Maine Voices: Medical marijuana act silent on potential risks

December 16th, 2010 by admin Leave a reply »

WESTBROOK – All medications carry risks as well as benefits. This truism applies to medical marijuana as well.

The unique manner in which the state has legalized its medical use, through voting consensus rather than evidence-based evaluation, has resulted in the minimization of its harmful effects. As an addiction medicine specialist with many years of experience and study, I am concerned that these potentially harmful effects, especially in vulnerable populations, have not been adequately brought to the public’s attention.

The Maine Medical Marijuana Act was drafted to increase the access to medical marijuana for patients suffering from chronic, debilitating conditions. It does not address the potential harm that marijuana, as with any other psychoactive substance, can cause.

Adolescents are particularly vulnerable to the harmful effects of early exposure to cannabis.

We know that adolescent brains have different biological responses than adults do to exposure to all drugs of abuse, including marijuana. These include a significantly greater risk of lifelong dependence and changes in cognition and motivation that affect learning and behavior. Teen cannabis use also greatly increases the risk of major mental illness, including major depression, anxiety disorders and psychosis.

The rates of teen abuse of cannabis are directly correlated to teens’ perception of its harm. The perception of harm is decreased by the promotion of marijuana as a benign herb with pro-health medicinal properties and by its use by trusted parents and other care-givers.

Rates of use are also correlated with drug access. Both direct and passive diversion

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