Legalizing Recreational Pot Doesn’t Mean it’s Healthy or Safe for Everyone
With the passage of a bill that has legalized recreational marijuana in Canada, it has triggered a warning from Canadian doctors concerning the health risks associated with smoking cannabis.
Among the organizations issuing a warning are the Canadian Medical Association, the Canadian Psychiatric Association, the Canadian Paediatric Society, among others, which have been working on getting the message out that marijuana can do harm to an individual. This is especially true among smokers under the age of 25.
Christina Grant, a professor of pediatrics at McMaster University in Hamilton, said this:
We know that 1 in 7 teenagers who start using cannabis will develop cannabis-use disorder, which is significant.
It is considered as a disorder when it generates dysfunction in the daily life of the user, reducing “their commitment to school or work and sowing conflict in their families,” added Grant.
At this time it isn’t known whether or not cannabis causes some mental illnesses. It hasn’t been proven one way or the other whether anxiety and depression associated with pot smokers comes from their own anxiety or depression which results in them smoking marijuana in an attempt to relieve it, or if pot is the cause of it.
A major issue is there is little if any literature on the effect of smoking pot on an occasional basis in relationship to mental health. There is simply no way of knowing the level of impact on the casual pot user.
On the other hand, those that use cannabis on a daily basis have shown it can lead to psychosis among those who have a history of mental illness in their family.
Brain development and younger users
Dr. Grant said that there is solid evidence that teens that smoke pot consistently have been shown to damage their brains on a long-term basis.
For teenagers who use cannabis regularly, there’s actually structural changes [visible] on MRI. They show that certain areas of the brain are smaller, there’s thinning of a part of the brain called the cortex, which is very important in terms of thinking and planning and organizing.
For that reason the CMA, the organization that represents physicians in Canada, pressed the Canadian government to forbid pot sales to those under the age of 21, and to restrict the potency and amount of pot made available to those under the age of 25.
The bill that was passed allows for users as young as 18 to smoke pot.
Other safety concerns
Among the biggest concerns is the operation of a vehicle while being high on pot. Amy Porath, the director of research and policy for the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (CCSA), claims that cannabis “… impairs your reaction time. It impairs your ability to multitask and pay attention.”
On the other hand, Dr. M.J. Milloy, with the B.C. Centre on Substance Use, cites researchers that say they “did not find significant declines in road safety in American states where marijuana had been legalized….”
If you’ve ever been in a legal trial, you’ll know that it’s their experts against our experts, and in this case that’s how it played out as well.
Finally, smoking cannabis has raised concerns on whether or not it has similar effects on the lungs and overall health in the same way cigarette smoking has.
While pot includes the same chemicals inherent in cigarette smoke that causes cancer, the CCSA says the research and evidence at this time is mixed. As in a lot of concerns over marijuana usage, there haven’t been enough studies to make a determination or draw a conclusion on health-related issues connected to marijuana smoking.
That said, the pressure in Canada and the U.S. to legalize cannabis for medical and recreational purposes, suggests there was never going to be publicized findings that would derail the process and cut back on the potential tax revenue that the multi-billion dollar industry would bring to government coffers.
On both the medical and recreational side of marijuana usage, there are mixed results of studies that can’t really be proven one way or the other. Or at least that’s what the general public is being led to believe.
Apparently cannabis or marijuana is now considered more acceptable than smoking cigarettes, which implies to me governments are looking for ways to raise taxes with the growing cannabis industry, after reducing the amount of cigarette smokers via a long-term campaign to encourage smokers to cut back on their unhealthy habit.
We’ll start to see more states legalize recreational marijuana going forward, and once Canada starts to reap the tax benefits of the industry, pressure will grow for the U.S. to do legalize recreational pot at the Federal level as well.
More than likely, once it’s accepted and used by millions of people. we’ll start to see studies that show clearer and conclusive determinations concerning the effects of cannabis on users.
By that time the public will to do something about it will be long abandoned.
It looks like the road ahead will be one of treating those abusing cannabis in the same way those that abuse any substance. Whether taxes will offset the potential costs associated with those treatments remains to be seen.
In other words, as with anything the government does, the unintended consequences have yet to be discovered. Over time they will be. By then it’ll be far too late to do much about it, other than teach people to make the choice not to use the substance.