The road to legalizing cannabis in America has been long and tedious. Even with dozens of states now allowing medical and recreational marijuana, cannabis reform activists are still fighting. One of the toughest hurdles they have faced so far is the stigma generated from decades of anticannabis propaganda and prohibition. Cannabis legalization opponents argued that, among other things, cannabis would increase drug use among the youth, boost criminal activity, and cause a general decline in society. However, several studies on the relationship between cannabis legalization, public health, and criminal activity have revealed that these fears were largely unfounded.
During a recent interview, National Institute on Drug Abuse director Nora Volkow said she hasn’t seen any evidence that proves sporadic cannabis use by adults is harmful. Speaking with FiveThirtyEight, she said that to her knowledge there is no proof that occasional cannabis use has negative health effects. The correlation still hasn’t been tested, she said, and more research needs to be done to better understand whether using marijuana intermittently will harm your health. Volkow also mentioned that she was surprised by research indicating that cannabis users tend to have a lower body mass index (BMI).
Given how troublesome a high BMI can be people get older, she says, this is another thing researchers need to look into. Volkow’s views on cannabis are relatively progressive; while she hasn’t declared her support for broad legalization, she prefers to approach cannabis from a scientific point of view.
Thus, she acknowledges that there is currently no proof that irregular cannabis use is harmful. However, marijuana use by young people absolutely concerns her, she says, adding that consuming high-THC products on a daily basis can harm even adult brains. Still, Volkow said that youth cannabis use has not increased in the wake of state cannabis laws in an August podcast.
She emphasized the need to look at drug addiction as a public health problem rather than a criminal issue. The stigma associated with addiction and drug abuse is preventing America from dealing with its current drug crisis, she wrote in an op-ed earlier this month, and the government bears significant blame for the proliferation of this stigma. Criminal justice policies, especially the failed war on drugs, punished scores of people who had medical conditions rather than give them the treatment they needed. Policies that promoted decriminalization and increased treatment would be a much better alternative.
As leading scientists, such as the head of NIDA, speak out against the misconceptions plaguing the marijuana industry, sector players such as American Cannabis Partners could end up with a less-hostile perception of the plant they cultivate.
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