Marijuana is the most widely used illicit drug in the United States — but the term “illicit” may not apply much longer. Twenty-three states have legalized Cannabis sativa for medical use since 1996. Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington and Washington, D.C., now allow recreational use of the drug for people over 21. Acceptance of marijuana is growing (ahem) like a weed.
Those laws are not without controversy. Among the critics’ concerns is the worry that, despite age limits, legalization might make marijuana more accessible to young people. And adolescents’ developing brains may be particularly vulnerable to lasting damage from the drug.
“There are a lot of open questions” about the long-term effects of marijuana, says Susan Weiss, PhD, director of the division of extramural research at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). “But there’s a growing literature, and it’s all pointing in the same direction: Starting young and using frequently may disrupt brain development.” Read More