Mercer Island Reporter


Legalizing marijuana could increase use | Island Forum

By JULIE ELLNER, M.D. Mercer Island Reporter Contributor
October 22, 2012 · 3:54 PM

We all agree that sniffing glue is not a good idea. It affects cognition. Same with lead paint. We go to great lengths to prevent our kids from being around it since we know that ingestion causes decreased intelligence.

A study published this month in “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences” shows that smoking marijuana four or more times per week in children under the age of 18 years causes a loss of up to eight IQ points.

As a pediatrician on Mercer Island, I would like to prevent as many kids as possible from using marijuana in any amount.

I am very concerned that legalization of marijuana will lead to higher teen use and abuse.

Local Mercer Island data on alcohol use among our youth shows that 31 percent of all high school students have used alcohol in the past 30 days, and 20 percent have used marijuana. The rate of use is higher among our seniors in high school. When availability goes up, I believe marijuana use will rise accordingly. It will be illegal for use by minors, but of course, so is alcohol.

The political forces for legalization are planning for increased use and abuse and are prepared to use some of the tax and regulation fees on rehabilitation. We in medicine know that treatment of alcohol and drug abuse is not straightforward, and simply spending money doesn’t even begin to solve the problems incurred by those suffering from addiction. There are currently not enough resources to care for everyone, including our youth, with addiction of all kinds. Taking an action that will certainly increase use and abuse of a drug that has known dangers to our kids makes no sense. We all know that prevention is the best way to address the hazards of addictions.

Marijuana is addictive, causes a decrease in memory, motivation, a lowering of intelligence, contributes to depression, and is particularly bad for the developing brain. I hope we do not make it more readily available for our youth.

Dr. Julie Ellner is a pediatrician at Mercer Island Pediatrics.


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