As a freelance writer, I have been covering medical cannabis and recreational marijuana for a number of years. I have had a front row seat at a show featuring state after state debating the merits of medical cannabis only to eventually legalize it. Nearly two dozen have also now legalized recreational marijuana. After so many years of covering the topic, I now wonder if it is possible to have an honest discussion about legal marijuana.
I am not alone in my skepticism. Many people I have talked to wonder the same thing. Here’s the issue: people on both sides of the legal marijuana debate passionately believe in the truth of their positions. That’s good. But unfortunately, passionate debates do not lend themselves well to fact-based discussions driven by information rather than emotion.
This same thing holds true with every emotionally-charged debate society finds itself engaged in. Whether you are for or against, it is difficult to view the topic at hand from a completely unbiased perspective. Furthermore, the strength of any particular bias influences a person’s ability to have an honest discussion.
Warning Kids About Marijuana
Gray Matters is a Utah organization designed to help reduce teen marijuana use through education and advocacy. The organization does not discuss marijuana from either a moral or legal perspective. They approach it only from the science of how it affects teen brains.
According to the Deseret Wellness medical cannabis pharmacy in Provo, minors are not allowed to use medical cannabis without approval from the state’s Compassionate Use Board. Their parents or legal guardians must have active medical cannabis cards to purchase cannabis for them. Yet Utah still needs to deal with illegal marijuana use among teenagers.
Organizations like Gray Matters look to the science to change things. They cite data that suggests marijuana consumption among teenagers could be harmful to their physical and mental health. They seek to pass that information along to parents and teens and hopes that they will talk about it. Their ultimate goal is to reduce marijuana consumption among young people.
Not the Greatest Thing
Gray Matters also isn’t the only organization doing what they do. There are similar nonprofits all around the country. All are trying to get the message across that marijuana is not the greatest thing since sliced bread. They want people to understand that using marijuana is not 100% risk free.
They are up against advocacy groups that go to great lengths to promote marijuana as all good. They are up against a culture that, at this point, seems unwilling to say ‘no’ to any kind of drug. They are not helped by marijuana opponents who refuse to acknowledge that medical cannabis has legitimate uses.
An Unnecessarily Clouded Debate
Since both sides of the legal marijuana debate tend to be so absolute in their positions, the debate itself gets unnecessarily clouded by misinformation and emotional judgments. And when any debate gets clouded, it is hard to see the truth. That’s where we are in the legal marijuana discussion right now.
Our knowledge of marijuana and its long-term effects on human health is virtually nonexistent. The drug has not been studied enough to reach any concrete conclusions. But we do know that psychotropic drugs of all kinds impact mental and physical health. There is no such thing as a risk-free drug.
Perhaps someday it will be possible to have a truly honest discussion about legal marijuana. But for now, it doesn’t seem possible. The passions on both sides of the debate run too hot most of the time. Here’s hoping they cool off.