Legalized Marijuana: A Few Observations

We recently attended an event at an area Senior Center for an informational presentation on marijuana, which now is legal for recreational use in Massachusetts (as well as in 10 other states across the country).

The room that initially was set aside for the presentation soon was filled to overflowing, requiring that it be moved to a larger hall. There were about 50 persons in attendance, and we would guess that the average age of the attendees was about 70.

The participants made the usual jokes about old hippies and senior potheads.

So what’s old is new again, literally and figuratively.

As Massachusetts and the nation grapple with the reality and implications of legalized marijuana, there are a few facts that must be kept in mind:

First and foremost, as with alcohol, marijuana should not be made available to young people under the age of 21. This has nothing to do with being prudish. Science has linked major brain and developmental disorders to marijuana consumption by young people, a fairly-recent discovery that is known as marijuana induced psychosis.

Just as alcohol consumption affects a young person’s still-developing brain (we now know that the human brain continues to develop up to the age of 25), marijuana consumption also can cause permanent brain damage — and that is not too strong a word — in teens. Parents must be extra-vigilant to ensure that their child is not consuming marijuana.

Second, those who choose edibles as their means of marijuana consumption must do so very carefully. Unlike smoking marijuana, eating a marijuana-infused product means that the “high” will take a long time to kick in. When you smoke marijuana, you know in short order when you’ve reached your limit and can stop. However, once an edible is consumed, it’s too late to know whether you’ve had too much. So go slow — really slow — with marijuana chocolates, brownies, and other edible products.

Third, users of marijuana must be sure not to operate a motor vehicle. Getting high and driving are unsafe, just as is drinking and driving.

Fourth, although the anecdotal and research evidence that both marijuana (THC) and its non-intoxicating cousin, CBD, may offer relief for a variety of ailments and pains associated with old age is becoming clearer, much more research is needed.

Israel presently leads the world in marijuana research and it is time for the U.S. to get on board. Marijuana offers the potential as an alternative to dangerous and addictive prescription drugs, including opioids. The sooner we can begin to understand the benefits — and pitfalls — of marijuana consumption, the better. There are  pluses and minuses to the legalization of marijuana that must be understood and taken into account by each of us individually and by society as a whole.

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