Should Marijuana be Decriminalized?  …The American Academy of Pediatrics Says “Yes”



By Torben Hansen (Flickr: marijuana joint) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

The consequences of marijuana use in adolescents with either short- or long-term recreational use include impaired short-term memory, and decreased concentration, attention span, and problem solving, all of which interfere with learning. In addition, it affects the body by altering motor control, coordination, judgment, reaction time, and tracking ability, which could contribute to accidental deaths and injuries especially associated with driving. On top of these negative affects, inhaling marijuana can affect lung function and is linked to psychological impairment, such as psychosis in those with a tendency toward schizophrenia. The brain is not fully developed until we are in our mid-20s, particularly the prefrontal cortex areas that control judgment and the ability to make wise decisions. If an adolescent uses marijuana, this could affect the development of the brain.


The Controlled Substances Act {21 USC §801-971 [2012]) classifies drugs according to whether they have an acceptable medical use and the potential for the drug to be abused and cause dependency. Marijuana, along with heroin, LSD, ecstasy, methaqualone, and peyote, is a Schedule I drug; Schedule I drugs are considered the most dangerous drugs with the highest potential for abuse and physical and psychological dependency, and they have no currently acceptable medical use in the United States. Therefore, marijuana is against the law on the federal level and in most states.


So, why would the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) want to decriminalize marijuana?


Here’s why:

  1. Because marijuana is illegal, many youths, especially minority youths, become caught up in the criminal justice system, which can affect their job prospects, educational prospects, housing, financial, aid and other such things for a lifetime. Youths should be provided with drug treatment services if they are marijuana users, not made into criminals.
  2. Pharmaceutical drugs approved by the FDA, such as cannabinoids and cannabidiol, have been proven through research to be helpful in adults with certain conditions such as cancer to decrease nausea and vomiting and to lesson pain in adult patients with chronic pain syndromes. There is no published research on marijuana for medical purposes in adolescents. Marijuana should be changed from a Schedule I (no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse/dependency) to a Schedule II drug (less abuse potential than Schedule I drugs and available for research) so that research on its medical affects in adolescents can be conducted to determine if it may help adolescents with serious illnesses, as it does in adults with certain illnesses.


The AAP does not endorse legalization of marijuana, because it may become more easily accessible for persons less than 21 years of age, which would be detrimental because of the harmful affects of marijuana on the adolescent body.


To see the AAP’s full Policy Statement and Technical Report and other information about marijuana, click on the links below or copy and paste them into your browser:


Medical Editor Ms. Morcos

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