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Was Legalizing Weed a Mistake? A Debate.

It’s been a little over a decade since cannabis was first legalized recreationally in the United States. As of today, recreational weed is legal in 24 states and the District of…

It’s been a little over a decade since cannabis was first legalized recreationally in the United States. As of today, recreational weed is legal in 24 states and the District of Columbia, and Americans have never been more pro-weed. In a Gallup poll from last November, 70 percent of U.S. adults said they support the federal legalization of marijuana, up from 50 percent in 2013 and a mere twelve percent in 1969. 

In May, the Biden administration moved to reclassify marijuana from Schedule I, where it sits alongside heroin and LSD, to Schedule III, a category of drugs that the DEA says have a “moderate to low potential for physical and psychological dependence.” States with legal marijuana report economic benefits, a reduced burden on the criminal justice system, and positive health outcomes for patients with chronic pain and epilepsy.

But is legal cannabis really such a no-brainer? A recent study found that marijuana use—whether through smoking, edibles, or vapes—is associated with a higher risk of heart attack and stroke. Other studies have consistently shown that so-called “high-potency cannabis” increases the risk of psychotic episodes in young users. 

Today, a debate with two leading advocates both for and against the legalization of marijuana: has decriminalization worked? Or should it be reconsidered with more sober eyes? And is the most widely used and most socially acceptable illicit drug in the world, actually. . . dangerous? 

Dr. Peter Grinspoon is a physician and medical cannabis specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital and an instructor at Harvard Medical School. He is the author of Seeing Through the Smoke: A Cannabis Specialist Untangles the Truth About Marijuana.

Kevin Sabet was a drug policy adviser for presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama. He is the co-founder of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, an advocacy group that has emerged as the leading opponent of marijuana legalization in the United States. He is the author of Smoke Screen: What the Marijuana Industry Doesn’t Want You to Know.

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