Off the hook – research reveals youth health benefits of legalising cannabis

The survey was conducted anonymously, as it had to be, because the behaviour it was asking about was still illegal almost everywhere back then. The first question was: “Have you ever used cannabis?” And among the follow-ups, interestingly: “Do you think it did you any lasting harm?”

My answer to both was: “Yes.” And my reason for the second: “It got me hooked on tobacco.”

It was normal to crumble small quantities of cannabis resin into joints rolled up with tobacco. The alternative – less common in my student community – was “grass”, which of course also comes with all the problems of drawing warm smoke into your lungs, though without the addictive quality of nicotine.

This ancient history is relevant today because of some very interesting trends that are examined in a research paper recently published in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

The study, led by scientists at the University of Washington in Seattle, analysed surveys of over 12,500 young adults taken annually over six years from 2014 through 2019. And what they found didn’t just drive a horse and cart through the old canard about cannabis being a “gateway” into harder drugs. It added valuable and encouraging weight to the argument in favour of legalisation.

It revealed that when and where cannabis use became legal, young people’s use of alcohol, including binge-drinking, dropped. So did their use of tobacco. And so did their use, and misuse, of pain-relieving medications.

 

Even the bad news is good

 

This last finding chimes with the results of another study, published last month in the journal Health Economics, which found that legal use of recreational cannabis was linked with reduced use of prescription drugs for pain, anxiety, sleep disorders and even seizures.

Set against all this good news for cannabis comes the unsurprising revelation – syndicated by HealthDay News as a “bad news” story – that “A growing number of US teenagers are vaping marijuana”.

We know this is indeed bad news if those cannabis vapes are laced with vitamin E acetate, which was revealed over two years ago as the villain in the US outbreak of so-called e-cigarette, or vaping, product use associated lung injury (EVALI). Surely unlikely now that villain’s been unmasked.

Otherwise? Well, all those youngsters now getting their cannabis hit by vaping aren’t going to end up hooked on smoke or nicotine, as I was, are they? (Personal note: I got off that hook over 30 years ago.)

And, it seems, they won’t be running to the doctor for those sleeping-pills or opioids, either.

Aidan Semmens CBD-Intel staff

Photo: Chuck Grimmett

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