What the Public Experts Are Saying:
Several veterans recently testified before the NC Senate Judiciary Committee arguing out of their personal experiences that marijuana use was necessary for them to deal with pain from combat injuries, PTSD, and thoughts of suicide.
Contrary to such testimony, “direct associations have been made between the high-frequency use of high potency marijuana and the development of serious mental health issues including psychosis, depression, anxiety, addiction, and suicidal thoughts.” A study published by the Journal of Psychiatric Research found that marijuana-dependent Iraq/Afghanistan-era veterans have an increased risk of suicidal thoughts and attempted suicide. This study expanded upon a National Academies of Sciences report that found only limited evidence that marijuana or any of its derivatives could be effective in treating symptoms of PTSD.
The American Medical Association “believes that scientifically valid and well-controlled clinical trials conducted under federal investigational new drug applications are necessary to assess the safety and effectiveness of all new drugs, including potential cannabis products for medical use.” The AMA “believes that cannabis for medicinal use should not be legalized through the state legislative, ballot initiative, or referendum process.”
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) plainly says:
“The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)External has not recognized or approved the marijuana plant as medicine.
“Because marijuana is often smoked, it can damage your lungs and cardiovascular system (e.g., heart and blood vessels). These and other damaging effects on the brain and body could make marijuana more harmful than helpful as a medicine. Another problem with marijuana as a medicine is that the ingredients aren’t exactly the same from plant to plant. There’s no way to know what kind and how much of a chemical you’re getting.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) believes that “[a]ny change in the legal status of marijuana, even if limited to adults, could affect the prevalence of use among adolescents.” The AAP supports scientific research on the possible use of cannabinoids as opposed to smoked marijuana, but it opposes the legalization of marijuana.
The American Academy of Neurology states that they currently do “not support the use of, nor any assertion of therapeutic benefits of, cannabis products as medicines for neurologic disorders in the absence of sufficient scientific peer-reviewed research to determine their safety and specific efficacy. The FDA-approved plant-based CBD product is an example that has now proven to be sufficiently safe and effective for the treatment of seizures for certain epilepsy patients.”
American Psychiatric Association says, “[T]here is no current scientific evidence that marijuana is in any way beneficial for the treatment of any psychiatric disorder.”
A 2017 study of the Journal of the American Medical Association Psychiatry found that rates of marijuana use and addiction increased significantly more in the states that passed medical marijuana laws as compared to states that have not. Examining the data (1992-2013), researchers concluded medical marijuana laws likely contributed to an increased prevalence of marijuana and marijuana-addicted users.
A nationally representative survey examining drug use patterns by the University of Michigan and funded by the National Institutes of Health showed that one-third of high school seniors in medical marijuana states obtained their marijuana from someone else’s medical recommendation.
According to Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM), a non-profit which does extensive research and lobbying on marijuana policy says, “The rise of legalization and medical marijuana has sent a message to young people that marijuana use is harmless and non-addictive, contrary to science supported by the American Medical Association, National Institutes of Health, and every other major scientific body that has examined the issue.”
According to Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM), an analysis done by Seattle-King County Public Health, “39% of kids who use say that the marijuana originally came from a [medical] dispensary. Some of them may have bought it, some of them may have gotten it from a friend with a marijuana authorization, some of them may have gotten it from a parent who uses marijuana medicinally, etc.”
According to a scathing report by the International Narcotics Control Board of the United Nations, “The decrease in the perceived risks of cannabis use and active social marketing of cannabis by the cannabis industry presents major challenges in preventing cannabis use among young people. Unsubstantiated claims about the medical benefits of cannabis have been accompanied by reductions in the perceived risks of using cannabis among young people in the United States.” It also added that so-called “medical” marijuana programs in America had resulted in the normalization of the drug for non-medical purposes, which have led to public health harms. “Medical” marijuana programs have laid the groundwork for recreational markets.”
One personal testimony:
In his new book, Smokescreen: What the Marijuana Industry Doesn’t Want You to Know, Kevin Sabet tells the following story:
Helen, a mother was desperately trying to find help for her daughter Caroline, who experienced multiple migraines that were utterly incapacitating. “Nothing really helped, not a slew of prescribed medications,” writes Sabet. “That’s when Caroline began smoking pot.” It was the only thing, Caroline said, that helped her migraines.
Caroline had been smoking pot without her mother’s knowledge. So, Helen pursued a recommendation from a doctor in Manhattan, who recommended its use as a medicine for Caroline. Furthermore, Helen’s daughter’s therapist told her everyone was doing it. Her brother in the pharmaceutical industry said it was a good thing. Caroline’s doctor endorsed it. Even Caroline’s school was accommodating her use of cannabis.
“But something wasn’t right,” Helen told Sabet.
“Pretty soon, Caroline wanted to get high all the time – even when she wasn’t suffering from migraines.
“She began vaping multiple times a day – at home, at school, wherever she was.
“‘It took over pretty quickly,’ Helen recalled.
“Caroline’s behavior became increasingly erratic. She would wake up in the middle of the night, screaming for no apparent reason. If she ran out of pot, she would rummage through the apartment, drinking anything she could find – tequila, beer, whatever. She kicked in a full-length mirror in the bathroom, shattering it. In a rage, she flung a hot cup of tea across the room.”
Police were called to take Caroline to the hospital. Tens of thousands of dollars have been spent on treatment.
“Even now, with Caroline at the age of sixteen in an outpatient program that includes drug monitoring, it’s touch and go…The marijuana certainly put Caroline on a direct path to mental illness,” says Helen.
Caroline’s story is not uncommon for those who started using marijuana as medicine. We could rightly conclude there are, conservatively speaking, as many stories like Caroline’s as there are of those who say marijuana has helped them.