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EDITORIAL: Dumbing down

Those who support marijuana legalization typically argue that the drug isn’t as harmful as other prohibited substances. They cite its medicinal benefits and say marijuana should be legalized to provide a healthy stream of tax revenue. But new medical research indicates that increased access to marijuana could put an increasing number of people at risk for health problems — especially young people.

According to a recent Review-Journal poll, Nevadans are split when it comes to legalizing marijuana use. Question 2 on the Nov. 8 ballot would let Nevada join the likes of Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska in allowing the retail sale of marijuana to adults 21 years and older. It would also decriminalize the possession of fewer than 1 ounce of the drug. The poll found 47 percent of Nevadans in favor and 46 percent opposed.

Voters, however, might want to pause and take a deep breath before making it easier for everyone to inhale.

A recent study in the Scandinavian medical journal Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica suggests there could be a link between heavy marijuana usage in teens and lower IQ scores. The study, which set out to determine whether the drug could help with depression symptoms, found that early marijuana use not only didn’t help teens overcome depression, but also contributed to lower IQ scores in those studied.

The American Psychological Association has similar concerns. It cites multiple studies which indicate that adolescents are particularly susceptible to long-term damage from marijuana use. The brain is still under development until the early or mid-20s, one such study noted, and people who use the drug regularly during those years are at risk for a drop in neuropsychological function on par with those suffering from prolonged lead exposure.

Despite the fact that the proposed legislation requires marijuana users to be 21, legal status and the increased production of the drug will certainly make it more accessible to younger people.

It’s true there are other scientific studies that reach different conclusions about marijuana and IQ decline in adolescents. But the fact that researchers have yet to reach any definitive verdict on the issue is just another reason to be skeptical of those urging that we make pot more easily available to everyone.

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