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High Times for Michigan Teens

Mark Mandell, Esq.

As of this writing, medical marijuana is legal in 29 states, and the District of Columbia, and recreational pot, lawful in nine states, and D.C. What's more, with John Boehner, the most recent Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, now on the Advisory Board of a company that cultivates, processes, and distributes cannabis in 11 states, THESE tea leaves surely would seem to be telling us that, in the U.S., pot is going to be more widely used and accepted than it ever has been.

Though state legislatures are, slowly but surely, re-attuning themselves to the wishes of an ever-growing portion of the citizenry that demands the right to use marijuana, there are those who never left the party. They comprise a large number of musicians and actors, who have, over the years, done their best to extol the virtues of pot, frequently doing so in their work. Often, they have made the truthful point that, in many important physiological areas, grass is safer - far safer - than tobacco, itself romanticized for decades on film and television.

However, what is far less known among many proponents is the even greater truth, which is that smoking pot - over even a short amount of time - is as likely as not to inestimable harm to the average adolescent brain.

Long-term, irreversible damage.

Really.

This makes all the more troubling to many experts the fact that, compared with even 10 years ago, fewer adolescents believe that use of cannabis is harmful to their brain. As a consequence of this flawed premise, use of marijuana among teens is sharply on the rise, and that the use is starting at ages younger than ever. Worse still, are the conclusive data that the brain is not fully developed until our mid-20's, if not later.

Moreover, studies focused on adolescents suggest that both structural and functional brain changes emerge soon after adolescents start to use the drug. More, those changes may still be evident even after a prolonged period of abstaining from the drug.

Pot can have effects that manifest themselves "in the moment," and permanently.

For instance, pot has a way of wreaking havoc on the frontal cortex, which is one of the last areas of the brain to complete its development. Among adolescents, one effect of frequent use is damage to the brain's white matter. These tracts of the central nervous system enable communication among neurons, and damage to those relays results in a higher level of impulsivity, a lower capacity for abstract thinking, an inhibition of inappropriate responses, and a reduced ability to plan.

In addition, most persistent users experience a reduction in neuropsychological functioning equivalent to a decline in I.Q. of about six points. While that may seem insignificant, note that it is in the same realm as what would be experienced with prolonged exposure to lead.

The above is meant to inform the reader, and to help him or her to make decisions based upon what science has shown us to be true. Given what has been discussed here, I hope that you choose wisely.

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