Marijuana

  • BE ADVISED:  Anyone under the age of 21 can not legally possess marijuana in the state of Washington.  It's the law.  The Washington State Legislature passed Senate Bill 5052, signed by Governor Jay Inslee, which states that minors under age 21 can be charged with a felony for marijuana possession, a crime which could net them up to 5 years in prison.  ("Three teens facing marijuana felonies," Lewiston, WA, The Spokesman-Review, September 19, 2015)  

  • Marijuana use is especially harmful to the developing brain of teens, who risk a long-term drop in their IQ.  New research in New Zealand measured mental performance both before marijuana use began and after.   (Richie Poulton, University of Otago in New Zealand; Madeline Meier of Duke University; Dr. Nora Yolkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse; Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, August 2012)

  • Boys who dramatically increase drug use in their teen years have the highest rates of depression and the lowest educational achievements.  Escalating use has more impact than using marijuana at a high consistent level.  (Source:  "Study:  Link between marijuana use, depression," University of Pittsburg, KREM 2, July 25, 2017) 

  • Marijuana use during pregnancy, is associated with many risks.  Moms should think twice before using pot during and after pregnancy.

    Many moms turn to marijuana for relief of symptoms such as nausea and anxiety, yet scientific research is emerging that identifies associated risks.  The Spokane Regional Health District's campaign "Weed to Know for Baby and You" educates families and caregivers about harms associated with marijuana use while pregnant, breastfeeding, or caring for children.  The campaign stresses the results of several peer-reviewed studies, which revealed:

 

    Marijuana use before pregnancy could:
    • Cause a baby to be born before his or her body and brain are ready. This could mean serious health problems at birth and throughout life.
    • Change how a baby's brain develops. These changes may cause life-long behavior problems like trouble paying attention or following rules.
    • Lower a child's IQ, cause problems with learning and memory, and make it harder for them to do well in school.



      Marijuana use during breastfeeding is associated with these risks:  Feeding problems, as THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, can lower milk supply; and an increased risk for sudden infant death syndrome


      Using marijuana can affect a person's ability to safely care for a baby or other children. Marijuana use decreases a person's ability to concentrate, impairs judgment, and slows response time.

      “We hear all the time from mothers who feel they used marijuana ‘successfully’ in previous pregnancies, or know someone who did, but it is also likely the child is not old enough yet to exhibit the long-term health consequences,” said Melissa Charbonneau, a public health nurse in the health district’s Children and Youth with Special Health Care Needs program. “To be on the safe side, your best bet is to avoid marijuana altogether while you're expecting.”  ("Marijuana use during pregnancy associated with many risks, studies reveal," by Elena Gardner, KXLY News, June 7, 2017)

  • As states legalize Marijuana, it is pushed more and more into the mainstream.   Some 111 million people in the U.S. have tried marijuana at least once; more than 31 million have used it in 2013 alone; and 19 million admit to using marijuana on a regular basis. 

    THC desensitizes important parts of the brain.  Marijuana smoke can dramatically increase heart rate and affects areas of the brain for memory, reward, concentration, coordination and time perception.  Dr. Paula Riggs, MD reports the following: 

    “Marijuana is an addictive drug.  Nine percent of individuals who repeatedly use it may become addicted or dependent on marijuana.  One in 6 adolescents who experiment with marijuana will become addicted, and 1 in 11 adults will also.

    People who try to withdraw from using marijuana may experience difficulty sleeping, irritability, anxiety, some nausea or stomach problems, decreased appetite, and weight loss. 

    Marijuana is not a benign recreational drug.  The science does not match up with that.  It is clearly neurotoxic to adolescent brain development.  Kids who are using marijuana daily or near daily, have been associated with a 6 to 8 point reduction in adult IQ, and it does not look like they get it back.

    Marijuana use is not benign for regular users among adults. 
    It causes neurocognitive deficits and memory problems in adult users, as well as problems with reasoning."   Dr. Paula Riggs, MD, Director of the Division of Substance Dependence, University of Colorado (reporting on the Dr. Oz Show, December 10, 2013)

  • Recreational marijuana is driving more young teens to smoke in states with legalization and may be normalizing pot use among young Americans.

    Among 8th and 10th graders in Washington, perceived harmfulness of marijuana use decreased and marijuana use increased following legalization of recreational marijuana use in 2014.   (Source:  Association of State Recreational Marijuana Laws with Adolescent Marijuana Use,” Original Investigation, Journal Club, JAMA Pediatr. published December 27, 2016) 

    The numbers in Washington are leaving health officials anxious over the potential unintended consequences of recreational marijuana legalization.

    “While legalization for recreational purposes is currently limited to adults, potential impacts on adolescent marijuana use are of particular concern,” Magdalena Cerdá, a researcher at UC Davis and lead author of the study, told PsyPost. “Some adolescents who try marijuana will go on to chronic use, with an accompanying range of adverse outcomes, from cognitive impairment to downward social mobility, financial, work-related and relationship difficulties.” (Source:  “Legal Weed has the Exact Effect on Teens Everyone Feared,” Steve Birr, The Daily Caller News Foundation, December 28, 2016)

  • “Marijuana is a gateway drug.  Of the 100’s of people who die every day of overdose on other drugs, virtually everyone of them started with marijuana.  This is a serious concern.  A productive, healthy society requires sober citizens,” reported Scott Chipman of Citizens Against Legalizing Marijuana.  (“Legalize Recreational Marijuana in California?” by Carlos Granda, ABC News, January 2, 2014, http://abc7.com/archive/9379957/)

  • Two doctors argued in the New York Times that, “Laws are getting ahead of science.  The truth is, we lack evidence not only for the efficacy of marijuana, but also for its safety.” 

    Medical marijuana is used to alleviate symptoms of such things as cancer, nervous system diseases, glaucoma and migraines. 

    In regard to laws suggesting that marijuana is safe, Dr. David Agus said, “There is a major problem here.  In 1970’s the Assistant Secretary of Health argued that marijuana should be class 1, which is the highest classification for a drug, right next to heroin and above cocaine, which is class 2.  Class 1 means there is no medical benefit at all, and it has a very high addiction potential.  He did it because he said there were some trials going on, and we will know the answer of its safety soon.  “Well, it hasn’t been changed in over 40 years, which means nobody can study it.  If people can’t study it, we really don’t know if it works and if it is safe.  That classification has to change.

    With regard to some of the side effects we should be worried about are, “First, and foremost, and I can’t emphasize this enough, is that the human brain develops until age 25.  So, if anybody under the age of 25 uses marijuana, there is a dramatic increase in psychiatric and cognitive problems as you get older.  In everybody, there is a compound THC which goes to the brain and creates that high, but it also changes your reflexes, changes your personality; so, we have to worry about these problems.  Possible side effects are increased heart rate and blood pressure; impaired memory; judgment and cognition; psychological issues; sleep disorders; impaired coordination and balance.  Are people going to drive with it?  How is it going to affect you long-term, your performance at work, and your cognition?  We need to understand this better. 

    The marijuana on the market today is significantly more potent than the marijuana on the market in the 70’s.  Dr. David Agus said, “There are 400-500 different chemical compounds in marijuana, and they change even in the same exact strain based on the soil, temperature, etc.  Yes, it is getting more potent.  We are trying to breed things in there, and we don’t understand the ratio on how these compounds work together.” 

    Dr. Agus concluded, “In my patients, I use the standard drugs for nausea, pain, or any other disorder they have.  If they do not work, I have certainly used marijuana and it has worked anecdotally in some patients, but certainly not all; but, I first use the FDA-approved drugs.    (“The Science of Pot – Experts raise questions about medical marijuana,” and “We Need Proof on Marijuana,” by Dr. Orrin Devinsky and Dr. Daniel Friedman, The New York Times, Feb. 2014, CBS This Morning, February 14, 2014)

  • “(Marijuana) is affecting the emergency room, it’s affecting the operating room, it’s affecting just about every aspect of medicine that you could think of,” says Dr. Steven Simerville, a pediatrician and medical director of the newborn intensive care unit at Pueblo’s Saint Mary Corwin Medical Center. He supports the ballot initiative to ban recreational pot, in part, because he says he’s noticed more babies being born with marijuana in their system.

    Today’s pot is on average four to five times stronger than it was in the 1980s.  It can also get passed on to babies in high concentrations in breast milk.

    Dr. Simerville says to women who are pregnant, "Even though you’re not smoking very much, the baby is getting seven times more than you’re taking and -- this drug has been shown to cause harm in developing brains."  Research suggests babies exposed to marijuana in utero may develop verbal, memory and behavioral problems during early childhood.

    "You need to be able to protect babies. And you’re gonna need to protect teenagers. And by “teenagers,” who are developing brains, you have to take in mind that marijuana potentially permanently affects brain growth until people are 25 or 30," says Dr. Simerville. 

    Evidence is emerging that heavy teenage use – using 4 to 5 days a week – may be linked to long-term damage in areas of the brain that help control cognitive functions like attention, memory and decision-making.  It’s not known if there’s any amount of marijuana that is safe for the developing brain, which may still be maturing during the mid to late 20s. 

    "When you take alcohol, it has its effects and then it leaves the body.  When you take cannabis, it gets into the tissues of your body and is stored in the fat, including the brain which is a very fatty tissue," says Dr. Marilyn Huestis, former chief of chemistry and drug metabolism at the National Institute on Drug Abuse, who has been studying marijuana’s effects on the human body for more than 25 years.  (Dr. Jonathan LaPook, chief medical correspondent for CBS Evening News, “The Pot Vote,” October 30, 2016)

  • Prior marijuana use and other benchmarks may limit otherwise good recruits from trying to join the military.  ("Pentagon wants more recruits," from wire reports, November 2, 2016)

Statistics
  • Among 8th and 10th graders in Washington, perceived harmfulness of marijuana use decreased and marijuana use increased following legalization of recreational marijuana use in 2014.   (Source:  Association of State Recreational Marijuana Laws with Adolescent Marijuana Use,” Original Investigation, Journal Club, JAMA Pediatr. published December 27, 2016) 

  • Children as young as 11 years old are becoming addicted to marijuana.  (Spokane Valley Police Dept. Chief Rick VanLeuven, GVSN meeting, November 2015)

  • Marijuana deposits 4x more tar into the lungs than tobacco. 
    http://www.gssac.org/drug-facts/marijuana.html
  • Marijuana increases psychotic disorders.  Researchers found that people who use marijuana had roughly a 40% higher chance of developing a psychotic disorder later in life.  For those who used it daily or weekly, the risk for psychosis jumped to a range of 50% to 200%.  A psychosis mental disorder is characterized by symptoms of impaired contact with reality, such as delusions, hallucinations, schizophrenia and paranoia.  (British Health Dept., published in July 2007 medical journal The Lancet)  
  • Marijuana increases depression risk.  Frequent marijuana ingestion doubles a teen’s risk of depression and anxiety, and increases the risk of developing mental disorders later in life by 40%.  Depressed teens are medicating themselves with marijuana, running the risk of even deeper depression. 

  • 1 of 5 10th graders in Washington state use marijuana.  (Washington Lights Up,” CBS Morning News, July 8, 2014)

What You Can Do

  • A social experiment.  Legalizing marijuana is a social experiment, and like most experiments, it will take time to understand its consequences.  Law enforcement should keep stats on marijuana-related crimes. Foreign countries who have de-criminalized marijuana, like the Netherlands, have re-evaluated and regretted the issues which developed as a result.

  • Encourage politicians to act responsibly.  Political decisions are racing ahead of science and research, ignoring many red flags.  In one study of 3,000 patients, in the one hour following the smoking of marijuana, there was a 5 times increased risk of heart attack. Marijuana causes an abnormal heart rhythms, increase in the heart rate and BP rate, potential for blood clots and strokes, and damage to blood vessels.    Source:   Journal of the American Heart Assn, Dr. Tara Marula
  • Report marijuana plants.  Washington State sponsors a toll-free, anonymous tip-line to protect neighborhoods from marijuana use and production.  Call Spokane’s Crime Check at 456-2233 or the Washington State tip-line at 1-800-388-4769.

  • Learn About Marijuana - science-based information for the public.  Information for Parents to prevent underage use, Teens, Espanol, Research, Marijuana fact sheets, Reproduction and Marijuana, Adult consumers, Recovery help, Driving under the influence. 
    University of Washington’s ADAI (Alcohol & Drug Abuse Institute)  http://learnaboutmarijuanawa.org   

Local Organizations
Additional Resources

U.S. Surgeon General's Warning on Marijuana

"Marijuana use is a major public health problem in the United States."
http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/00001143.htm

National Institute on Drug Abuse
, presents research on