The Costs and Consequences of Legalizing Marijuana

Mar 22, 2014 by

…marijuana is the number 1 reason adolescents are admitted to substance-abuse treatment in the United States.

An Interview with Kent Runyon: The Costs and Consequences of Legalizing Marijuana

Kent Runyon, is the Executive Director of Novus Medical Detox, and further information can be reached at 1-800-505-6604

Michael F. Shaughnessy –

1) First of all, tell us about what you do, and your background and experience.

I am the Executive Director of Novus Medical Detox where we help people to overcome; prescription drug addiction, prescription drug dependence, street drug addiction, and/or alcohol addiction.

2) Secondly, tell us in your mind, what the consequences of marijuana are.

The consequences are related to the risks associated with regular marijuana use such as;

  • Health risks
  • Marijuana has been connected to increased risk of heart attack fourfold in the hour after use.
  • Marijuana smoke has been reported to contain 50-70 percent more carcinogenic hydrocarbons than does tobacco smoke per the American Lung Association.
  • Mental Health risks
  • There are reports of a significant link with mental illness, especially schizophrenia and psychosis, but also depression and anxiety.
  • Risk of Addiction
    • Today’s marijuana is four to five times stronger than what was available in the 1960s and 1970s. Research suggests that 1 in 11 of all marijuana users will become addicted. If a person begins using under the age of 18, that number rises to 1 in 6 people.
  • Increased risk of car accident
  • According to the British Medical Journal marijuana use doubles the risk of car crashes. It is linked to deficits in the parts of the brain and impair motor coordination and reaction time.
  • An additional point of concern is that studies have shown that people who are impaired by marijuana are far less likely to believe that they are impaired compared with persons under the influence of alcohol.
  • Impact on children and youth
    • Currently, studies show that almost 60% of new marijuana users each year are under age 18. In addition, marijuana is the number 1 reason adolescents are admitted to substance-abuse treatment in the United States.
  • There are numerous studies linking marijuana use by minors with poor academic performance. For instance, there have been links to high school dropout and lowered IQ scores.

3) In addition to disorganization, lethargy, apathy, sleepiness and lack of motivation, social skills are often impacted also- am I correct on this?

I do not disagree with your points but I do not have a research study to confirm this data. It makes sense when you consider how it impacts other areas of life. However, everything is dependent upon the frequency and amount of use.

4) How can some states rationalize legalizing marijuana? Is it just for the tax money?

I believe there are two strong forces at hand in the recent surge in momentum toward legalization and both are related to money.

  1. I believe that government is tired of spending money in an effort to control and police marijuana and are now not only seeing the money that can be saved not policing it but the revenue to be made by taxing it.
  1. I also believe there is a strong lobby influence representing investor and companies poised to cash in on the legalization of marijuana.

5) I think “medicinal marijuana” is simply a lot of nonsense- if some medical doctor cannot find an alternative medication that works, I am not sure where they went to medical school. Am I off on this?

There may be medicinal value in marijuana. However, we believe that this warrants extensive research no different than any pharmaceutical drug brought to market. It feels like we are suddenly bypassing the normal standards to bringing a drug to market. We believe a product should be carefully evaluated and proper warnings along with any drug before it is brought to market. We would be skeptical of any medicinal marijuana that has the psychoactive effects and is in a smoked form. Otherwise, it has the appearance as simply a cover for making marijuana pseudo legal so that people can experience the high.

6) Bottom line question- is marijuana addictive, or does it lead to other drugs?

We believe based upon information from the National Institute on Drug Abuse that marijuana is addictive. Users who try to quit may experience withdrawal symptoms that include irritability, anxiety, insomnia, appetite disturbance and depression.

7) While research has shown I.Q. deficits, associated with marijuana use, what about other changes-like personality changes, sluggishness, long response time, low frustration tolerance?

Many of these could be experienced either as a side effect, a symptom of withdrawal or a deficit resulting from long term use.

8) Do the adolescents (and their parents ) and senators and congressmen REALLY understand the impact of pot on adolescent growth and development?

We fear that we are ignoring the long term risks for our children and youth. While the statistics for use by minors are already poor we believe that they are going to get much worse as states legalize the substance. If children are getting their hands on narcotics in the medicine cabinet they will certainly also get their hands on bags of pot. In addition, we fear that for those youth who would never cross the line of trying it before that line will get blurred as it increasingly gets viewed as “medicine” and “legal”. It will change how the drug is viewed. We are concerned that it will be categorized even less harshly than cigarettes by the next generation.

9) How do we make them aware?

Addiction professionals must speak up, Parents must speak up, Child advocates must speak up, and Educators must speak up. The tide is growing quickly. It is much more “cool” to be pro legalization. People who are pro legalization want to compare this to the prohibition years and compare it to alcohol. I don’t like the comparison. I believe we need to keep the conversation on marijuana and have an intellectual conversation and debate on that point alone.

10) Tell us about treatment options at your facility.

We are focused on taking the fear of emotional judgment and physical withdrawal away. Our team of medical professionals work compassion and professionalism to bring together holistic approaches with state of the art medical protocols to help people overcome their addiction to a substance. Our facility offers a comfortable home-like setting to begin the path toward recovery and a life of sobriety.

11) What have I neglected to ask?

Biography of Kent Runyon

Kent has over 20 years of management experience and over 15 years of executive level experience developing and leading accredited social services programs addressing diverse human needs including addiction, homelessness, poverty, trauma, and family reunification. He came to Novus drawn by its mission and vision to help others and to pursue excellence in the field of recovery. He received his Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from Ball State University and later received his Masters Degree in Management from Indiana Wesleyan University. He also completed a two year certified Executive Leadership Program sponsored by the University of Notre Dame – Mendoza College of Business.


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