Since 1969, Spectrum Health Systems has been dedicated to providing cutting-edge addiction treatment, helping hundreds of thousands of individuals achieve sobriety and reclaim their lives. During this time, we’ve seen first-hand the profound devastation that often occurs as a result of addiction.
Consider the following:
Marijuana use during adolescence is especially damaging in terms of impaired cognitive function, including memory issues, learning deficits and lower IQs, all of which can persist into adulthood. Despite this fact, the majority of high school seniors do not think regular marijuana smoking is harmful. In fact, only 36% believe that regular use puts the user at great risk compared to 52% five years ago. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, nearly 1 in 15 high school seniors use marijuana on a daily basis, while 21% of all 12th graders report using marijuana in the past month.1 Also, more young people seek treatment for marijuana abuse or dependence than for use of alcohol and all other drugs.2
While using marijuana alone is unlikely to be life threatening at any age, it can cause serious problems. Numerous studies have linked marijuana use to mental health problems including increased rates of anxiety, mood and psychotic thought disorders. Marijuana use is also associated with relationship problems, poor academic performance, employment issues and lower life satisfaction. Because of the increased potency of present day marijuana, these problems are much more significant for today’s users.
While many argue against the notion of marijuana being a so-called “gateway drug,” individuals with a drug addiction usually began with readily available substances like marijuana, tobacco, or alcohol. Most individuals with a drug addiction say that once they chose to smoke marijuana, the decision to progress to other drugs came much easier. Who can be certain which marijuana users will progress to more serious drug use? And more importantly, why take that chance?
Contrary to common belief, marijuana can be addictive. Research suggests that about 9 percent of all users become addicted and that, among those who start young, the percentage is closer to 17 percent—or one in six.3
Marijuana use predicts a greater likelihood of criminal activity and involvement in the criminal justice system. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, marijuana is the most common drug used by state prisoners. In fact, 40% of state prisoners report using marijuana in the month before their offense, and 15% say they had used marijuana at the time of their offense.4 Although law enforcement of marijuana use disproportionately impacts minorities, we believe there are other ways to address discrimination than to legalize it for all.
For these reasons, Spectrum’s position on this proposed legislation is to oppose the legalization of marijuana in Massachusetts.