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Marijuana: The Truth, Research and Trends

Marijuana: The Truth, Research and Trends

Marijuana legalization has received a lot of publicity across the United States in both national and local media. Eighteen states and the District of Columbia have by-passed the FDA process and federal law, and have legalized marijuana under the guise of medicine. Legislative efforts are underway to make Florida the next “medical” marijuana state. Historically, once a state establishes a medical marijuana program, marijuana activists then lobby for legislation, or qualify ballot initiatives to expand the program. Efforts to expand current medical marijuana are evidenced by 49 bills introduced during the 2011 state legislation sessions and 29 introduced in 2012. These bills sought to include additional qualifying medical conditions, expand the amount one can possess or cultivate at home, establish a regulated system to cultivate and supply marijuana, and establish marijuana dispensaries, among other things.

Marijuana is probably the most controversial abused drug in the USA. Marijuana sales are estimated at $15 billion per year in the USA. Some facts about use in the USA:

Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug.

7.1 million Americans are addicted to illicit drugs with marijuana being the choice for 63% of them (4.5


94 million Americans (40%) age 12 and older have tried marijuana.

One in six adolescents who try marijuana will become addicted.

About 10% of people who try marijuana will become daily users.

23% of substance abuse admissions are for marijuana.

4% of our population meets criteria for marijuana dependence.

Marijuana is used by 75% of all illicit drug users.

50% of all illicit drug users use only marijuana.

Up to 79% of marijuana users have concurrent alcohol use.

The potency of marijuana has increased 151% from 1983 to 2007.

The perception of harm or risk of marijuana has decreased significantly since the 1990s.

The 2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health shows a significant rise in youth marijuana use. Many drug policy experts, including those at the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) believe this rise is a direct result of marijuana legalization efforts. Research has shown us that when perception of risk declines, usage rates increase.

States that have legalized marijuana under the guise of medicine continually rank toward the top of the chart for youth marijuana use rates. A major study published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence by researchers at Columbia University found that states that legalized marijuana use for medical purposes have significantly higher rates, almost twice as high, of marijuana use and of marijuana abuse and dependence than states without such laws.

In 2012, 23.2% of 12th graders in Florida reported past 30-day marijuana use, up from 19.7% in 2008. Marijuana is listed as the primary substance of abuse for 26.7% of treatment admissions in Florida and of those, 54.5% were between the ages of 12-17.

Some facts about use in Lake County: from 2012 Florida Youth Substance Abuse Survey:

Past 30-day marijuana use increased from 16.4% (2008) for high school students to 22.1% (2012).

The percentage of students who report that their “parents feel that it would be wrong or very wrong to    smoke marijuana” has decreased from 95.3% in 2008 to 92.1% in 2012.

The percentage of students who “perceive great risk of harm for smoking marijuana regularly” decreased from 64.6% (2004) to 52.2% (2012).

The percentage of students who think it would be “wrong for someone their age to smoke marijuana”

decreased from 80.1% (2008) to 75.2% (2012).

15.4% of students (2012) stated that there is a “good chance of being seen as cool if they smoke marijuana” which is an increase from 8.5% (2006).

Medical marijuana has been touted to be the “cure” or “reliever” of many medical conditions: Alzheimer’s,

fibromyalgia, dystonia, Hepatitis C, diabetes, pruritus, osteoporosis, ALS, Tourette’s Syndrome, hypertension, sleep apnea, GI disorders, incontinence, rheumatoid arthritis, pain, depressions, glaucoma, tremors, seizures, epilepsy, cancer, COPD, HIV/AIDS, Crohn’s disease, migraines, MS, nausea, malaria, gout, insomnia, inflammation, muscle spasms, CP, spinal cord injuries, ADHD, Parkinson’s disease, and PTSD.

But in reality, research of registered users in “medical” marijuana states show that:

Less than 5% are elderly;

Only 10% have cancer, HIV/AIDS, or glaucoma;

90% are registered for illnesses including headaches and minor arthritis;

More than 80% are young adults; and

Most card holders in California and Colorado are white men between the ages of 17 and 35 with no history of chronic illness and a history of drug and alcohol abuse. Marijuana is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and its use is therefore unregulated. This has significant implications for patient care. The scientific literature is clear that marijuana is addictive and significantly impairs bodily and mental functions. However, research has approved a synthetic version of THC, the active ingredient found in the marijuana plant. Marinol, on the market for over a decade, can be prescribed for the control of nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapeutic agents used in the treatment of cancer and to stimulate appetite in AIDS patients. Marinol is a Schedule III substance under the Controlled Substances Act. Another drug waiting for final FDA approval (in 2013) as a Schedule III drug is Sativex. Sativex is a cannabinoid medicine for the treatment of spasticity due to multiple sclerosis which is also in development in cancer pain and neuropathic pain of various origins. Sativex is already approved in New Zealand, Canada, and eight European countries. It contains marijuana’s two best known components – THC and cannabidiol. Schedule III drugs are classified as having less potential for abuse than the drugs or substances in Schedules I and II, and have a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the U.S.

Past evaluations by several Department of Health and Human Services agencies found no sound scientific studies supported the medical use of crude marijuana. On April 20, 2006, the FDA advised that no sound scientific studies have supported the medical use of smoked marijuana, and no human or animal data support its safety or efficacy for general medical use. This was re-affirmed by the Supreme Court in 2013. Without following the FDA’s guidelines for drug approval, we cannot determine the benefits and risks of the drug, establish the quantity of dose, frequency and duration of administration, determine how it may interact with other drugs, and identify and monitor side effects.

Smoking has never been a safe, acceptable method of administering medicine. Simply put, crude marijuana does not meet the standards of modern medicine. Putting the word medical in front of marijuana does not make it a harmless substance. Marijuana smoked for so-called medical purposes has the same long term effects on the user as marijuana used for recreation. Marijuana use by sick individuals could be dangerous until the standardization of the drug can be assured. Marijuana impairs cellular immunity, pulmonary immunity, and compromises the ability to fight infection - all highly dangerous for anyone with a serious medical condition. Marijuana use is associated with memory loss, cancer, immune system deficiencies, heart disease, and birth defects; among other conditions (The Heritage Foundation Someone who smokes marijuana regularly can have many of the same respiratory problems as cigarette smokers. Persistent coughing, bronchitis and more frequent chest colds are possible symptoms. Second-hand smoke exposure to others is also a hazard of marijuana. Research has linked marijuana use to birth defects, respiratory system damage, cancer, mental illness, violence, infertility and immune system damage. Additionally, marijuana smoke contains 50% to 70% more cancer-causing agents than smoked tobacco (ONDCP, October 2010).

Academic research has shown that chronic marijuana use leads to impaired learning, short term memory and information processing deficits, delayed emotional development, and an average 8-point drop in IQ. Marijuana use has been shown to permanently impair brain development in youth. Learning skills such as problem solving, concentration, motivation and memory are negatively affected. Consequences include attention problems, disorganization, procrastination and lack of motivation.

Signs that a youth may be using marijuana are apathy, disrespect, and disinterest in activities, lower grades, frequent mood changes, depression and isolation from family (ONDCP). Teens that use marijuana experience increased risk of schizophrenia and greater levels of depression including being three times more likely to have suicidal thoughts (ONDCP). Teens that use marijuana are more likely to engage in delinquent and dangerous behavior (DEA, July 2010).

Marijuana growth is rampant throughout Florida, but according to this year’s domestic marijuana eradication report the Drug Enforcement Administration is cracking down on local cannabis. In Florida, 772 growth sites were recorded according to the report, which equated to 723 growth-related arrests and the eradication of 37,388 plants. North Central Florida is a hotbed for marijuana growth. In southern Florida, indoor growth is more prevalent because the area is more urban. Growers in counties like Dade and Broward try to move their product inside to avoid detection. The north region of Florida is more rural. There’s more opportunity and more area to grow outside than there are indoor growths. Florida leads the nation with the number of indoor growths reported to the DEA. Last year, 32,306 plants were eradicated from indoor growths alone. The remaining 5,802 plants were found on outside sites (Florida’s Domestic Marijuana Eradication Program). Most medical associations have rejected smoked marijuana as medicine: American Medical Association, National Cancer Institute, American Cancer Society, National Multiple Sclerosis Society, American Glaucoma Society, National Comprehensive Cancer Network, The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, The American Academy of Ophthalmology, The American Academy of Pediatrics, The American Society of Addiction Medicine and Narcotics Enforcement Officers Association (CADCA).


American Society of Addiction Medicine, “White Paper on

State-Level Proposals to Legalize Marijuana,” 2012.

CADCA, “National Health Organizations That Oppose

‘Medical’ Marijuana.”

CADCA, “Toolkit for States Facing ‘Medical’ Marijuana and

Marijuana Legalization Initiatives.”

DEA, “Drug Fact Sheet: Marijuana”

DEA, “Speaking Out Against Drug Legalization.”

Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services,

“Florida’s Domestic Marijuana Eradication Program,”

February 2013. See: http://www.flaglaw.


Florida Youth Substance Abuse Survey, 2012.

Institute for Behavior and Health. See: www.ibhinc.org.

ONDCP, “Marijuana: Know the Facts,” October 2010.

ONDCP’s National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign.

Parents the Anti-Drug. Marijuana Facts

ONDCP, “New Report Finds Higher Levels of THC in U.S.

Marijuana to Date,” May 2009.

Save Our Society from Drugs. See: www.saveoursociety.org.

The Heritage Foundation. http://reportheritage.org/lm0056.

Turner, Carlton E., “The Con Job of Medical Marijuana.”