Letter to the Editor: Weed through marijuana messages

To the Editor:
Society is always changing directions in terms of what’s acceptable and what’s not. We hear about the best ways to raise our children, the best plan to make healthcare affordable for everyone, and the best people to be in public office. Another hot topic is marijuana. Is it the best move to make it legal? Is it safe? Is it healthy? Is it medicine? How will it affect our children’s’ future? These tough questions must be asked and answered before society decides what to believe.
Recreational and some forms of medical marijuana that can be smoked or consumed in foods have health and safety risks that include: altered perceptions and mood, difficulty thinking and problem-solving, memory loss, impaired coordination, lung irritation and respiratory issues, increased heart rate, drugged driving, addiction, and in severe cases, hallucinations and paranoia. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), marijuana use has also been linked to mental health problems like depression and anxiety as well as psychosis, and a permanent loss of up to eight IQ points by youth users. Like other drugs, the risk of becoming addicted is cause for concern. The risk of addiction increases from nine to 17 percent for those using marijuana in their teen years compared to in adulthood. The American Lung Association tells us that marijuana smoke contains 33 cancer-causing chemicals and deposits four times as much tar into the lungs as a cigarette. Lastly, marijuana is not the same substance it was thirty plus year ago. NIDA also reports that tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the mind altering component in marijuana that makes people ‘high” has increased from around four percent in the 1980s to close to 15 percent.  Research on consequences of marijuana use is still in the early stages, but with use on the rise, the long-term effects will become more evident.
Some properties of the marijuana plant, including the cannabidiol (CBD), do have medical properties that have been approved by the FDA for purposes such as increasing appetite for patients undergoing cancer treatment or suffering from HIV, and reducing epileptic seizures. These pharmaceuticals are not smoked, and they have very limited amounts of THC. When answering the question “Is marijuana medicine?”, ask yourself if your doctor or pharmacist has ever told you to smoke your medication.
Marijuana is much more accessible today and we, as a community, need to be knowledgeable of its risks. In Iowa, marijuana is still an illegal substance, but as many already know, some states have legalized marijuana which means more and more of our community members have means to obtain it.
Ask your legislators and your doctors about their stance on drug control policy. Be wary of where the information you are receiving comes from. Is it the marijuana retailers looking to make millions or medical professionals? Do your own research using sources like Healthfinder, National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or NIDA to find peer-reviewed journals and research-based information.
The Allamakee Substance Abuse Prevention (ASAP) Coalition tackles tough issues in our community. We aim to answer those difficult questions by increasing communities’ understanding of dangers associated with alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. You can get involved through a number of different avenues. Contact Carol Hopp by phone at 563-387-1720 or e-mail at chopp@helpingservices.org to learn more.
For 40 years, Helping Services for Northeast Iowa has been promoting the health and well-being of children and adults. We work to end domestic violence and child abuse; build healthy families, friendships, and relationships; and reinforce positive decision-making about alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use. Staff provide presentations, research-based programs, trainings, and advocacy to work with community members in creating safe, nurturing, and healthy environments.

Carol Hopp,
Community Prevention Specialist
Helping Services for Northeast Iowa

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