As a former health education instructor with over 30 years of experience, I have done extensive work with alcohol and drug prevention since the late 1970s.

For the life of me, I still cannot figure out why states would ever consider legalizing the “social use” of marijuana. As I am sure you are aware, in many states the sale of pot is now legal. Despite the research and my views on the unhealthy aspects of marijuana use, I am fully supportive of the legalization of medicinal marijuana, which is effectively utilized for many specific health conditions.

I was extremely surprised with the results of our last midterm election regarding the thoughts of the legalization of marijuana. It seems to me we would not even remotely consider legalizing another drug when we already have an alcohol, opioid, methamphetamine and heroine problem in our state. Despite the many domestic alcohol- and drug-related issues, we have many other major issues in our state with impaired, drunk, drugged, buzzed and “in-texticated” driving. We definitely shouldn’t consider it just for economic reasons as well.

John Underwood, researcher with the American Athletic Institute, has conducted over 14,000 tests on high-level college, professional and Olympic athletes from all over the U.S. He has also done research on some of our finest U.S. Navy Seals. John has researched alcohol and drugs and their effects on performance and brain development for the past 20 years.

Some of his research includes these relevant findings:

Alcohol: The top problem

1. Nearly half of all people who ever met the diagnostic criteria for alcoholism in their lifetime were addicted (aka alcoholics) by age 21. Two-thirds were addicted by age 25.

2. The pre-frontal cortex of the brain doesn’t physically develop until the approximate age of 21. This area of the brain allows for moral reasoning as well as the ability to automatically think ahead of consequences to one’s behavior. This research was used as the basis for deciding to raise the drinking age to 21 years of age for all U.S. states.

3. The second most significant time of brain development occurs between the ages of 12 and 21 — about middle school until their third year of college. Most teens begin experimenting with alcohol and other drugs at the absolutely worst time in their lives.

4. Alcohol decreases testosterone levels in men and women as they develop. It also stunts the human growth hormone when teens are developing.

Combined usage

1. Alcohol and marijuana usage dramatically weakens the immune system, allowing the users to be sick more often.

2. The combined use can disrupt the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) cycle — the most beneficial time of one’s sleep

3. Use/abuse causes tissue in the human brain to atrophy.

Marijuana

1. Just by the nature of the way marijuana is smoked, there is immediate, physical alveoli damage (alveoli are the tiny air sacs in your lungs that store oxygen and then pass it into the capillaries or small blood vessels to enter our bloodstream).

2. There is more THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the chemical in marijuana that gets the user high, today than there was in the pot smoked in the 1960s and ‘70s. Then, pot had 1 to 4 percent THC levels. Today, the THC levels are about 40 to 50 percent.

3. Marijuana is what is called a gateway drug. As with cigarettes and alcohol, those who use any or all of these three drugs increase their chances to begin using other drugs — or “open the door” to other drug use.

4. Marijuana stays in your system for 49 to 63 days — approximately 2 months.

5. More than half who try it are still using a year later.

It seems to me that we all (citizens and our elected officials) might want to seriously consider these relevant pieces of research and all of our present issues with illegal drugs when discussing the “social use” of the legalization of marijuana.

We all should be asking ourselves:

• Why would we even remotely think about putting it on a ballot again to be voted on?

• Why would we consider legalizing the social use of yet another drug?

• Why would we add more fuel to the fire?

Kidd, of Eau Claire-based Balanced Wellness Services, is an adjunct faculty member at Chippewa Valley Technical College.