In the past, my objection to medical marijuana has been based on the abuses I have seen in other states. Before California legalized recreational use of marijuana and after California legalized medical marijuana, the last four or five pages on the newspapers in California were filled with advertisements from doctors who were willing to prescribe marijuana for pretty much anything from dandruff to a hangnail. The medical marijuana clinics were simply supporting the recreational uses by placing a very thin veneer over the recreational use of the drug. Now, some other problems with marijuana are coming to light. Even as we learn that marijuana has some valid medical uses, we need to look at the downside of legalizing medical marijuana.
On Wednesday, The Carolina Journal posted an article that contained some warnings about legalizing medical marijuana.
The article reports:
Dr. Christian Thurstone, director of behavioral health at Denver Health and professor of psychiatry at University of Colorado, held a media event in October warning North Carolinians not to repeat Colorado’s mistakes surrounding medical marijuana. He was invited to speak by the Triangle Christian Medical and Dental Associations in reaction to N.C. Senate Bill 711, the N.C. Compassionate Care Act.
The bill passed the state Senate 36-7 on third reading in June but did not move in the state House before session ended. A similar bill is likely to be introduced next session and could be considered in 2023.
Thurstone spoke for about 45 minutes and then gave those attending a chance to ask questions.
Thurstone’s main criticisms were that SB 711 allows marijuana in any form for patients, including powerful food products; allows marijuana as a treatment for too many conditions; allows for more than one caregiver to handle the drug; spreads distribution throughout the state, so counties don’t have the option of opting out like they do in Colorado; permits distributors to own more than one center, which led to commercialization of the marijuana business elsewhere; and allows those under 18 to receive marijuana if they have a signature from guardian without specifying safeguards to prevent forgery of signatures.
He said, “This bill is about creating an industry,” and is less about creating a compassionate new form of treatment available.
…Thurstone went through a number of slides showing data about the immediate but temporary bump in those under 18 using marijuana after their bill passed and the more sustained increase of those 18-25 using marijuana (which is now at 32% compared to 23% in the U.S. overall).
Later he spoke about the boom in new powerful products like gummies and drinks that were legally available and advertised. Many of these products and strains have 20-30% THC, which is 10 times stronger than traditional marijuana which had 2% or 3% THC.
The “concerns” section of the speech was subtitled “cars and kids,” as those were the two main areas he said N.C. should keep in mind. For cars, he mentioned a spike in traffic accidents where the driver tested positive for marijuana, rising from 9% in 2009 to 21% in 2019 in Colorado. And despite jokes that high drivers are better because they drive slower, he said the evidence shows they have twice the risk of car accidents, due to difficulty staying in lane, slower reaction times, more weaving, and worse attention and distractibility scores.
Medical marijuana is not compassionate. It creates more problems than it solves. The explosion of vape shops in the state in recent years has as much to do with the increase in vaping as it does the idea that when marijuana becomes legal for medical use (and then for recreational use, which will follow), the shops will already be in place.
Make no mistake–medical marijuana will follow a path very similar to Oxycontin–it may begin well, but it will not end well.