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Marijuana: Effects on Judgment and Memory

There is no such thing as a safe recreational drug. A person high on marijuana has the same lack of judgment, poor coordination, and diminished sense of fear as a person drunk on whiskey. The leading cause of death for young people is automobile crashes—and sometimes those fatal crashes are caused by marijuana, or a combination of marijuana and other drugs or alcohol. Marijuana impairs the ability to drive, operate machinery, or judge dangerous situations. As such, it can be deadly.

Because marijuana affects memory and learning, daily use can undermine a student's ability in school or a worker's capability on the job. Although scientists have debunked the old caution that marijuana affects motivation, the drug does affect short-term memory and the brain's ability to process new material. People who smoke marijuana regularly almost always experience declines in grades and difficulties in the classroom related to the drug use.

THC, the most active component of marijuana, remains in the body long after the psychoactive effects have worn off. The body stores THC in its fat cells. After one use, a person will test positive for THC for as many as three days. With regular use, a person can test positive for THC even after abstaining from marijuana for four weeks. The drug tests available at the turn of the twenty-first century were sophisticated enough that they do not yield a positive result for "passive" marijuana smoking (just being around other people who are using the drug). Thus, law enforcement officers will not accept that as a defense. As Paul M. Gahlinger stated in his book, "If the drug test is positive for marijuana, the only legitimate excuse is either the use of dronabinol or, if allowed, the use of medically prescribed marijuana."

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