The Legalization of Marijuana

Marijuana legalization has been promoted as a public health measure to decrease drug-related crime, as a solution to the harms caused by marijuana criminalization, including incarceration, and as a significant source of tax revenue. These claims have not been validated and must be weighed against the potential negative consequences. Legalization of cannabis will reduce the public perception of its risks and increase the social acceptability of using cannabis.

NJPA opposes proposals to legalize marijuana.
Marijuana use during pregnancy and while breastfeeding is associated with still birth, lower infant birth weight, preterm birth, NICU admissions, and neurodevelopmental delays including possible lower IQ scores later in development.

There is no current scientific evidence that marijuana is in any way beneficial for the treatment of any psychiatric disorder. In contrast, there is an association between cannabis use and psychiatric disorders, and adolescents are particularly vulnerable.

Marijuana in youth lowers cognitive performance and disrupts processes for motivation. There is also evidence in both youth and adults that chronic marijuana use is associated with impaired verbal learning, memory and attention and risk for psychosis. Psychomotor function is most affected during acute intoxication, with some evidence for persistence in chronic users and after cessation of use.

Substance use disorders resulting from marijuana use are a serious and widespread health problem. Adults may incur a number of cannabis-related harms including convictions for cannabis-impaired driving, car crash fatalities and injuries involving cannabis-intoxicated drivers; and emergency department admissions for the adverse effects of ingesting cannabis products.

NJPA supports the decriminalization of marijuana, which is not the same as legalization. Decriminalization is the removal of criminal penalties for certain lesser drug law violations (usually possession for personal use). By decriminalizing possession and investing in treatment and harm reduction services, we can reduce the harms of drug misuse while improving public safety and health.

Some preliminary evidence of public health impact from jurisdictions which have already legalized marijuana (Colorado and Washington State) is concerning and should continue to be monitored. Both states, for example, report an increase in frequency of drivers in fatal car crashes who tested positive for THC. In addition, these states rank among the highest in the nation for marijuana use by youth during the past month.

While the New Jersey Psychiatric Association (NJPA) makes every effort to post accurate and reliable information, it does not guarantee that the information on this website is complete, accurate or up to date, nor does it assume responsibility for the use or application of any posted material. The NJPA takes no responsibility for any error, omission or other discrepancy between the electronic and any printed versions of documents. This website is intended solely for the purpose of electronically providing members, non-member psychiatrists and the public with information and convenient access to a variety of resources. The NJPA cannot provide specific advice or counsel, whether medical, legal or otherwise. This website links to websites maintained by other entities. Although efforts have been taken to assure that these linked websites are maintained by reputable organizations, the NJPA is not responsible for the information and opinions expressed in those linked sites.