On Saturday, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker announced his support for a proposed bill that would legalize “recreational” use of marijuana in Illinois.


Not so fast my friends. In the rush by state governments to get high on tax revenue, pro pot policymakers would have you believe that the stuff is relatively harmless. Then there is another crowd claiming there are medical benefits from some of the chemicals found in cannabis.

Meanwhile, no mention in Springfield — or the other state capitals where marijuana has been recently legalized — of the overall downside for those who partake recreationally, particularly teenagers.

Instead, teenage athletes see professional athletes talking openly about their regular partaking — and even playing “high.” Witness the article published online last month by Bleacher Report entitled, “The world’s best athletes smoke weed. Here’s proof. What now?”

How about a mention of the marijuana fact sheet from the National Institute on Drug Abuse?

It reads in part, “Marijuana also affects brain development. When people begin using marijuana as teenagers, the drug may impair thinking, memory, and learning functions and affect how the brain builds connections between the areas necessary for these functions. Researchers are still studying how long marijuana's effects last and whether some changes may be permanent.

“For example, a study from New Zealand conducted in part by researchers at Duke University showed that people who started smoking marijuana heavily in their teens and had an ongoing marijuana use disorder lost an average of 8 IQ points between ages 13 and 38. The lost mental abilities didn't fully return in those who quit marijuana as adults.”

Losing IQ points is not a winning strategy for earning a college scholarship, athletic or academic.

In March, the British medical journal Lancet published a study that showed daily use of high-potency marijuana increased one’s chances of developing psychosis by nearly five times.

That is consistent with the fact sheet from NIDA. Other effects it lists include:

• altered senses (for example, seeing brighter colors)

• altered sense of time

Keep reading for FREE!
Enjoy more articles by signing up or logging in. No credit card required.

• changes in mood

• impaired body movement

• difficulty with thinking and problem-solving

• impaired memory

• hallucinations (when taken in high doses)

• delusions (when taken in high doses)

None of those effects, particularly impaired body movement and impaired memory, make for better performance in a game — or safe driving.

Marijuana doesn’t just affect the brain. It irritates the lungs and raises the heart rate sufficiently to increase one’s chance of suffering a heart attack, according to the NIDA website. 

As for the purported benefits of medical marijuana and chemicals derived from the plant, such as CBD and THC, the research is mixed at best on their benefits. The Associated Press published a story last month that reported, “Products containing CBD are already in stores and sold online, so it’s easy to believe there must be something special about the ingredient. But the claims are largely unproven and quality control standards don’t exist.”

In September 2016, Ohio legalized the medical — but not recreational — use of marijuana. However, in January, the Cleveland Clinic announced that it would not be recommending the treatment for its patients.

“There is little verified, published research that supports marijuana — in forms such as vaporizers, edibles, oils, tinctures, and patches sold in dispensaries — as a medical treatment. Most ‘evidence’ is based on anecdote rather than on large double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials,” said a Cleveland Clinic spokesman.

“However, there is a significant amount of scientific literature that unequivocally shows that marijuana use has both short- and long-term deleterious effects on physical health, most profoundly on cardiovascular and respiratory health.”

Knowing that, no legislator should have a clear conscience voting in favor of legalizing recreational use of the stuff. Nor should any athlete be fooled into thinking that marijuana is harmless and even good for health or performance.

John Doherty is a licensed athletic trainer and physical therapist. This column reflects solely his opinion. Reach him at jdoherty@comhs.org. Follow him on Twitter @JDohertyATCPT.