Marijuana has been legalized or decriminalized in 17 states and the District of Columbia, with Maryland joining the list in mid-April. Twenty-one states allow marijuana for medical use. Not to harsh anyone’s mellow, but it may be an appropriate time to bring back a useful verb to associate with marijuana use: stigmatize.
What’s unhealthy about this trend is that it coincides with a declining awareness of marijuana’s dangers—especially among young people. Less than 40 percent of high school seniors think marijuana use poses a great risk, down from 55 percent in 2003. Cigarettes are dangerous, more and more adolescents have come to realize, but they don’t believe marijuana is. (In fact, both are unhealthy.) That young people could be so wrong about a drug that more than a third have used makes it clear: In their drive to roll back laws against marijuana and for the revenue that undoing prohibition would raise, states are inadvertently stoking a serious public-health problem.