Legalized Marijuana What You Need to Know

September 02, 2014 / Mike Siegel MD

Legalized Marijuana What You Need to Know

Photo Credit: Pew Research Center

With a number of states recently passing legislation to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, it is a good time to take a look at the conflicting information out there about using it. Regardless of your opinion on whether it should be legal or not, it is important that people know some of the impacts it can have on your health.

Public opinion in the U.S. about marijuana has shifted dramatically over the last several decades. The New York Times recently outlined that change: in 1991, 78 percent of Americans agreed that marijuana should be illegal compared to today when a majority (52 percent) believe it should be legal. Along with the belief that it should be legal often comes a perception that marijuana is a benign drug, but the truth is there are some risks associated with using it, particularly among young people.

Marijuana can affect brain development and memory, which is of real concern when thinking about younger people using marijuana on a regular basis. According to a recent New England Journal of Medicine report, other side effects of short-term use include impaired coordination, which can interfere with the ability to drive a car or operate complex machinery; altered judgment which can lead to a variety of poor decisions impacting your health; and paranoia and psychosis, which can occur when marijuana is consumed in high doses.

Another common perception of marijuana is that it is not addictive. While it is not on the same level as nicotine when it comes to addiction, roughly 9 percent of people who use marijuana become addicted.

The moral of this story is to be educated. Marijuana, like any other legal drug, should be used with a full understanding of its risks and benefits.