decreased IQ, and increasing concerns regarding early Alzheimer’s disease. 

Adult Health Consequences: Long term daily cannabis users experience the most harmful effects, while these are uncommon for occasional recreational users. Inflammation of the large airways, lung hyperinflation, chronic bronchitis, increased respiratory infections, pneumonia, higher risk of stroke and heart attacks, are all noted in some correlational research with marijuana.  There is also concern for the prenatal brain development of unborn children.  Physically, the most frequent problem experienced is gum disease.  Research related to lung cancer is confounded by other variables, such as cigarette use.  Tobacco is clearly related to lung and other cancers, and many believe the evidence points to the same problem with marijuana.  Others argue for a protection benefit from some cancers, however, due to our endocannabinoid system and preliminary research.  

Addiction Potential: Nine percent of those who experiment with marijuana will develop an “addiction” to it.  That rises to about 17% for those who start using marijuana as teenagers, and 50% for those who smoke pot daily.  The teenage brain is still developing, so introduction of psychoactive substances at this age is seen as very problematic for healthy development.  Learning and memory portions of the brain are affected, as are those areas involved in alertness, self-conscious awareness, and impulse control.  The healthy development of children and youth is hindered through the influence of marijuana which studies show make them more vulnerable to addiction to other substances.

Brain scans show the same patterns for marijuana as other addictions. There is a “cannabis withdrawal syndrome” with irritability, sleep difficulty, anxiety, and craving which contributes to the addiction process and relapse.  

Gateway Drug: Increased use of marijuana does predict an increased risk of the use of other illicit drugs.  Research shows that marijuana decreases the reactivity of the dopamine neurons that modulate the brain’s reward regions.  In other words, the brain becomes more susceptible to addiction to other drugs, making marijuana a “gateway drug” both socially and physiologically.  The marijuana primes the brain for a heightened response to other drugs.  It is no surprise that research has shown that smoking marijuana doubles the risk for opioid addiction later in life.

Impaired Driving: A 2012 meta-analysis of the data concluded with:  “Drivers who test positive for marijuana or self–report using marijuana are more than twice as likely as other drivers to be involved in motor vehicle crashes.” Another study reported it “doubles the risk of a motor vehicle accident.” The evidence is clear from research that marijuana impairs perception of time and speed, reaction time, motor coordination, and attentiveness.     

What are your thoughts about legalization? Write me with your feedback or to request references.

Ronald S. Newman, Ph.D. is a psychologist in Mays Landing on Route 50 who can be reached at:, or 609-567-9022.      

Originally written for the Hammonton Gazette, June 2019, who have first rights to publish.