Cannabis is becoming widely legalized for the health benefits it has to offer. But new studies show that it may have its share of downsides. Recent research reveals that pot is making people sick.
Read on to find out about how cannabis is affecting health.
How Pot is Making People Sick
Overwhelming data has come in showing that pot is making people sick in various ways. Most notably, it has been linked to emphysema, a serious lung condition. This could put pressure on the marijuana marketplace, which was worth $13.2 billion last year and is growing 15% annually.
As a result, many politicians who are supportive of cannabis legislation, including Congressional Cannabis Caucus Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore) and Dave Joyce (R-Ohio) are calling for increased regulation.
“One of the reasons I have fought so hard to be able to legalize, regulate and tax is because I want to keep this out of the hands of young people. It has proven negative consequences for the developing mind,” said Blumenauer.
Last year, the representatives teamed up to ease federal restrictions on researching cannabis for medical purposes and growing marijuana for research.
Now they are suggesting implementing dosage standards, mandating childproof containers for edibles, and putting advertising restrictions in place to ensure children are not tempted to use cannabis.
The FDA is also taking action. The organization recently rejected applications from cannabis companies seeking regulation under loose standards. They are aiming to bolster safeguards on the use of CBD.
“We have not found adequate evidence to determine how much CBD can be consumed and for how long before causing harm,” said Principal Deputy Commissioner Janet Woodcock.
Giselle Revah, an assistant professor at the University of Ottawa, whose research in the Radiology journal linked marijuana smoking to emphysema and established pot is making people sick, backed up Woodcock’s sentiment by pointing out that there hasn’t been much research on pot until recently.
Revah also noted that early studies were limited as “it’s very hard to study something that’s illegal”.
And emphysema is not the only way pot is making people sick. There have also been increasing cases of children accidentally ingesting edibles, teenagers getting asthma in states where cannabis is legal, and a growing rate of young adults using alcohol and marijuana simultaneously.
The Results of Marijuana Legalization
With more states legalizing marijuana, cannabis use is becoming more common. Data collected from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration shows that more Americans will use more marijuana than tobacco products by 2030. This is in line with previous trends that show a 75% increase in weed use from 2009 to 2020.
As weed use increases, so do the occurrence of pot is making people sick. Pediatric edible poisoning in the United States has grown from 207 in 2017 to a whopping 3,054 in 2021. Legalizing states have also seen a boost in hospitalizations and poison control visits.
Research has also shown that the legalization of marijuana could be contributing to an uptick in asthma among teens. Asthma in teens has gone up considerably between 2011 and 2019 in states where marijuana is legal. Research groups have noted a concentrated increase in certain ethnic and racial groups.
Renee Goodwin, an adjunct associate professor at Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health feels the increase in asthma could be due to parents smoking pot at home. Second-hand smoke could negatively affect their respiratory systems.
“You’ve got these sweeping, very rapid changes in policy and there’s no science to inform them. Ideally, there would be at least accompanying clinical guidelines for clinicians to advise parents.
While the mental impacts of cannabis use are unclear, it’s possible that pot is making people sick in terms of causing issues such as depression and suicide.
“We really have to slow down,” said Leana Wen, George Washington University public health professor. “We’re getting so far ahead of where the research is.
Marijuana also poses dangers to health as there is an increase in driving while high. The percentage of fatal cannabis-related car accidents more than doubled between 2000 and 2018.
The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration is running ads to combat the increase.
Policy Response to Pot is Making People Sick
The pot is making people sick issue is causing politicians to look at creating new regulatory pathways for CBD including labeling, content limits, and a minimum purchase age. They believe this will reduce the risk of harm to the liver and men’s reproductive organs as well as interactions with medications.
Blumenauer and Joyce are planning to push for childhood packaging and standardized dosing guidelines.
“Consumers need to be able to know how much THC is in the products they are consuming as opposed to the unregulated market we are currently facing which makes it nearly impossible to know,” said Blumenauer.
While public health advocates support the politicians’ efforts, many feel it’s a case of too little too late. They are frustrated with policymakers who were eager to get on with legislation and didn’t take the time to mitigate consequences.
“We’re in a massive natural experiment,” said David Jernigan, professor of health law, policy, and management at Boston University School of Public Health. “Are we learning the lessons from alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs when we go to regulate cannabis? Absolutely not.”