Marijuana is the most widely used illegal drug in America. Researchers estimate that between 35 and 60 million Americans have used this drug at least once and that from 12 to 18 million use it regularly. These numbers included both children and adults.
Marijuana is a plant that can be grown almost anywhere. Many Americans farm plots in secluded areas. Others grow it indoors with artificial light. Some grow it in their homes. It is possible to find at least one plant in nearly every American neighborhood. Because it is easy to grow, and because there are so many users to purchase it, marijuana has become a major cash crop. In fact, most of the marijuana used in America is grown here.
In 1937, the government classified marijuana as a "dangerous drug" and began an anti-marijuana campaign. They described marijuana as the "killer weed." Movies such as "Reefer Madness" portrayed marijuana users as demented slaves to the drug. Medical professionals believed it caused insanity. Although there was no scientific evidence to support these views, the use of marijuana declined dramatically.
During the Vietnam War era of the 1960s and early 1970s, the widespread use of marijuana re-entered American society. Soldiers and students used the drug as an act of rebellion against government policies. Some people claimed that if more people used marijuana the world would be "beautiful" and "peaceful." Because of a lack of scientific information, marijuana came to be known as a "harmless" drug, the use of which could actually benefit some people. The marijuana of the 21st Century, however, is far more powerful than ever before in its history of use. Contemporary scientific research has proven that marijuana is neither "killer weed" nor "harmless." Rather, its effects are somewhere between these extremes.
Many users today are exposed to marijuana in childhood. Because they are still developing physically, emotionally and mentally, marijuana use is especially dangerous to them. One of its most significant effects is short-term memory loss. As a result, children who use marijuana may have learning difficulties. They may also lose their energy and desire to achieve. Marijuana can also interfere with the maturation process. Children who regularly use marijuana often have slowed emotional development and, as they grow older and continue its use, can have difficulty forming meaningful relationships.
Despite all the information currently available about the potentially dangerous effects of marijuana, its widespread use continues. Marijuana has taken a back seat in the "war on drugs." Much of society continues to view this drug as "harmless." It is our hope that the information presented in this publication will help the reader more fully understand how using marijuana can affect the lives of children.