Eleven years ago, Colorado and Washington became the first U.S. states to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. Passed by ballot initiatives put to voters, the legalization of recreational marijuana was due in large part to promise of financial windfalls for schools. But, a shift in public opinion regarding the drug’s health risks was required. So, advocates proposed that, when compared to other legal substances like alcohol and cigarettes, marijuana use was less destructive, less addictive, and less fatal.
Today, after more than a decade of legal recreational marijuana, we now have significantly more data. Far from being safe, recreational pot is clearly a net loss for public health. More and more studies, in fact, are showing that marijuana poses a number of serious health risks, in particular to pregnant moms, to men, and to people in the workforce.
Expectant mothers are especially at risk from marijuana use. According to a Canadian study published last month, the number of hospital visits for pregnant women in Ontario has nearly doubled since Canada legalized recreational marijuana use in 2018. Of those visits that were marijuana related, the majority were emergency room visits. Although, as lead researcher Dr. Daniel Myran observed, marijuana-related incidents made up only a fraction of total visits, almost all of them were serious. Other research has found that babies born to marijuana-using mothers are more likely to be premature and underweight, and more likely to be admitted to neonatal care units. While more research is needed to determine the exact role marijuana plays in harming children in-utero, the correlations are enough to recommend against pregnant moms using marijuana altogether.
Marijuana use is also closely linked with spiking rates of mental illness among young men. A new National Institutes of Health study, which looked at more than 6 million subjects across five decades, discovered that up to 30% of schizophrenia cases among men aged 21-30 are related to heavy marijuana use. Men who used cannabis were three times more likely to develop schizophrenia than their female counterparts. As U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse deputy director Dr. Wilson Compton said, “The clear message is that cannabis may not be the innocent and risk-free substance that so many people believe.”
Marijuana use also poses serious threats for those in the workplace. According to yet another new report, marijuana positivity rates have been steadily climbing across a variety of industries in the past decade, especially in service, retail, and finance or insurance jobs. These increased positivity rates correlate with an increased number of workplace accidents that, afterwards, revealed cannabis use. Despite a decline in these types of accidents between 2002 and 2008, the number of such accidents has increased by over 200% in the past decade. As of 2022, cannabis-related accidents are now at an all-time high in the U.S.
For the past two decades, we have been told, as more and more states legalized recreational marijuana use, that cannabis is a harmless substance. However, given the growing body of evidence showing otherwise, the legalization and promotion of pot use should not be allowed to hide, obscure, or deny what we now know. Currently a $32 billion industry, the legalization and promotion of recreational pot is only about profit. Like all industries that prey upon vices, such as gambling or pornography, pot is less about actually helping people and more about keeping them hooked and paying.
Though at this point it seems almost impossible to put this destructive genie back in the bottle, any state, company, or person truly interested in helping others will work to reign in the reckless peddling of recreational marijuana use.
This Breakpoint was co-authored by Jared Eckert. For more resources to live like a Christian in this cultural moment, go to breakpoint.org.
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