There are predictions that, sooner or later, marijuana use will be legal in most states in this country. We’ve all read that the recreational use of marijuana is now legal in Colorado and Washington state. It also is legal for medical purposes in about a dozen states.

Medical research shows a clear link between marijuana use and mental illness, especially schizophrenia. Samuel T. Wilkinson, resident physician in the Department of Psychiatry at The Yale School of Medicine, wrote an article in The Wall Street Journal about the connection between pot-smoking and schizophrenia. Every high school should make the reading of this column mandatory for students.

Wilkinson bluntly states that as “medical and scientific literature continues to accumulate, however, it is becoming clear that the claim that marijuana is medically harmless is false.” He continues:

There is a significant and consistent relationship between marijuana use and the development of schizophrenia and related disorders. Schizophrenia is considered by psychiatrists to be the most devastating of mental illnesses. Patients who suffer from it often experience auditory or visual hallucinations, severe social withdrawal and cognitive impairment. Many require frequent and prolonged hospitalization in psychiatric wards.”

Wilkinson said schizophrenia affects almost 3 million Americans. Less than a third of them can hold a job or live independently. About one-third of the homeless suffer from the disease.

Not much or anything is said about this health problem when legalization of marijuana is debated. It’s probably because what medical evidence there is about the side effects of marijuana use aren’t widely publicized. There have been reports on the studies of this issue, but we don’t hear about them. Wilkinson wrote that in 2004 there was a story in the British Journal of Psychiatry that reported on studies that “showed a significant and consistent association between consumption of marijuana (mostly during teenage years or early 20s) and the later development of schizophrenia.”

In 2007, a report in another British journal concluded that using marijuana increases the risk of young people developing a psychotic illness, such as schizophrenia.

“Marijuana may push everyone a few feet closer to” falling off the cliff of sanity. Wilkinson wants this issue to be debated, especially when efforts are being made to legalize the use of marijuana. He’s right. Wilkinson worries that when and where marijuana is legalized, “It will be all but impossible to undo.” He’s right.

We used to hear a lot of talk that use of marijuana leads to stronger drugs, and that is undoubtedly true in many instances.

The implementation of the laws making marijuana legal in Colorado and Washington has been slow to unfold because of provisions as to the sale of marijuana. However, individuals 21 and older may possess and use pot in those two states. As to the sales, there are complications due to federal restrictions.

It is becoming clearer that marijuana use definitely leads to medical problems later, even severe mental illnesses. Young people should fear marijuana. Use of it may ruin their lives.