If the science has ever been closed on a subject, it is on the damage that marijuana use can do to young, developing brains.
The findings of the National Institute on Drug Abuse are clear on this.
Recently, the Dunedin Study, which followed over 1000 individuals from birth in 1972 and 1973 to age 38, found that persistent cannabis users show neuro-psychological decline from childhood to midlife and concluded that such use indicated a neuro-toxic effect on the adolescent brain.
Unfortunately, these findings reinforce my own observations of the consequences in people who admit to years of smoking marijuana.
These observations are derived from my work as the director of strategy in the Office of National Drug Control Policy in the White House, as the Director of the Florida Office of Drug Control, and as the secretary of the Florida Department of Corrections.
It is always a sad thing to see the life-lasting limitations that come as a result of marijuana abuse.
While the proponents of Amendment 2 cloak their ardent advocacy for legalizing marijuana for medical use as relief from suffering for the very ill, they fail to take into account the highly likely consequences of the loosely defined controls they have placed on children gaining access to this highly addictive drug.
We can be sure that young people in greater numbers will seek and gain access to marijuana, just as they do alcohol and tobacco.
Make marijuana legal, even though cannabis’ therapeutic properties are already approved for medical use in measured doses of the prescription drug Marinol and in other forms stripped of their high-inducing propensity, and we surely will see use of the unmeasured smoked weed (hardly a standard the Food and Drug Administration ascribes to) by young people go up.
The psychological and societal — not to mention the legal — barriers that restrain the majority of our children will go down, as well.
The results will hardly be compassionate.
Instead, they will be disastrous.
Yet the position put forward by Amendment 2’s advocates is that all of these concerns will be addressed at some later time, after the amendment passes.
How preposterous is that?
I find it hard to believe in the noble intentions of protagonists who champion widespread access to marijuana use as meant only for the sick and suffering, even as they — in unguarded moments — display their own zeal, even in front of youthful crowds, for the pleasure of getting stoned.
It is difficult to imagine that they will care about a follow-through on the promise to set well-defined controls that will keep the “medical” marijuana from falling into the wrong hands.
The net result of this charade will likely be sick people getting sicker from unsupervised self-medication of marijuana with all of its carcinogens and other harmful side effects. These side effects would include addiction, seedy clinics and unscrupulous doctors seeking to make a fast buck by wide distribution of this so-claimed medical miracle.
Include also children, teenagers and young people relishing the easy availability of marijuana easily diverted for “entertainment” purposes.
This is hardly a compassionate outcome.
Amendment 2 does not bode well for Florida’s youth. The promised checks to “medical” marijuana are not likely to materialize, nor will they prevent youth access. Just the opposite.
If Amendment 2 passes we can expect even wider use of marijuana by children and adolescents, in greater amounts, with the terrible effects on developing brains that are already well documented by the body of medical science.
I would recommend a “No” vote on Amendment 2 as the best preventative medicine for our children.
James McDonough was the director of strategy in the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy during the administration of Bill Clinton. He was also the director of the Florida Office of Drug Control during the Jeb Bush administration and the secretary of the Florida Department of Corrections for both Gov. Jeb Bush and Gov. Charlie Crist.