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Post: The Health Hazards of Legalizing Marijuana

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The Health Hazards of Legalizing Marijuana


By Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman

May 3, 2024 7:00 AM EDT

Lieberman is The Constance and Stephen Lieber Professor of Psychiatry at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, and President of the ARETE INSTITUTE for Health, Well-Being and Human Potential. He is also the author of SHRINKS: The Untold Story of Psychiatry (Little Brown, 2015) and MALADY OF THE MIND: Schizophrenia and the Path to Prevention (Scribner-Simon and Schuster, 2023)

In a dramatic example of government yielding to public opinion the Senate has introduced legislation to legalize cannabis on the federal level . Though passage before the November election is unlikely, this long overdue legislative action seeks to update a statute stemming [pun intended] from marijuana’s demonized image as depicted in the 1936 documentary film “Reefer Madness” and better reflect public opinion and liberal social trends. Currently, under the Federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA) of 1970, cannabis is considered to have “no accepted medical use” and a high potential for abuse and physical or psychological dependence. This Federal statute contrasts with the claims of therapeutic benefits of cannabis’ biochemical constituents such as cannabidiol and THC (tetra-hydro-cannabinol) when the sole FDA indication for their use is a rare childhood (Lennox-Gasteau) seizure disorder.

While the scientific information to officially endorse cannabis products as having therapeutic benefits is lacking, a recent Pew Research Center Survey found that 88 percent of Americans felt that marijuana should be legal for medical or recreational use. This wave of popular opinion has led to marijuana’s approval in 38 states for medical use, in 24 states for recreational use and decriminalization in an additional seven states.

Who could have anticipated that in less than two decades, a naturally grown recreational intoxicant, cannabis sativa, would go from demonization (as) to mainstream, and begat a tsunami of popular demand for legalization and a gold-rush of commercialization fueled by $61 billion of investment. Some may see this as an impressive demonstration of social progress, while others consider it the result of reckless and ill-conceived policies that have created a tangled matrix of laws and conflicting incentives based on confused logic and incomplete knowledge.

Americans […]

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