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Legalized marijuana: What you need to know

Recreational use of marijuana was legalized in Massachusetts on Dec. 15, 2016 for residents who are 21 years and older. 1.8 million people voted in favor of the law and 1.5 million people against it; opponents included law enforcement agents, doctors, senior political leaders, the Catholic Church and civic leaders. Although marijuana is banned under U.S. federal law, the legalization in Massachusetts is reflective of a nationwide trend. Eight other states including Washington, D.C. have legalized recreational use of marijuana and it is now legal to use the drug for medicinal purposes in 28 states.

Public support for removal of adult-use restrictions on marijuana use has also been increasing. As per a 2013 Gallup poll, marijuana legalization was favored by 58 percent Americans, the highest ever in 46 years since such polls have been conducted. In March 2016, an Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research survey reported an increase of this approval to 61 percent, although the majority favored legalization for medicinal use or under restrictions.

Legalization does not mean unfettered use

The Massachusetts law does not allow unrestricted marijuana use for recreational activities. It prohibits using the drug in public places and workplaces as well as those places where smoking is banned. Driving under the influence of marijuana is considered illegal. In Boston, consuming the drug on all college campuses is barred, both for students and non-students. Contravening the law entails civil citation, state or federal prosecution and disciplinary action by Boston University.

Legalization has resulted in the creation of a “gray zone” – although it is legal to possess and buy marijuana, it can be sold by authorized retailers only from 2018. In effect, this means that if a person is buying the legally permissible quantity from a dealer, the latter is in contravention of the law. It is also forbidden to bring marijuana into Massachusetts from other states where the drug’s use has been legalized.

Growing their own weed and smoking it too

The Massachusetts law permits adults to grow one plant for their own use, or a maximum of 12 plants for every household inhabited by more than one adult. Adults are allowed to carry one ounce of dried marijuana or five grams of the drug in concentrated form. An additional nine ounces can be kept in the primary residence of a person, making the legally permissible limit of 10 ounces.

Considering all other restrictions on buying and selling marijuana, growing it at home by adults seems to be the only way to be on the right side of the law. Monitoring that people are obeying the restrictions of growing a maximum of 6 or 12 marijuana plants will be a challenge for the police. There are greater chances of unlawful cultivation and trafficking to other states. Since returns from the sale of marijuana are high, people will be tempted to misuse the law.

Mental health concerns of legalized marijuana

Past research has established that early-age consumption of marijuana is detrimental to brain development. The brain continues to develop until the age of 25; till then, it is very sensitive to the damage caused by drugs and other substances. In the short term, marijuana negatively impacts attentiveness, retention, learning, coordination and decision-making. Long-term negative effects of marijuana use by young adults include reduced attention levels, lower IQ, inhibited processing abilities, poor performance at school, unemployment and lower satisfaction levels.

Substance abuse can rewire the brain over a period of time, especially if young adults are regular and heavy users. If you or a loved one is grappling with addiction to marijuana or other substances, you can seek professional help from the 24/7 Recovery Helpline. Call at our 24/7 helpline number 855-441-4405 or chat online with our counselors to connect with the best drug rehab centers. You can also get detailed information about state-of-the-art treatment centers for drug addiction near you.

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