By Peyton Majors
Christian Action League
November 17, 2023
Individuals who regularly use marijuana have a significantly higher risk of a major cardiovascular event such as a heart attack or stroke, according to two new studies that could impact the political debate over its legalization.
Both studies were presented this month at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions in Philadelphia.
A bill that would legalize medicinal marijuana in North Carolina passed the state Senate this year but failed to gain a vote in the House. Opponents of the bill say it is a stepping stone to recreational legalization statewide.
In one study, individuals who used marijuana had a 34 percent higher risk of developing heart failure than those who had never used it. That study followed more than 150,000 people for 45 months. Significantly, the risk was the same regardless of age or sex. The study did not differentiate between consumption via smoking or other ways.
“Prior research shows links between marijuana use and cardiovascular disease like coronary artery disease, heart failure and atrial fibrillation, which is known to cause heart failure,” said lead study author Yakubu Bene-Alhasan, a resident physician at Medstar Health in Baltimore. “Marijuana use isn’t without its health concerns, and our study provides more data linking its use to cardiovascular conditions.”
In 2017, a 22-year-old New Jersey man, Michael Ziobro, suffered a catastrophic heart failure that his parents blamed for his regular marijuana use. They found him dead on the floor of his room.
“He just thought it was natural and organic and it ended up killing him,” his mother said.
In the second study, senior adults who use marijuana were found to have a “higher risk of a major cardiovascular event such as a heart attack or stroke while hospitalized, compared to a similar group of non-cannabis users,” a summary at Healthline said.
Medical experts and pro-family leaders alike say the data on marijuana is becoming more clear.
Robert L. Page II, a professor at the University of Colorado Skaggs School of Pharmacy, said the recent research “indicates that smoking and inhaling cannabis increases concentrations” of carbon monoxide and tar “similar to the effects of inhaling a tobacco cigarette, both of which have been linked to heart muscle disease, chest pain, heart rhythm disturbances, heart attacks and other serious conditions.”
“Together with the results of these two research studies, the cardiovascular risks of cannabis use are becoming clearer and should be carefully considered and monitored by health care professionals and the public,” Page said.
Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, said the new studies “raise serious concerns about the safety of marijuana as a medicinal option.”
“The findings suggest cannabis use is associated with an increased risk of major cardiovascular events such as heart attacks, heart failure and strokes,” Creech said. “These risks are especially pronounced in older adults and daily cannabis users, and they appear to be exacerbated by existing risk factors such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol. It is evident from these findings alone that the potential harm to heart health outweighs any perceived medicinal benefits.”
Marijuana, he said, “isn’t medicine.”
“The risks are higher than the perceived benefits,” Creech said. “We’re talking about the heart. Heart attack and heart failure victims have to deal with multiple challenges: medication management, lifestyle modifications, participating in cardiac rehabilitation, dietary restrictions, serious bouts with fatigue, and disability, not to mention the way death constantly hangs over them like a Damocles Sword. Stroke victims have to deal with physical impairments, difficulties with mobility, speech and language problems, difficulties swallowing, cognitive changes, fatigue, social isolation and loss of independence.”
Opponents of marijuana legalization, he said, must be ready in 2024 to debate the issue once more.
“The push for the passage of medical marijuana legislation was intense this year and we can expect it to be just as intense in the Spring of 2024,” Creech said. “There is plenty of anecdotal evidence that says pot is medicine, but regularly new scientific studies are coming out warning us about marijuana and its harms.”