Every day the subject of marijuana usage appears in the newspaper. Colorado recently legalized the sales of recreational marijuana at the beginning of the year for those over 21. I believe this was a tragic mistake. I do not believe they should have legalized it.
However, I agree with decriminalizing it in the entire United States. We should decriminalize it because a first-time drug offense carries a sentence of five to 10 years. In other developed countries, that sentence would be six months of jail time, if any at all. The vast majority of those arrested with a drug offense was for possession and not sales.
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I am strongly against legalizing marijuana. Marijuana in 2014 is much stronger than 1969. Approximately 40 percent of the sales today are of the edible kind. It is easy to overdose by overeating, for example, marijuana-laced brownies. I believe this to be the tip of the iceberg.
The effects on the mental health of the users can be devastating, also as stated on our NAMI website: "The overwhelming consensus from mental health professionals is that marijuana is not helpful -- and potentially dangerous -- for people with mental illness. Using marijuana can directly worsen symptoms of anxiety, depression or schizophrenia through its actions on the brain."
The literature on marijuana usage is quite clear that young adults who occasionally smoke marijuana will show abnormalities in their brain that could be damaging their minds at a critical time. A strong argument can be made that marijuana is a gateway drug: 107 million Americans -- more than 40 percent of the U.S. population born since 1960 -- have tried marijuana, and 37 million have tried heroin.
Joseph M. Jason
President, NAMI BA
National Alliance on Mental Illness