The American Academy of Pediatrics recently reaffirmed its stance on the legalization of marijuana. Based on their limited study of marijuana’s effects on children, the pediatricians say marijuana should, for the most part, remain illegal. Legalization has become a popular issue throughout the United States, and four states,Washington, Oregon, Colorado and Alaska, and the District of Columbia have allowed the recreational use and sale of marijuana to adults. Twenty-three other states have legalized marijuana for medicinal use.
While many compare marijuana to alcohol, and say one is not more harmful than the other, the Academy takes issue with such a comparison. Dr. Seth Ammerman, the lead author of the Academy’s statement, says marijuana is “not benign for youth. It may be benign for adults, but the Academy feels strongly that alcohol is not benign for youths either.” He went on to say that legalization, even though only adults can purchase it, will almost certainly lead to increased availability for minors. Because the brain continues to develop into one’s twenties, marijuana use before this can have permanent effects on one’s brain. Ammerman added that regular or heavy marijuana users’ brain development is “not normal.”
The Academy’s main sticking point is that there are chemicals in marijuana, over 200 of them, which have not been studied. Doctors say they cannot endorse the use of a substance which they know so little about. Furthermore, members of the Academy point out that all of the research that is available has shown only negative effects of marijuana use in minors. Despite opposing further legalizing of marijuana, the Academy supports the decision of states which have already legalized recreational use because they say such states will provide an abundant amount of data about marijuana use. These data, they say, will enable doctors to make more informed decisions regarding marijuana use.