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Buying, selling, and using recreational marijuana is illegal. Penalties for marijuana possession vary from state to state and from country to country. The penalties are often based on the amount of marijuana found; whether the person intended to sell the marijuana; and whether the person was intoxicated at the time of the arrest. However, even first-time marijuana convictions can wreck a life. For instance, someone convicted of marijuana possession will lose any federal financial aid they might be receiving to attend college. (In contrast, theft conviction—perhaps of a laptop—does not automatically result in loss of financial aid.) In some states, employers are notified when someone is caught with marijuana. Almost half the states in the nation suspend the driver's license of anyone convicted of marijuana possession, though the length of the suspension varies from state to state and depends on the circumstances and number of offenses.
Judges usually sentence marijuana users to high fines, community service, and drug tests for up to a year, just with a first conviction. Second convictions, or possession with intent to sell, can land a person in jail. Judges can also order marijuana users into treatment programs. Whatever the penalties, the marijuana user has earned a criminal record that will impact future job opportunities, the ability to drive legally, and educational choices.
Legal consequences aside, long-term users of marijuana will find that it affects their ability to learn, remember, and concentrate. THC stays in the body long after the high has worn off, and it can continue to impact the brain. Additionally, some of the ingredients in a marijuana cigarette are known CARCINOGENS, or cancer-causing agents. People who smoke marijuana run a higher risk of lung cancer than those who do not.
Habitual use of marijuana can either mask or aggravate symptoms of mental illness. People prone to PSYCHOSIS, a severe mental disorder, can have bad reactions to a marijuana high. People who are depressed or anxious may lean on the drug to ease their symptoms, rather than find the professional help they need for their illnesses.
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