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Legalize it! Print E-mail
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Written by By Thamar Jones   
Thursday, 02 November 2017 00:00

Anti-drug activists think that a few puffs on a joint will turn you into a red-eyed, unemployed psychopath – probably for life. But is marijuana actually that bad for you?

This week marks a monumental milestone in Belize’s history as the personal usage of marijuana will have officially been decriminalized. This follows legalization in several states in America and recently the decriminalization of marijuana in Jamaica. For better or worse Belize has followed suit-with legalization and regulation perhaps somewhere in the future.

But there are mixed sentiments about this amendment to the Misuse of Drugs Act, with the churches and conservatives believing that this amendment will be detrimental to society in the long run, versus the other common but opposite sentiment that the amendment is a good thing… great even, as it now corrects a judicial system that was penalizing marijuana users unfairly since, while the demographics of users represent all ages, social, economic and ethnic population  it  is  mainly  the  young,  black  men whose  personal  use  of  marijuana  resulted  in  arrests,  imprisonment, and criminal record which made them ineligible to gain employment thereafter.

I side with the latter; however, those against are also right in thinking that the decriminalization of the personal use of the drug could lead to the misconception that marijuana use is without its potential dangers. The risks are there and they are real and according to research, this is especially true for teenagers.

The teen years are a time of rapid growth, exploration, and onset of risk taking. Taking risks with new behaviors provides children and adolescents the opportunity to test their skills and abilities and discover who they are. But, some risk behaviors—such as using marijuana—can have harmful and long-lasting effects on a teen’s health and well-being.

Marijuana and the teen brain

Unlike adults, the teen brain is actively developing and often will not be fully developed until the mid-20s. Marijuana use during this period may harm the developing teen brain.

Negative effects reportedly include:

•  Difficulty thinking and problem solving;

•  Problems with memory and learning;

Impaired coordination;

•         Difficulty maintaining attention;

•         Negative effects on school and social life;

Marijuana use in adolescence or early adulthood can have a serious impact on a teen’s life.

•         Decline in school performance;

Students who smoke marijuana may get lower grades and may be more likely to drop out of high school than their peers who do not use it;

•         Increased risk of mental health issues.

Marijuana use has been linked to a range of mental health problems in teens such as depression or anxiety. Psychosis has also been seen in teens at higher risk like those with a family history;

•   Impaired driving;

Driving while impaired by any substance, including marijuana, is dangerous. Marijuana negatively affects a number of skills required for safe driving, such as reaction time, coordination, and concentration.

Potential for addiction.

Research shows that about 1 in 6 teens who repeatedly use marijuana can become addicted, which means that they may make unsuccessful efforts to quit using marijuana or may give up important activities with friends and family in favor of using marijuana.

There are plenty of reasons to support the move to decriminalize marijuana—from its health benefits to gains that could come from tax revenues on sales and savings to the justice system – including the cost of keeping smokers in jail.

But if you are a teen or young adult, consider the risks to your cognitive development and abstain from using this drug and all other drugs for that matter. The Government of Belize was very careful to put in certain safeguards to protect children and adolescents.  The first of these is the provision in the Act that makes it absolutely clear that minors are governed by a different regime than adults. The provision seeks to rehabilitate minors who come in contact with marijuana, section 9 of the act says “where the person found in possession is under the age of eighteen years, he is required to participate, in a drug treatment or drug counselling.”

Drug free is still the best way to be!ars.