BATON ROUGE, La. -- State lawmakers are considering nearly a dozen bills this legislative session dealing with marijuana, one of which would legalize it for specific medical uses.
But Monday, a group of citizens brought in one of the top scientists and drug policymakers who has concerns about public perception.
With the overwhelming link between drugs and increased crime in the area, the GNO Drug Demand Reduction Coalition, along with the LSU Neuroscience Center of Excellence, took educational action Monday.
The group's mission: a healthier, safer city by reducing addiction.
They brought in Dr. Bertha Madras, the former Deputy Director for Demand Reduction at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.
Dr. Madras told an audience at LSU Health Sciences Center that there's a huge disconnect on what the public and youth think about marijuana and what the scientific evidence really shows.
"Marijuana affects the developing adolescent brain, brain changes, learning deficits, future IQ, addiction, psychosis," Dr. Madras told the audience.
She showed data that using as a teen, then quitting at 18, still means a lower IQ.
The professor of psychobiology at Harvard says with marijuana we are selling the mind of future generations to enlarge state tax bases.
"The past month's use of marijuana among young people 12 to 17 years old, is much higher than among those states where marijuana has not been approved as medicine," said Dr. Madras who explained that marijuana doesn't fit the FDA criteria for being a medication.
She showed how pot can be addictive, how it has 400 dangerous chemicals in it like nicotine cigarettes, how it kills brain cells and connections altering behavior. Dr. Madras said developing adolescent brains suffer worse damage, and for those who have marijuana use disorder, she said there's a higher death rate than alcohol.
"Keeping young people away is imperative. It's a national imperative and yet we're seeing perception of harm go down and we're seeing daily use go up amongst this most vulnerable population."
Addiction, of legal and illegal drugs, costs the U.S. around $600 billion a year, far higher than any other neurological conditions. Alzheimer's cost is only around $171 billion, and stroke, depression, multiple sclerosis, anxiety and Parkinson's Disease are all less than that amount.
Dr. Madras says teens are less likely to smoke pot if their parents let them know they are against it, and if they help children with their homework.