Marijuana legalization is a risk not worth taking

Updated 3:41 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014

Story highlights

Stuart Gitlow: More U.S. states are opening the door to legalizing marijuana

Gitlow: Research indicates 1 in 6 teens who start using marijuana will become addicted

He says with pot, people can also experience long-term psychiatric disease

Gitlow: As a society, why would we want to take on such health risks and costs?

Editor’s Note: Dr. Stuart Gitlow is the president of the American Society of Addiction Medicine and chairman of the scientific advisory board of Smart Approaches to Marijuana. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

CNN —  

Back in the 1980s, while attending medical school in New York City, I watched patients remove their oxygen masks so they could smoke cigarettes while in their hospital beds. I watched the chairman of the board of the hospital smoke during board meetings. And I recall people smoking in airline terminals, in their offices, on trains and in restaurants.

Although tobacco smoking rates have dropped significantly in the decades since – thanks in part to legislation and shifting public sentiment – there are still many people who seek the “benefit” of being allowed to smoke, the “benefit” of the feeling they get from smoking, no matter the personal risk or the societal cost of their eventual illness and early death. And almost always, they started smoking well before they hit the age at which they could legally buy cigarettes.

Many people know one or more people whose lives were cut short by smoking cigarettes. It’s a tragedy that could be prevented.