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ADVANCE Perspective: Nurses

Not Your Father’s Marijuana

Published May 9, 2013 5:44 PM by Rich Krisher

After decades of lingering in the shadows of legal society, cannabis is experiencing an eruption in public support. A Pew Research Center poll released in April shows a 52% majority of Americans now favor legalization of marijuana, with 45% opposed. Support for legalization is up 11% since 2010, according to Pew. It's a stunning turn in public opinion from 1991, when only 17% said it should be legal, with 78% opposed.

Medical marijuana is perhaps the largest driver in this shift. Since 1998, 18 states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws permitting possession of marijuana for medical purposes. In a survey commissioned by Fox News released May 1, although a slim majority within the poll's margin of error opposes legalization, backing for medical marijuana is another matter. More than eight in 10 respondents think adults should be allowed to use marijuana for medical purposes if a physician prescribes it.

Views on the subject fall along age and political lines in the Fox poll. Sixty-two percent of those under age 35 advocate legalization, while 63% ages 65 and older are opposed. Sixty-two percent who identify as liberals favor legalization; 62% of conservatives oppose.

Research regarding marijuana's medicinal benefits is ongoing, such as at the University of California's Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research. Meanwhile, across all demographics, about half of the Fox News survey's participants believe most people who smoke medical marijuana just want to smoke marijuana and don't truly need it for medical purposes. An official with the Washington State Liquor Control Board reportedly testified in March he believed more than 90% of medical marijuana purchased in the state was for recreational use.

Is medical marijuana a backdoor legalization scheme? It seems to serve as such for many judging by the more than 26 million websites generated by the search engine query "what to tell doctor to get marijuana."

Not so fast say University of Florida addiction medicine specialists Scott Teitelbaum, MD, and Michael Nias, JD, LCSW, who are not on board with the rush toward relaxed attitudes about marijuana. In their new book, Weed: Family Guide to Marijuana Myths and Facts, they question the perceived safety of marijuana, noting today's strains are up to seven times higher in the concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, which is what makes users feel "high."

"This isn't your father's marijuana," said Teitelbaum, medical director of the UF & Shands Florida Recovery Center and associate professor of psychiatry in the UF College of Medicine. "The higher THC concentration is associated with more psychiatric problems and more dependence."

Noting studies showing approximately 15% of eighth-grade students have already been exposed to marijuana, Teitelbaum said marijuana can be particularly risky for adolescents.

"Introducing drugs with neurotoxic effects during this time, while the brain is still developing, can be very damaging," he said. "It's similar to a pregnant woman drinking alcohol."

We live in times of fast-changing social standards. Despite warnings from people like Teitelbaum and Nias, it sure looks like marijuana is among the next taboos set to fall. It remains to be seen if that's a good thing.

3 comments

"Introducing drugs with neurotoxic effects during this time, while the brain is still developing, can be very damaging,"

But how quick are some to diagnose our children with ADHD and put them on one of the many "drugs" out there to alleviate those terrible symptoms that will enable them to sit down and be quiet in the classroom. As a society we are very 2 faced about all this...yes to alcohol, no to pot. "Say no to drugs" give them ritalin if they can't conform.

Diane, Nursing - Donor Services coord, SJHS June 12, 2013 12:13 PM
Paterson NJ

 If the pharmaceutical companies want do research on Marijuana and produce products in pill form following government narcotic regulations, then I am fine this.  It would be considered a controlled medication substance and treated the same as other narcotics and barbiturates.  The way it is handled right now and sold by these medical marijuana stores is extremely questionable.  Additionally, we don't need any more people smoking another substance.  We have enough patients suffering from respiratory complications from cigarettes and dying from lung cancer, emphysema, heart disease, and other cigarette related medical conditions.   The medical cost from the complications of cigarette use alone is astronomical.  Any doctor that would sign a prescription for patients to smoke marijuana needs to have their head examined.  There are many other medications that are far better than what marijuana is.  If the pharmaceutical companies thought this was such a great product, they would have produced it a long time ago.  

Jean, Case Management - RN CCM May 24, 2013 9:12 AM
McLean VA

"Introducing drugs with neurotoxic effects during this time, while the brain is still developing, can be very damaging," he said. "It's similar to a pregnant woman drinking alcohol."

What is neurotoxic about pot?

It works by imitating the bodies own natural endocannabinoid anandamide. Now that some research is actually being done on pot it has been revealed that pot is actually a neuroprotectant and in part responsible for neurogenisis.. Alcohol tho is actually toxic and does kill cells throughout the body.

James Stamm May 9, 2013 7:29 PM

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