Perspectives on the Legalization of Marijuana

As we see it, there are at least four good reasons to oppose the legalization of this drug. We also think it's important to issue a sober warning to those who are inclined to regard it as harmless recreation or a helpful form of medication.

  1. While the political agenda to standardize marijuana as a medical treatment has been successful in some states, it's still illegal per state law to purchase or use pot in most communities. And even though some states have legalized marijuana for medical (or even recreational) purposes, it is still illegal to possess, use or distribute marijuana according to federal law. People who develop a pot habit could end up in jail.

  2. There's the question of what pot does to the individual who uses it. Marijuana smoke is actually more irritating to the mouth, throat, air passages, and lungs than tobacco smoke. What's more, it contains 50 to 70 percent more cancer-provoking hydrocarbons. And pot-smokers tend to inhale deeply and hold their breath while smoking. As a result, long-term marijuana users, like their tobacco-puffing counterparts, are at higher risk than the general population not only for chronic lung disease but also for cancer of the upper respiratory tract and lungs.

    To this list of marijuana's physical effects it's crucial to add a word about its impact on motor skills and intellectual functions. This may be its greatest drawback. Frequent marijuana use can derail normal thought processes. It can impair concentration, learning, memory, and judgment. To make matters worse, a number of studies have demonstrated that these problems can continue for days or weeks after the immediate effects of the drug have worn off. Long-term marijuana users are also known for developing a marked lack of motivation. Their personal goals and self-discipline literally go up in smoke. Other research has linked marijuana use with poor overall job performance. This includes increased tardiness, absenteeism, accidents, and workers' compensation claims.

  3. The notion that marijuana is non-addictive is a myth. It's true that marijuana-dependence expresses itself differently than alcohol dependence. Unfortunately, the dependence is every bit as real. There's a reason it's called "the drug of apathy." It impairs an individual's ability to make deep and meaningful attachments. It robs him of the ability to be intimate with other people. This promotes isolation, which feeds the need to smoke pot, which strains more relationships, which causes increased conflict in marriage or with co-workers and friends. You get the picture. It's a vicious cycle. Heavy, long-term use of marijuana stunts emotional and social development. It kills motivation and prevents people from moving forward in their lives.

  4. Marijuana keeps very bad company. For adolescents and young adults alike it can become a gateway drug, introducing them to the harrowing world of illegal drugs and the criminals who produce and distribute them. A gateway drug also creates pathways in the brain that invite experimentation with harder street drugs or prescription medications. Studies have shown that 90 percent of those currently using hard addictive drugs like heroin started with marijuana.

These are the facts. They deserve careful consideration. If you'd like to discuss them at greater length with a member of our staff, feel free to call Focus on the Family's Counseling department.

One last thought. If you're already struggling with a marijuana use, we'd encourage you to find a healthy support group where you can gain perspective on your situation. To that end, we highly recommend a program called Thriving: Recover Your Life. Information about this program can be accessed via their website; click on the "Restarting" module for a video overview. This approach, which is based on Christian principles, promotes recovery by inviting participants into fellowship and deeper relationships with others.


The Last Addiction: Why Self-Help Is Not Enough

Praying God's Word: Breaking Free From Spiritual Strongholds

Putting Your Past Behind You: Finding Hope for Life's Deepest Hurts

Celebrate Recovery Curriculum Kit

Substance Abuse (resource list)

Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No, to Take Control of Your Life


Thriving: Recover Your Life

Celebrate Recovery

The Salvation Army

Lighthouse Network

National Institute on Drug Abuse

Overcomers Outreach

Battling Drug and Alcohol Abuse

This information has been approved by the Physicians Resource Council of Focus on the Family.

Adapted from The Complete Guide to Family Health, Nutrition & Fitness, an official book of the Physicians Resource Council of Focus on the Family, published by Tyndale House Publishers. Copyright © 2006, Focus on the Family.