Part 2: 10 Problems Compounded by Legalizing Marijuana (and what they mean for medicine)

Part 2 on what problems could potentially blossom from the legalization of weed.

In a previous post, I pointed out 5 of 10 reasons how legalizing marijuana for recreational use could impact the medical community and society in general. The 5 reasons were largely related to observations from how devastating the two legal drugs, tobacco and alcohol, already are to the health of our society, both collectively and individually.

This post will focus on 5 more effects of marijuana.

5) Relating to my last post on how legalizing marijuana could lead to a battle over which diagnosis nurses and doctors hate the worst, liberalizing marijuana use has been shown to increase ER visits

. The thought behind this (not evidently based by a randomized controlled trial, but not without plausibility) is that depending on the dose and individual factors, marijuana can lead to paranoia and panic attacks. And where do people go who are panicky but not really sick? To the emergency room, of course, where they can gain ground in the battle with the alcoholics for the most despised diagnosis in medicine. (And so they can drive up wait times for people with actual medical emergencies. As a side note, I love emergency medicine, I just hate working in an emergency department.) There have been drugs banned by the FDA for less worrisome side effects than this.

4) Like opioids, marijuana can relieve pain. Also like opioids though, marijuana is addictive. Opioid addiction is a growing epidemic

. Pain killers thought to be helpful for relief of suffering are more and more being used as tools of addiction and death. Will legalizing marijuana open the floodgates to a new class of addicts? Doesn’t virtually every single doctor mentally cringe when we have to deal with that addiction-denying emotionally labile “end-stage fibromyalgia” type of patient? Do we really want more of them?

3) Cannabis hyperemesis syndrome is a real problem, where instead of relieving an upset stomach as marijuana is popularly known to do, it actually causes hyperemesis

. If we legalize cannabis, more people will use it to self-medicate their upset stomach. But self-medication has a negative connotation for a reason, since self-medication can lead to problematic effects. Besides, do we really need more hyperemesis patients? I mean, when was the last time you had to hear a patient forcefully vomiting all over the exam room? It isn’t good for morale.

2) Cannabis leads to an altered sense of time and negative effects on memory and cognitive functioning. Legalizing marijuana would reduce the legal problems related to its use, yes, but at the cost of more widespread and different social problems in the form of poor time management, school or work problems, and decreased social functioning

. Again, do we not have enough societal problems on our plate, or do we really want more? This leads to the next point.

1) Marijuana makes you stupid. (There are studies refuting this causal link, calling it only an association, but there are studies statistically powered to strongly imply causation, and more basic science studies proving causation in mammals)

. Einstein was attributed to say that “Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the former.” I want my patients, nay, my fellow human beings to be all-around well: well in physical and emotional health, well in their jobs and wealth, and well in their relationships. In the end, marijuana causes emotional and social problems, cognitive decay in the form of decreased IQ and memory function. In the end, marijuana makes you stupid. Why would anyone want to legalize something that makes humans more stupid, when human stupidity is already infinite?

Bonus reason #0) Cannabis and kids do not mix. Parents are not immune from the stupefying (or should I say “stupidifying”?) effects of marijuana. And what happens to the children of parents who are strung out on weed, in their time-warped, artificially euphoric, diminished cognition state? They leave the marijuana brownies on the kitchen table, so that their kids can get high, lethargic, or even comatose

. They leave their kids second-hand smoke. They leave the impression that weed isn’t all that bad or stupidifying. Or they just leave the kids while they are off feeding their addiction (which I, unfortunately, have witnessed on multiple occasions).

My most motivating reason (and I’m not even a pediatrician) why we should keep marijuana illegal? Because sometimes we need to protect kids at the societal level from their parent’s poor and even harmful choices.

To recap, here are 10 (+1 bonus) problems we will face as physicians and as a society by legalizing recreational cannabis:

10. Alcohol, as a legal drug, causes problems like suicide. Marijuana can, and will do so more if legalized.

9. Like alcohol, marijuana use causes increased motor vehicle crashes. We don't need more intoxicated drivers.

8. Alcohol intoxication is a moral-draining problem the medical community has to deal with. Legalizing marijuana will lead to more marijuana overdoses/toxication and burden our moral.

7. Tobacco, as a legal drug, leads to more preventable morbidity and mortality than fathomable. Smoke inhalation, whether from tobacco products, smoldering factories, or marijuana, brings disease.

6. No one is an island. Legalizing another addiction will harm those around the addicted person.

5. Marijuana causes panic and paranoia. The FDA has banned other drugs for less.

4. Marijuana is a short term pain-reliever, but not a long term sustainable pain treatment. Legalizing it will worsen the pain-killer epidemic.

3. Cannabis hyperemesis syndrome is an uncommon encounter now, but if legalized, will become a much bigger problem.

2. Marijuana use leads to social dysfunction. We already have enough defunct aspects of society, why legalize more ways to promote dysfunction?

1. Marijuana makes you stupid.

0. We need to protect the innocent from the stupid at a system or societal level.

Have any other reasons we should ban marijuana? Or, maybe you are smarter than I am and see how these reasons are flawed? Email me at doc.mclarson@gmail com and let me know your thoughts.