The good news and the bad news
A few years ago my state, Washington, legalized marijuana. I voted in favor.
Since then I’ve wondered if that was a good idea. Tax windfall aside, what do we really know about the health effects of pot, good or bad?
Recently, one of my favorite health news sites, Healthcare Triage, posted this video: What we know about pot in 2017
Dr. Carroll presents a good summary of available research on the health effects of pot. Unfortunately, as he points out, there just isn’t enough quality research being done. While there is a lot of money in selling and taxing marijuana, there’s not so much in studying it.
First the good news. There is strong or moderate evidence that pot:
- Works to treat chronic pain in adults;
- Works to alleviate nausea and vomiting in cancer patients;
- Works to treat some symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS).
Now the bad news. There is strong or moderate evidence that pot:
- Worsens the symptoms of chronic respiratory disease and bronchitis;
- Increases the incidence of motor vehicle accidents (MVAs);
- Is linked to pregnancy complications and lower infant birthweight;
- Is linked to the development of schizophrenia;
- Worsens symptoms of mental illness, including suicidal thoughts;
- Affects (lowers) learning, memory and attention.
California recently legalized marijuana and other states are sure to follow suit.
I wish now that I had spent more time researching the health effects of pot, and asked more questions about how the tax revenue would be spent.
Although Washington is bringing in about $20 million/month (per month!!) from pot sales, the vast majority of money is going into a “general” fund. A small percentage is earmarked for more research into the health effects and societal impacts, which is good. But it’s a very small percentage. Some, ironically, is going into drug prevention programs.
Lawmakers have a huge amount of discretionary money now, but I certainly don’t see any clear benefits. Our infrastructure is still crumbling, traffic is a mess, homelessness is epidemic, and our state is being fined $100,000/day following a Supreme Court decision that it is not adequately funding K-12 education.
Our state has seen an increase in DUIs, with more drivers using pot and driving while high.
Every time I drive into the city, I have to pass about a dozen billboards advertising pot shops like Ganja Goddess and Cannabis City.
And at the beach, park or just on the street I’m frequently assaulted with the cloying smell of pot. Now I know why it’s nicknamed skunk.
If I had the chance to re-vote, I would probably vote no. The state is making a ton of money, sure, but will that offset the associated health and learning problems?
Related post: Smoking pot hurts your brain
Bottom line, we need more research on the health effects of pot, especially the long-term use of pot. Perhaps legalizing it was the only way to get that information. 😐