While the chorus singing marijuana’s praises seems to be growing louder in some areas of the country, a stronger body of evidence is showing that the drug can cause significant if not irreparable damage to users’ physical and mental health.

A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Psychiatry looked at the rising rates of marijuana use in the general population, the increasing number of states allowing recreational marijuana use, and the authorization of medical marijuana programs.

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The three-year study of nearly 35,000 participants found that within the general population, cannabis use is associated with an increased risk of several substance use disorders, including alcohol and drug use disorders as well as nicotine dependence.

Other new statistics from Colorado reveal that marijuana-related emergency room visits are up in that state, with more tourists being admitted to ERs than local residents.

The University of Colorado School of Medicine study showed that the most common complaints of users in the ER were gastrointestinal, followed by psychiatric and cardio-pulmonary problems, with marijuana use exacerbating numerous existing medical conditions.

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All of this scientific data comes at a time when marijuana supporters are working hard to convince the world and anyone who will listen that pot has no ill effects.

“The research is unequivocal. Marijuana causes brain damage, and it is particularly dangerous to the teenager’s brain,” said Dr. Ed Gogek, an Arizona-based psychiatrist and author of the book, “Marijuana Debunked.”

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“Young people who use marijuana do worse in school, and those using it before the age of 16 are twice as likely to drop out; are less likely to graduate college or be satisfied with their lives; and are more likely to be on welfare,” Gogek continued. “Marijuana permanently lowers IQ, and even twice-a-month use will lead to worse college grades and a higher drop-out rate.”

One of the biggest myths is that legalizing the drug helps prevent its use by teens, noted Gogek. It is absolutely the other way around. Most people addicted to marijuana get started during their teen years.

As far as other social and health concerns go, “we now have data from places like Colorado and Washington State. Fatal traffic accidents in Washington as a result of THC have doubled since the drug was legalized. Denver’s DUIs (with THC) doubled in the first year,” said Gogek. “The chances of dying in a traffic accident while high on pot doubled. Yet pro-marijuana websites play this down and actually claim that stoned drivers are safer drivers.”

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Tom Gorman, director of the federal Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, told LifeZette that in 2009 when medical marijuana took effect, about 10 percent of all our traffic fatalities were marijuana related.

“Now it’s 19 percent. You’d have to be in total denial to say this is not related to legalizing marijuana. More people are going to use marijuana, and because of that you’re going to have an upward trend in all of these areas,” said Gorman.

Liberals are often evangelical about its alleged benefits and alleged lack of downsides, said Gogek. “It has become an article of faith for the Left, and I’m saying this as a Democrat!”

Libertarians have climbed on board as well — the Reason Foundation and the Cato Institute both support legalization. But as is often typical of Leftist policies, marijuana legalization will have far more negative effects on the poor and minorities than on the white and wealthy, Gogek believes.

“Drug use is more common among those living in poverty. In this country, there is a correlation between living in poverty and being a minority, particularly being African-American … and marijuana dispensaries are targeting those very neighborhoods.”

Dr. Christina Mair, Ph.D, assistant professor in Pitt Public Health’s Department of Behavioral and Community Health Sciences, published a study last September in the scientific journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence on dispensaries in Los Angeles.

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“Our study indicates there are real problems associated with a higher density of marijuana dispensaries in low-income neighborhoods,” Dr. Mair said.

In addition, hospitalizations with marijuana abuse or dependence codes almost quadrupled to more than 68,000 between 2001 and 2012. Eighty-five percent of all hospitalizations were the result of drug abuse; and after cross-referencing the location of a dispensary to a patient’s home, Dr. Mair found that each additional dispensary per square mile in a zip code was associated with a 6.8 percent increase in the number of hospitalizations linked to marijuana abuse and dependence.

“We really have to think carefully about zoning regulations and laws governing how many of these dispensaries we can have (and) where they can be sited,” she said.

Gogek is also outraged by the drug lobby’s influence on marijuana policy, because of its effects on schizophrenics. He said these patients already start out functioning at a lower level. After using the drug, however, they hallucinate more and their grip on reality slips.

“I’ve seen patients go downhill dramatically and it took months before they became stable again to live outside the hospital.”

Marijuana-induced relapses result in half of all U.S. schizophrenia hospitalizations, costing over a billion dollars annually. “I regularly tell my patients that if they take their medicine and stay away from drugs and alcohol, they’ll do okay, keep their job and apartment, and stay out of the hospital.”

Meanwhile, the drug lobby tells everyone how safe the drug is and pushes for its legalization.

With more and more ballot initiatives being floated, legalization appears to have the momentum. Along with many others, Gogek hopes that will change as the conclusion becomes increasingly obvious: Marijuana is extremely harmful.