I get angry with people who try to argue that drugs should be legalized, rather than criminalized. It's all very well for them to say that the 'War On (Some) Drugs' hasn't worked. I agree with them - it hasn't. It's been a ghastly failure, and it's led to the very serious undermining of many of our Constitutionally recognized rights, freedoms and liberties. On the other hand, the use of drugs poses so many dangers to society from impaired drivers, criminals trying to fund their habit, and so on, that I can't possibly support their legalization.
In my work as a prison chaplain I saw many younger criminals who were permanently mentally impaired by drug use. They'd almost literally 'fried their brains', to use a common description. A new study suggests such damage is more easily sustained early in life, and is probably irreversible.
Children who smoke cannabis before their 15th birthday perform much worse in mental tests than those who start at a later age, warn researchers.
A study of chronic cannabis users found those who started in their early teens struggled with a range of neuropsychological tasks.
But those who started later did not have the same difficulties, says a study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry.
The findings add to growing evidence that the drug damages the developing brain, with greater harm caused by early exposure.
. . .
Lead researcher Dr Maria Fontes said: ‘We found that early-onset, but not late-onset, chronic cannabis users had deficits in their cognitive functioning.
‘Adolescence is a period in which the brain appears to be particularly vulnerable to the neurotoxic effects of cannabis.
‘The brain before the age of 15 is still developing and maturing, so exposure to cannabis during this period may be more harmful.’
There's more at the link.
Personally, I can't think of anything worse than legalizing a drug that can - and will - do this to our youngsters if they can more easily get their hands on it. Most teens don't - can't? - display the self-control necessary to say 'no' to this stuff. The more difficult we make it for them to obtain it, the less damage their brains will suffer.
OK, I know there are going to be plenty of readers who disagree with me . . . but I can only invite them to spend a while inside prison walls, and work with those who've been brain-damaged for life, and become habitual criminals to support their addiction. It changes one's perspective.