Marijuana has a benign reputation, says the Los Angeles Times: Many baby boomers smoked and emerged unscathed, and medical marijuana facilities with their friendly images of seven-fingered leaves have popped up all over Los Angeles. That might be why Proposition the Nov. 2 ballot measure that would legalize marijuana and regulate it similarly to alcohol, has generated debate on the potential effect on business revenue, tax dollars, and law enforcement but scant discussion on the potential fallout on people’s health.
Addiction counselors are split on the legalization issue largely because of their long-standing support of treatment over jail and legal penalties for marijuana addicts. Nationally, public health experts mostly are against legalization. They say it will increase the number of people who become addicted to the drug, contribute to more automobile accidents, and erode school performance. “It’s bizarre to me when people say, ‘Make marijuana legal, and we’ll have no problems with it,’ ” said Keith Humphreys, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral science at Stanford who recently served as a White House advisor on drug control policy. Because the science of marijuana’s health effects is in many cases unclear, experts on each side of the legalization debate can point to scientific studies that support their own position. Marijuana is addictive for about 9 percent of adults who use it (compared with 15 percent who use alcohol and 15 percent who use cocaine).