Congress Must Deal With Marijuana’s Health Concerns, Data Shows Smoking Consequences

It would seem, in 2023, there would not be a reason to alert the public that smoking has a number of negative health consequences.  We readily accept the facts when it comes to the logical reasons to have banned indoor cigarette smoking. No one will ever again hunt through a haze of blue-gray in a diner as they look out to see what pies are in the enclosed glass case. But when it comes to marijuana smoking there has been a higher degree of reluctance to admit that there are health pitfalls associated with this drug. Now, in light of more data to show that smoking pot has perils, is time to ask what Congress might do to address this issue.

Though smoking pot is being put forth as simply a ‘right’ that can not be denied, growing medical evidence underscores why our legislative process must fully understand there is far more smoke than substance to the idea that one should be able to smoke a reefer anytime the mood strikes.  There is a massive difference between polling questions of the general populace, real politics, and then the crafting of thoughtful health policy.

I believe being candid at the start of this post is required, as I oppose the legalization of pot, other than for those who can benefit from it for strictly regulated medical purposes. That places me, obviously, in a minority on this topic. People can make all sorts of arguments about how some places have legalized marijuana and how pot smoking is so widespread there is no more shame about it, or reason not to do it in public.  To counter the argument that we should just open the gates further to pot smoking is growing evidence to support why young minds still forming should not have drugs curtailing a full and normal growing period. There is evidence to show that pot smoking makes users less attentive, slows learning, alters decision-making, and decreases memory.  But we also know that heavy marijuana use in a teenage body or even early adulthood has been associated with poor school performance, higher dropout rates, increased welfare dependency, and greater unemployment.

The health consequences of smoking pot are being expressed by a growing number of health professionals. One of those doctors, Andrew Salner, is the medical director of the Hartford Healthcare Cancer Institute.

“Smoking marijuana definitely increases the risk of lung disease,” says Dr. Salner. “We know it can cause emphysema and chronic bronchitis.” That’s because when you burn marijuana it creates many of the same toxins as tobacco smoke. Of course, those chemicals can wreak havoc on delicate lung tissue.   

In fact, a 2022 Canadian study showed that smoking marijuana causes similar, if not more, damage to the lungs as smoking conventional cigarettes.

Politico reported this week on both growing health concerns related to pot smoking and the realization from the pro-Cannabis Caucus that congressional action is needed.

The researchers found that from 2011 to 2019, teenagers in states that legalized recreational cannabis saw a “slight” uptick in asthma rates in kids ages 12 to 17 compared with states in which cannabis remained illegal. The team, from the City University of New York, Columbia University, the University of California San Diego and others, also found an increase in asthma among children in some racial and ethnic groups.

Renee Goodwin, an adjunct associate professor at Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health, said it could be a sign of the downstream effects of legalization. Parents could be smoking more in the home, exposing kids to second-hand smoke, she said.

Even some of those most supportive of legalization, such as the co-chairs of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and Dave Joyce (R-Ohio), are calling for more regulation and better oversight.

“One of the reasons I have fought so hard to be able to legalize, regulate and tax is because I want to keep this out of the hands of young people. It has proven negative consequences for the developing mind,” said Blumenauer, Capitol Hill’s unofficial cannabis czar.

Last year, he and Joyce teamed on legislation, since enacted, to ease federal restrictions on researching cannabis for medical purposes and on growing marijuana for research. That could significantly improve understanding of the drug. They’re now talking about standards on dosing, mandates for childproof containers for edibles, and advertising restrictions aimed at protecting children. They’re also concerned about high potency cannabis and its effects.

The article connected with something I witness repeatedly, from early spring to late fall, as I drive my little convertible around Madison. The prevalence of smoking pot while driving is simply stunning.  At stop lights, the smell of pot drifting from cars alerts me to how many impaired drivers are on the streets.   

Marijuana legalization also coincides with an increase in driving-while-high.The percentage of driving deaths involving cannabis has more than doubled from 2000 to 2018, according to a 2021 study in the American Journal of Public Health.

I recall the accurate and pithy statement former California Governor Jerry Brown made in 2014 about the rush to allow pot smoking in the nation. His words still echo today. “The world’s pretty dangerous, very competitive. I think we need to stay alert, if not 24 hours a day, more than some of the potheads might be able to put together.” I well understand the societal winds that blow and the ease of being carried along with the prevailing gusts. The growing medical evidence encourages us, however, to hold onto common sense and reason. Congress must heed that evidence.

2 thoughts on “Congress Must Deal With Marijuana’s Health Concerns, Data Shows Smoking Consequences

  1. Solly

    and the poor sitting in jail and prison for trafficking small amounts be damned. It’s safer to snort the gummies. Think of the boon to the rural economies, farmers growing a valuable cash crop and then the potato farmers, benefitting from increased sales of munchies.

  2. I hear what you are saying, I do, but what of the health consequences that data is showing to be evident and do we want to promote gummies and ways to entice young kids to engage more with this drug? I know this is a drug deeply entwined in our culture but should we wait until the health concerns are so glaring to act, or work to curtail and mitigate problems now when more easily controlled.?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s