By Carol Hopp, Community Prevention Specialist | Heard about marijuana in the news lately? That’s because there is a national debate on whether to legalize marijuana for medical and/or recreational purposes. It may not seem like it, but it won’t be long before Iowans are asked for their opinion on this topic. It is your responsibility to learn enough about this topic to make an educated decision when the time comes. Helping Services and local coalitions are partnering with schools and community venues to ‘clear the smoke’ and get accurate information out about the health and safety risks of marijuana. Marijuana has been shown to have medicinal properties when used as directed with a prescription, but that’s a topic for another article. Recreational use is never safe and is always a risk to the health of the community. There are still a lot of unknowns about marijuana, but there are some things you should know:
- Driving while under the influence of marijuana doubles a driver’s risk of an accident. The Iowa Department of Transportation and Public Safety reported that in 2013, ten percent of traffic deaths were related to drugs and two-thirds of those fatalities involved marijuana.
- Marijuana contains THC. THC’s addictive, mind-altering components cause users to feel anxiety, panic, fear, distrust, loss of identity, delusions, and hallucinations. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that 1 in 6 youth and 25-50% of daily users get addicted.
- Marijuana is associated with lower school and career success. According to NIDA, long-term marijuana users report lower grades, fewer diplomas, decreased overall life satisfaction, and lower salaries and career success. They also reported of a larger, long-term study which showed teen marijuana smokers losing an average of 8 IQ points from age 13 to 38.
- Youth in your county have access to marijuana.
- Marijuana is a growing concern. According to the Iowa Department of Public Health, in 932 Iowa emergency department visits from 2012, marijuana was involved. That is more than double the 455 such visits that were reported 6 years prior.