Stephen F. Gambescia: Marijuana normalization misses the science

Stephen F. Gambescia: Marijuana normalization misses the science


More and more state legislators are on the verge of legalizing “recreational” marijuana beyond its medical use. Surprisingly, few healthcare and public health groups or leaders are pushing back on what will likely be our next public health crisis.

While opinion polls show that the public is open to the use of cannabis for medical and even recreational purposes, it is still considered by federal authorities to be a Schedule I substance, given its high abuse potential and lack of medicinal value. We don’t hear about national or local surveys to find out what the public knows about the risks and benefits of chronic marijuana use.

I examined the official language used in statutes, constitutional amendments, and campaign initiatives from 33 states to see how these state legislatures explained the nature and extent of quality patient care as justification for legalizing medical marijuana. Quality markers for patient care ask whether the treatment is (a) safe, (b) effective, evidence-based, (d) common practice, and (e) patient-centred. I have found that their language gives no guarantees of quality patient care, except for the last marker: patient-centered.

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We should know that medical marijuana laws were passed out of compassion for people suffering from diseases and conditions such as cancer, PTSD, Alzheimer’s disease and AIDS. In fact, several of these laws are titled the “Compassionate Care Act”. It’s understandably unpopular to be against something that will help alleviate or soothe conditions or illnesses that afflict people, but that doesn’t change the fact that no medical body has endorsed its widespread use, and agencies Federal drug control authorities have not lifted their concerns about the dangers of this substance.

The accelerated movement to “normalize” cannabis use is based on a socio-cultural movement, not biomedical evidence, in which the risks outweigh the benefits. While the “struggle to normalize marijuana use” has been with us for decades and has intensified, public information about its use – good, bad or indifferent – ​​is scarce.

For example, a nearly eight-year-and-five-month review of the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Health section found that of the 444 issues reviewed, only 19 issues contained an article on the health risks or benefits of cannabis use. Of all the articles published, only 0.5% out of 1% dealt with cannabis use to readers in this fourth largest media market in the United States.

Moreover, expecting this fledgling industry to act responsibly to “police” the substance, particularly in terms of encouraging minors to use it, is naïve. We have decades of experience with the appearance of forbidden fruits in young people (tobacco, alcohol, vaping), and we know that the public health and school systems are not up to the marketing tactics of these industries of disease.

The promises of “good health” have already begun by simply looking at the names of cannabis retail outlets that smack of innuendo, like Curaleaf, Restore, Remedies and Beyond Hello. Slogans accompany marketing efforts to sell these products, with messages as sweet as don’t worry to be happy, to actual remedies that cure (what ails you). Get ready for full-page print ads in newspapers, billboards, radio ads, teasers at transit stops and even trade shows telling us: When used as intended, ingesting cannabis is society’s new elixir.

In the future, public health and health care advocates will condemn the corporations, given that Big Marijuana has poisoned our people. They will complain that they are exhausted from treating those who are “drowning” downstream from the harmful effects of marijuana use. We can avoid the next public health crisis in this country before legislatures, investors, traders and cottage industry retail outlets push people into the marijuana swamp.

If “following the science” is the new mantra for sensible and responsible health care and public health policy, it should be curious why leaders of health-related organizations haven’t challenged those who don’t. that follow the money if lawmakers normalize the use of marijuana in our country. country. The normalization of the marijuana movement is on track to follow the science.

Marijuana ballot measures pass in 2 states, fail in 3: Voters in five states were polled at the midterm polls Tuesday on the legalization of recreational marijuana, with mixed results.

Stephen F. Gambescia is Professor of Health Services Administration at Drexel University. He wrote this for

It is naive to expect this fledgling industry to act responsibly to “police” the substance, especially with respect to use by minors. We have decades of experience with tobacco, alcohol, vaping, and we know that the public health and school systems are no match for the marketing tactics of these disease industries.


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