Frum, David, Newsweek
Byline: David Frum
The perils of legalizing pot.
We're not doing well providing work for our young people. When they do find work, they'll probably earn less than their parents, probably form less stable intimate relationships, and age into more uncertain retirements.
But, hey, don't say we do nothing for our kids. Instead of work, marriage, and security, we can offer pot, porn, and videogames. Marijuana possession is now legal in Colorado and Washington. California also allows marijuana possession, if users can pay a doctor to prescribe it as "medicine."
Yet even in the 47 states that formally ban marijuana, the drug is available everywhere and at modest cost. Although data are difficult to come by, it's generally scientifically accepted that Americans smoke more marijuana per person than any other people on earth.
And really, why should that be surprising? Americans drink more than other people, eat more, crash their cars more, and shoot themselves (and each other) more. Name a risky behavior, and the United States is, if not No. 1, then usually in the top two. Marijuana use is just one more example of a consistent national pattern.
When we discuss marijuana, we usually bog ourselves down in a too-familiar debate about legalization. Prior to that question, however, let's consider another: what should we think about marijuana and the way Americans use it? For if there's one thing on which we can all agree, it is that legalization will mean even more use by even more people.
Habitual marijuana users experience more difficulty with learning and schooling. They do worse at work, miss more workdays, and suffer more accidents. They have fewer friends and occupy lower rungs on the socioeconomic ladder.
Does marijuana cause these problems? That's hard to say. The National Institute for Drug Abuse offers a cautious read of the brain science: "Research has shown that, in chronic users, marijuana's adverse impact on learning and memory can last for days or weeks ... As a result, someone who smokes marijuana every day may be functioning at a suboptimal intellectual level all of the time. Research into the effects of long-term cannabis use on the structure of the brain has yielded inconsistent results. It may be that the effects are too subtle for reliable detection by current techniques."
It's also possible that habitual marijuana use is a symptom rather than a cause of other troubles. …