A recent study showed that most Americans view marijuana favorably thinking that it has significant benefits and few risks. Science does not support the new American marijuana attitude.
The journal Annals of Internal Medicine published the new study on July 23. The researchers conducted an online survey of more than 9,000 people from all over the United States. They found that 81 percent of U.S. adults believe that marijuana has at least one benefit. The most common benefit mentioned was pain management. Other supposed benefits in people’s minds were the treatment of diseases and relief from anxiety, stress, and depression. At the same time, 91 percent of the respondents believe that marijuana has at least one risk. The most common risk mentioned was not medical problems, but legal. They also mentioned addiction and impaired memory. The bottom line is that the American public sees marijuana as having few health risks and significant health benefits.
The prevailing favorable American marijuana attitude is most likely due to the influence of the media. Some individuals and businesses stand to make a massive amount of money on marijuana, and governments see it as a source of tax revenue. In the meantime, the public is ignoring costs in healthcare, addiction treatment, traffic enforcement, and traffic deaths. In a previous post, we reported on a study of the effects of marijuana on the brain. The American Medical Association published information in the JAMA Internal Medicine on the increase in fatal car accidents in the United States on April 20 each year. That’s the cannabis celebration day on which thousands of marijuana enthusiasts light up at 4:20 PM in celebration of pot. The 4/20 celebration has grown as marijuana has become more widely available and legal. According to the JAMA Internal Medicine journal, there was a 12 percent increase in fatal crashes on April 20 and a 38 percent increase among drivers younger than 21.
Since Washington state legalized recreational marijuana in 2012, the percentage of drivers involved in fatal crashes who had traces of marijuana in their blood has doubled. One of the problems involves trying to set a legal limit for marijuana because its effect on the body is very different from alcohol. Blood alcohol level reliably predicts impairment. The level of THC (the chemical in pot) in the blood is not the critical factor until it enters the tissue of the brain where it has its effect. The THC blood level may be lower when the brain is most affected.
Getting high on marijuana makes changes in the human brain and smoking the weed has many of the same health dangers as smoking tobacco. It seems clear that the American marijuana attitude is changing, but it is also clear that we need to step back and think more clearly before our thinking becomes blurred by pot.
–Roland Earnst © 2018