Marijuana has been considered an illegal substance in the United States since the 1940's. It is currently recognized as a Schedule I, Class A drug, which means that being caught with the drug can mean imprisonment or heavy fines. The main reason it is so illegal is because smoking marijuana can cause long-term health and mental problems, as well as an addiction to this and possibly "harder substances" like cocaine and heroin.
One of the major effects of smoking marijuana is that the person looses their ability to function properly. Driving, for example, after smoking dope is really dangerous because marijuana can slow down your reflex times and affect your coordination. The Dawn Report (2004) noted that nearly 120,000 people were admitted to emergency rooms suffering from marijuana-induced problems in 2002, which was an increase of more than 139% since 1995 (Dawn Report, 2004). The University of California, Los Angeles School of Medical Studies completed a report that showed that marijuana smoke is four times more harmful to your lungs that an ordinary cigarette, and that a marijuana joint can contain up to 400 different chemicals (1997). This same study found that smoking marijuana can prevent a body from fighting off infections and diseases, so marijuana smokers get sick more often and stay sick for longer, than a person who does not smoke marijuana (1997).
The National Institute of Drug Abuse completed a study in 2002 that showed that long-term marijuana use can increase the chances of a person getting a mental illness such as schizophrenia. Their study also showed that one of the main problems with marijuana is that it can be laced with other drugs such as crack cocaine, PCP or even embalming fluids, but because the smell and effects of a marijuana smoke is so strong, users are unlikely to realize their smoke has been laced until they start to suffer immediate effects from the introduced drug (National Institute of Drug Abuse, 2002).
Cited: DAWN Report. Major Drugs of Abuse in ED Visits, 2002 update, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), May 2004
Mueller, M.D., NIDA Notes, 12 (1), NIDA, January/February 1997
National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), "Marijuana: Facts Parents Need to Know", Revised, 2002
University of California, Los Angeles School of Medicine, "Effects of Marijuana on the Lung and its immune Defenses", 1997
All references accessed from an online article "Tips for Teens: The Truth About Marijuana" accessed online at http://ncadi.samhsa.gov/govpubs.phd641 13th December 2004
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