When pregnant women use marijuana, they run the risk of having smaller babies with lower birth weights, who are more likely than other babies to develop health problems. Some studies have also found indications of developmental delays in children exposed to marijuana before birth.
Although U.S. law classifies marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance (which means it has no acceptable medical use), a number of patients claim that smoking pot has helped them deal with pain or relieved the symptoms of glaucoma, the loss of appetite that accompanies AIDS, or nausea caused by cancer chemotherapy.
There is, however, no solid evidence that smoking marijuana creates any greater benefits than approved medications (including oral THC) now used to treat these patients, relieve their suffering, or mitigate the side effects of their treatment. Anecdotal assertions of beneficial effects have yet to be confirmed by controlled scientific research.
Although dangers exist for marijuana users of all ages, risk is greatest for the young. For them, the impact of marijuana on learning is critical, and pot often proves pivotal in the failure to master vital interpersonal coping skills or make appropriate life-style choices. Thus, marijuana can inhibit maturity.
Another concern is marijuana’s role as a "gateway drug," which makes subsequent use of more potent and disabling substances more likely. The Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University found adolescents who smoke pot 85 times more likely to use cocaine than their non–pot smoking peers. And 60 percent of youngsters who use marijuana before they turn 15 later go on to use cocaine.
But many teens encounter serious trouble well short of the "gateway." Marijuana is, by itself, a high-risk substance for adolescents. More than adults, they are likely to be victims of automobile accidents caused by marijuana’s impact on judgment and perception. Casual sex, prompted by compromised judgment or marijuana’s disinhibiting effects, leaves them vulnerable not only to unwanted pregnancy but also to sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
Marijuana affects your brain. THC (the active ingredient in marijuana) affects the nerve cells in the part of the brain where memories are formed. Marijuana affects your self-control. Marijuana can seriously affect your sense of time and your coordination, impacting things like driving.
In 2002, nearly 120,000 people were admitted to emergency rooms suffering from marijuana-related problems, an increase of more than 139 percent since 1995. There are more than 400 known chemicals in marijuana.