More and more Americans are reporting near-constant cannabis use, as legalization forges ahead.
Evan, who asked that his full name not be used for fear of the professional repercussions, has a self-described cannabis-use disorder. If not necessarily because of legalization, but alongside legalization, such problems are becoming more common: The share of adults with one has doubled since the early aughts, as the share of cannabis users who consume it daily or near-daily has jumped nearly 50 percent-all "in the context of increasingly permissive cannabis legislation, attitudes, and lower risk perception," as the National Institutes of Health put it.
Public-health experts worry about the increasingly potent options available, and the striking number of constant users. "Cannabis is potentially a real public-health problem," said Mark A. R. Kleiman, a professor of public policy at New York University. "It wasn't obvious to me 25 years ago, when 9 percent of self-reported cannabis users over the last month reported daily or near-daily use. I always was prepared to say, 'No, it's not a very abusable drug. Nine percent of anybody will do something stupid.' But that number is now [something like] 40 percent." They argue that state and local governments are setting up legal regimes without sufficient public-health protection, with some even warning that the country is replacing one form of reefer madness with another, careening from treating cannabis as if it were as dangerous as heroin to treating it as if it were as benign as kombucha.
For Keith Humphreys, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University, the most compelling evidence of the deleterious effects comes from users themselves. "In large national surveys, about one in 10 people who smoke it say they have a lot of problems. They say things like, 'I have trouble quitting. I think a lot about quitting and I can't do it. I smoked more than I intended to. I neglect responsibilities.' There are plenty of people who have problems with it, in terms of things like concentration, short-term memory, and motivation," he said. "People will say, 'Oh, that's just you fuddy-duddy doctors.' Actually, no. It's millions of people who use the drug who say that it causes problems."
Users or former users I spoke with described lost jobs, lost marriages, lost houses, lost money, lost time. Foreclosures and divorces. Weight gain and mental-health problems. And one other thing: the problem of convincing other people that what they were experiencing was real. A few mentioned jokes about Doritos, and comments implying that the real issue was that they were lazy stoners. Others mentioned the common belief that you can be "psychologically" addicted to pot, but not "physically" or "really" addicted. The condition remains misunderstood, discounted, and strangely invisible, even as legalization and white-marketization pitches ahead.
Academics and public-health officials, though, have raised the concern that cannabis's real risks have been overlooked or underplayed-perhaps as part of a counter-reaction to federal prohibition, and perhaps because millions and millions cannabis users have no problems controlling their use. "Part of how legalization was sold was with this assumption that there was no harm, in reaction to the message that everyone has smoked marijuana was going to ruin their whole life," Humphreys told me. It was a point Kleiman agreed with. "I do think that not legalization, but the legalization movement, does have a lot on its conscience now," he said. "The mantra about how this is a harmless, natural, and non-addictive substance-it's now known by everybody. And it's a lie."
Thousands of businesses, as well as local governments earning tax money off of sales, are now literally invested in that lie. "The liquor companies are salivating," Matt Karnes of GreenWave Advisors told me. "They can't wait to come in full force." He added that Big Pharma was targeting the medical market, with Wall Street, Silicon Valley, food businesses, and tobacco companies aiming at the recreational market.
Other people who found their use problematic or had managed to quit, none of whom wanted to use their names, described similar struggles and consequences. "I was running two companies at the time, and fitting smoking in between running those companies. Then, we sold those companies and I had a whole lot of time on my hands," one other former cannabis user told me. "I just started sitting around smoking all the time. And things just came to a halt. I was in terrible shape. I was depressed."
Lax regulatory standards and aggressive commercialization in some states have compounded some existing public-health risks, raised new ones, and failed to tamp down on others, experts argue. In terms of compounding risks, many cite the availability of hyper-potent marijuana products. "We're seeing these increases in the strength of cannabis, as we are also seeing an emergence of new types of products," such as edibles, tinctures, vape pens, sublingual sprays, and concentrates, Ziva Cooper, an associate professor of clinical neurobiology in the Department of Psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center, told me. "A lot of these concentrates can have up to 90 percent THC," she said, whereas the kind of flower you could get 30 years ago was far, far weaker. Scientists are not sure how such high-octane products affect people's bodies, she said, but worry that they might have more potential for raising tolerance, introducing brain damage, and inculcating dependence.
As for new risks: In many stores, budtenders are providing medical advice with no licensing or training whatsoever. "I'm most scared of the advice to smoke marijuana during pregnancy for cramps," said Humphreys, arguing that sellers were providing recommendations with no scientific backing, good or bad, at all.
In terms of long-standing risks, the lack of federal involvement in legalization has meant that marijuana products are not being safety-tested like pharmaceuticals; measured and dosed like food products; subjected to agricultural-safety and pesticide standards like crops; and held to labeling standards like alcohol. (Different states have different rules and testing regimes, complicating things further.)
Health experts also cited an uncomfortable truth about allowing a vice product to be widely available, loosely regulated, and fully commercialized: Heavy users will make up a huge share of sales, with businesses wanting them to buy more and spend more and use more, despite any health consequences.
"The reckless way that we are legalizing marijuana so far is mind-boggling from a public-health perspective," Kevin Sabet, an Obama administration official and a founder of the nonprofit Smart Approaches to Marijuana, told me. "The issue now is that we have lobbyists, special interests, and people whose motivation is to make money that are writing all of these laws and taking control of the conversation."
Then, there are THC taxes, designed to hit heavy users the hardest. Some drug-policy experts argue that such levies would just push people from marijuana to alcohol, with dangerous health consequences. "It would be like saying, 'Let's let the beef and pork industries market and do whatever they wish, but let's have much tougher restrictions on tofu and seitan,'" said Mason Tvert of the Marijuana Policy Project. "In light of the current system, where alcohol is so prevalent and is a more harmful substance, it is bad policy to steer people toward that." Yet reducing the commercial appeal of all vice products-cigarettes, alcohol, marijuana-is an option, if not necessarily a popular one.
Perhaps most important might be reintroducing some reasonable skepticism about cannabis, especially until scientists have a better sense of the health effects of high-potency products, used frequently. Until then, listening to and believing the hundreds of thousands of users who argue marijuana is not always benign might be a good start.
Cheng Wang1 *, John R. Hipp2,3, Carter T. Butts3,4, Cynthia M. Lakon5 1 Department of Sociology, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN, United States of America, 2 Department of Criminology, Law and Society, University of California, Irvine, Irvine, CA, United States of America, 3 Department of Sociology, University of California, Irvine, Irvine, CA, United States of America, 4 Department of Statistics, University of California, Irvine, Irvine, CA, United States of America, 5 Program in Public Health, University of California, Irvine, Irvine, CA, United States of America
Abstract: The concurrent or sequential usage of multiple substances during adolescence is a serious public health problem. Given the importance of understanding interdependence in substance use during adolescence, the purpose of this study is to examine the co-evolution of cigarette smoking, alcohol, and marijuana use within the ever-changing landscape of adolescent friendship networks, which are a primary socialization context for adolescent substance use. Utilizing Stochastic Actor-Based models, we examine how multiple simultaneous social processes co-evolve with adolescent smoking, drinking, and marijuana use within adolescent friendship networks using two school samples from early waves of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health). We also estimate two separate models examining the effects from using one substance to the initiation and cessation of other substances for each sample.
Based on the initial model results, we simulate the model forward in time by turning off one key effect in the estimated model at a time, and observe how the distribution of use of each substance changes. We find evidence of a unilateral causal relationship from marijuana use to subsequent smoking and drinking behaviors, resulting in the initiation of drinking behavior.
Marijuana use is also associated with smoking initiation in a school with a low substance use level, and smoking cessation in a school with a high substance use level. In addition, in a simulation model excluding the effect from marijuana use to smoking and drinking behavior, the number of smokers and drinkers decreases precipitously. Overall, our findings indicate some evidence of sequential drug use, as marijuana use increased subsequent smoking and drinking behavior and indicate that an adolescent’s level of marijuana use affects the initiation and continuation of smoking and drinking
Some employers may be thinking about dropping marijuana from their drug testing panel as a way to address legalization. Learn about what to consider before making any changes to your drug-free workplace program in a short video produced by our friends at Drug Free Business.
After calls for cannabis to be legalised in the UK police chiefs in Los Angeles - the state’s largest legal weed market - say there’s been a rise in illegal cannabis market even though recreational marijuana was legalised back in January….
But there are hundreds of illegal cannabis stores where customers can buy the drug at cheaper prices than at the heavily regulated and taxed legal dispensaries.
California regulators sent out almost 1,000 cease and desist letters to marijuana businesses they suspected were illegal in April alone.
And in May 142 people were charged in a massive crackdown on the illegal shops.
Lt Spell, who oversees the division's cannabis unit, said there had been much more "illicit activity" in the past few months.
And he said one of the biggest falsehoods about legalising marijuana is that it will curb illegal activities.
He told Sun Online: “Here in Los Angeles we see a large number of illegal retail stores.
“But we also come across a lot of illegal grows - places where people are growing the cannabis.
“And oftentimes it's to export out of state into places where it’s still illegal because the marijuana that might cost, let's say $3,000-a-pound here, may cost as much as $4,000- to $6,000-a-pound somewhere else.
“Probably one of the biggest fallacies about the regulation or the legalisation of recreational marijuana is that the illegal activities will go away when in fact, when you look at all of the states - and we've done comparative analysis with other places - all of the places that have allowed recreational marijuana, have seen increases in the illegal activities.
Just as digital transformation has disrupted legacy business models, cannabis legalization will fundamentally challenge workplace policies.
On Oct. 17, recreational marijuana will officially become legal in Canada. According to a recent study conducted by Deloitte, 22 per cent of the Canadian adult population consumes recreational cannabis at least occasionally, and a further 17 per cent show some willingness to try it.
When we look at the single largest generation in the work force – millennials born between 1980 and 2000 – we see even higher receptivity. A national millennial study conducted by Intercept revealed that nearly three-quarters of respondents agree with the legalization of cannabis. And, they’re eager to try a variety of formats, including marijuana-infused baked food (52 per cent), skin lotions (49 per cent), candy (40 per cent) and vapour (38 per cent). Interestingly, while the majority of millennials agree with legalization, they also have concerns. Nearly 40 per cent believe it may lead to poorer performance at work.
Like it or not, cannabis consumption is about to spike. The total number of Canadians who’ve already registered for medical marijuana use exceeded 270,000 in December, 2017, according to Health Canada.
If you’re concerned about the implication of cannabis legalization, you’re in good company. In a report by the Conference Board of Canada, more than half of Canadian employers expressed concern about the implications of legalized marijuana on the workplace.
Cannabis will force company leaders to rethink existing workplace policies and implement new ones to ensure they’re offering a safe, inclusive and productive environment.