Don’t overlook the dangers of marijuana

Today, the majority of Americans support full legalization of marijuana for recreational use, even though science shows it’s not safe.

But who am I kidding? Since when has real science stood in the way of a politically correct policy?

Without a doubt, the legalization advocates are winning the public debate about marijuana. They are organized and well-funded. Plus, most men and women don’t seem to really know about its harms.

For a long time, we didn’t have a lot of good research on the effects of marijuana.  In fact, up until very recently, marijuana was still illegal in all 50 states. So you couldn’t exactly hold a clinical trial at Harvard comparing the brains of marijuana-users to non-users.

It’s a bit ironic…

Now that marijuana is legal in many parts of the country, we have more scientific data starting to roll in. And it doesn’t look good.

Last year, researchers and physicians published reviews in the Journal of the American Medical Association listing all the problems associated with using marijuana for medicinal purposes, even under medical supervision.

First, there is the incredible increase in traffic accidents.

In fact, the number of traffic fatalities involving marijuana more than doubled between the years 2004 and 2011 in the state of Colorado after “medicalization.”

Full legalization–which includes recreational use–pushed through last year in Colorado. So we can expect the problem will only get worse.

Tenured social science professors at the University of Colorado “rolled out” politically correct theories to explain why the state experienced such a dramatic increase in DUI deaths. But the answer is all too obvious: Marijuana is intoxicating. Any Medical Examiner, forensic scientist, or toxicologist like me knows the facts.

But you don’t have to be a forensic expert to see the harm this drug can cause.

First off, marijuana is stronger today than it was during the 1970s. In fact, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient in marijuana, has increased from about 5 percent in the 1970s to an average of 13 percent today. In some of the “advanced” dispensaries in Colorado, THC now comprises 30 percent of the drug.

Plus, scientific studies show this chemical can have long-lasting effects on the brain.

Last year I told you about an important collaborative study between Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School and Northwestern Medical Center in Chicago.

For this study, the researchers recruited 40 young adults ages 18 to 25 from colleges in the Boston area. Twenty of the students smoked cannabis occasionally and 20 did not smoke it all. The researchers found even casual marijuana use led to abnormalities in the shape, size, and density of cerebral tissue in key regions of the brain. Plus, researchers noticed the students were not dependent on marijuana. Yet their brains showed abnormalities at even this low-level exposure.

Other new research shows smoking marijuana is very bad for anyone with a mental disorder. It can worsen psychiatric conditions. Or bring them on earlier in life.

In fact, those who use marijuana and already have a family history of mental illness are two to five times more likely to develop new mental disorders themselves.

In addition, research from Europe shows marijuana increases the risk of heart attack and other emergency admissions to the hospital.

In states with legalized medical marijuana, about 30 percent more children have already used the drug compared to other states. The numbers are even worse in Colorado.

It doesn’t seem like the government in Colorado (or elsewhere) worries too much about preventing marijuana use. But it should.

Like smoking tobacco, smoking marijuana causes bronchitis, chronic cough, and inflammation of the respiratory tract. Plus, when it comes to cancer, the data on marijuana is actually much worse. In fact, one recent study found that cannabis is 20 times more carcinogenic than good, old-fashioned tobacco. So you have to smoke 20 cigarettes (a full pack) to get the carcinogens in just one marijuana “joint.”

Ironically, the same politically correct crowd that viciously fights tobacco often advocates policies that end up encouraging children to smoke marijuana, which endangers their minds and bodies.

See–what did I tell you about the harmful effects of marijuana on mental capacity and thinking?

Some cunning politicians argue legalizing marijuana will help fill their coffers with more taxes. They used this same argument to promote higher cigarette and tobacco taxes.

But as I reported, raising cigarette taxes does not influence tobacco smoking in the populations most at risk. Plus, it doesn’t help their government budgets. In fact, the states with the highest tobacco taxes are also the states with the biggest budget deficits. Last month, the New York Times also published an analysis of why marijuana taxes won’t save state budgets any more than tobacco taxes do.

Legalization in Colorado was also supposed to eliminate the “black market,” so the government could collect all their new taxes legally. But as the Times pointed out, it didn’t work. They just have more of the stuff floating around “legally” that can now go into the black market.

Some evil corporations now want in on the action. Rumor has it the agricultural chemical giant Monsanto has developed a genetically modified marijuana plant.

At least you now have some facts about the dangers of marijuana. So if you want to relieve some stress, stick with a glass of red wine with dinner. Or even one cigarette or cigar after dinner. It’s much safer. And a lot more relaxing.



  1. “Cannabis use and risk of lung cancer: A case-control study,” Eur Respir J. 2008 February; 31(2): 280–2862
  2. “Trends in fatal motor vehicle crashes before and after marijuana commercialization in Colorado,” Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 2014;3
  3. “Cannabis Use Is Quantitatively Associated with Nucleus Accumbens and Amygdala Abnormalities in Young Adult Recreational Users,” Journal of Neuroscience, 16 April 2014, 34(16): 5529-55384
  4. “NIH director on legalizing pot: Not so fast,” USA Today ( 2/28/20145
  5. “Cannabis use and risk of lung cancer: A case-control study,” Eur Respir J. 2008 February; 31(2): 280–2866
  6. “Legal pot blamed for some of influx of homeless in Denver this summer,” ( 7/25/2014