Editorial: Marijuana: Costly to health

By Jesse O. Walls
Managing Editor

Marijuana, known by a series of names, such as pot or weed, is a hot subject of debate in the United States.  Some people dismiss morality and logic, willing to overlook the side-effects and cons of smoking marijuana in favor of having a new, taxable, cash crop for the government to use to raise revenue.  However, others recognize the risks and repercussions of making it legal and realize it would not be worth the cost.

Consisting of dried parts of the hemp plant, cannabis sativa, marijuana is a mind-altering drug that can cause an array of physiological and psychological impairments.  Being composed of hundreds of compounds, it contains psychoactive substances known as cannabinoids, including tetrahydrocannibinol (THC), which is responsible for the intoxicating high.

Psychological Impairments

“Marijuana is the most common illegal drug found in drivers who die in accidents,” states the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) website.  “[It] affects a number of skills required for safe driving—alertness, concentration, coordination and reaction time.”

Under the influence of marijuana, a person’s perception can be distorted and their inhibitions reduced.  This leads to poor judgment and decision making.  It also tends to lead users into risky behavior which they would not otherwise get involved in.

Motor skills and coordination can also be affected by marijuana, causing a person’s timing to be off, or movements to be slow or clumsy.  For an athlete, timing and coordination can be a deciding factor to a winning or losing game; for a person behind the wheel, it could be a matter of life or death.

Physiological Dangers

Regular marijuana use can lead to physiological troubles as well.  Though it is uncertain if smoking marijuana can lead to lung cancer, marijuana smokers do share many of the same respiratory problems as tobacco smokers.  Over time they can develop a daily cough, and are more prone to upper respiratory infections and lung infections, such as pneumonia.

A person’s heart rate can also speed up by 20 – 50 beats per minute, if not completely double, after inhaling marijuana smoke, according to NIDA.  In some cases marijuana is known to cause a raise in blood pressure, which, along with the increased heart rate, makes conditions more favorable for a heart attack.

Marijuana can also affect one’s sex life.  According to the Virtual Health and Wellness Center of Adelphi University (AU), regular marijuana use can lead to infertility in men.  It can also increase the risk of erectile dysfunction.  In women the drug can affect the part of the brain that controls hormones, leading to irregular menstrual cycles, and can even raise testosterone levels.

Effects on Learning

Marijuana has also been linked to failure in school and classes.  In comparison, smokers tend to get poorer grades than those who don’t use marijuana, and run a higher risk of dropping out, states the NIDA website.

According to Understanding Psychology by Charles G. Morris and Albert A. Maisto, one study revealed that skills requiring attention, memory and learning were impaired in college students who heavily used marijuana.

The negative effects the drug can have can last for days, if not weeks, especially for those who frequently use it.  It alters judgment, affects one’s memory and concentration, making it a bad habit to have if a person is trying to get an education.


In the end, there are few areas that marijuana does not touch, few things it does not alter.  Knowing the risks that are involved, and the potential dangers, it isn’t worth the cost to legalize marijuana.