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Column: Don’t trivialize harmful impact of smoking pot

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I was dismayed regarding recent editorials published on the editorial pages of our nation’s papers and electronic newspapers recently that advocate for the legalization of marijuana in the states. This controversial subject has received substantial exposure.

Even our arguably most treasured sporting event was drawn into this discussion by the “humorous” referral to the 2014 Super Bowl as the “Pot Bowl,” since both NFL teams playing for the championship came from the two states in our union that have legalized marijuana for personal usage.

This trivialization of a very destructive habit is understandable from editorial writers and late-night comics. However, I certainly did not expect the president of the United States to minimize the dangerous aspects of a drug in which even the possession of represents a federal crime.

In a recent interview with New Yorker magazine, President Barack Obama intimated that he smoked a lot of pot in the ’70s, and he now sees this as a bad habit similar to smoking cigarettes or drinking alcohol. He went on to opine that marijuana was less dangerous than alcohol.

Mr. President, what scientific evidence do you have to back up these very careless statements that trivialize this critical topic for our youth? Is he ignorant of the science regarding the potency of genetically cultivated marijuana

in 2014?

Mr. President, you have an obligation to think carefully before expressing opinions that touch every family in this country. Said another way, words matter, Mr. President.

Since your first election, you have been a tireless advocate for a larger governmental role in our lives and that also includes increased funding for important organizations such as the National Institutes for Health.

What is most disturbing about your careless comments on the usage of marijuana is that they are directly opposite of the official position of the NIH-National Institute on Drug Abuse, which states: “Research shows marijuana may cause problems in daily life or make a person’s existing problems worse.

Heavy marijuana users generally report lower life satisfaction, poorer mental and physical health, more relationship problems and less academic and career success compared to non-marijuana-using peers.

For example, marijuana use is associated with a higher likelihood of dropping out of school. Several studies also associate workers’ marijuana smoking with increased absences, tardiness, accidents, workers’ compensation claims and job turnover.”

This statement was just updated January 2014 and, unlike your offhand comments, is not trivial since it is supported by scientific studies.

A reader might ask a simple question regarding my letter: What is this guy’s problem? It’s just a little high from a plant from Mother Earth.

My perspective is unique in that I have personally witnessed many young minds snuffed out by the usage of this drug. In the ’70s we used a term for chronic marijuana users called “burnout.” It was just a derogatory label then, but now it is a scientifically proven side effect of this drug.

As a critical care physician I have personally taken care of many patients who have suffered the long-term physical and psychological damages from this drug. I strongly believe it is a gateway drug and does lead to more serious abuse of hallucinogens and narcotics in some users.

Users are simply chasing that first high, which frequently is a chase that leads to a dead-end road. Just in the past week, a teenage musician was arrested for a DUI and reportedly his marijuana usage has now progressed to mixing narcotic cough syrup with Jolly Ranchers and Sprite.

An intellectually honest person must wonder if there was a progression from “smoking pot” to taking a life detour down a very dangerous path of narcotic addiction, which kills many of our youth every day.

Millions of young people in our country look to our president as a true role model for their young lives. Words matter, Mr. President, and your words were not only trivial but also potentially devastating for our youth.

Dr. Mark Williams is a critical care physician in Franklin. Send comments to letters@dailyjournal.net.

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