(USA TODAY) – In less than 25 years, marijuana has gone from illegal everywhere in the United States to legal for at least some uses in all but four states.
Advocates say the drug can help patients who are suffering from chronic pain, multiple sclerosis-triggered muscle spasms and the grueling side effects of chemotherapy. Some states are exploring whether cannabis could help wean people from addiction to opioids.
Beyond the medical claims, 10 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for recreational use, and more are considering it. The advocates' long-repeated argument: It's safer than alcohol or tobacco.
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But as cultural acceptance of cannabis grows, opponents are warning of potential downsides.
These critics – doctors, police and auto safety officials, parents – point to stories and studies that link the drug to suicide, schizophrenia and car crashes.
Marijuana might be safer than alcohol or tobacco, they say. But that doesn't make marijuana safe.