According to the latest findings, it is evident that the effects of the commercial marijuana industry are more detrimental than previously presumed, particularly on the youth of America. Smart Approaches to Marijuana has published a recent report, revealing that the situation in states where marijuana is legally available is vastly different from what the industry and legalization advocates commonly promote.
Similar to Big Tobacco, the marijuana industry has adopted a strategy that involves investing billions of dollars to influence elected officials and support referendums aimed at legalizing marijuana. Their plan is to target the heaviest users in order to maximize profits. Over the past couple of decades, they have significantly increased the potency of marijuana, hoping to attract young and impressionable individuals. This approach has been successful, as the statistics demonstrate.
The demographic that is most susceptible to marijuana's long-term health repercussions has experienced an unprecedented surge in usage rates. The National Institute on Drug Abuse has cautioned that individuals aged 19 to 30 have reported the highest levels ever recorded for past-year, past-month, and daily marijuana consumption (defined as use on 20 or more occasions in the last 30 days). Moreover, the proportion of 8th, 10th, and 12th graders who use marijuana on a daily basis has increased threefold from 1991 to 2020.
The frequent consumption of marijuana is often a symptom of a marijuana use disorder, which is essentially an addiction to the substance. Despite common beliefs that marijuana is not addictive, the statistics show that in 2021, over 1.3 million adolescents between 12 and 17 years old experienced a marijuana use disorder, comprising more than 46% of users within that age group. Furthermore, legalization of marijuana has resulted in a 25% upsurge in marijuana use disorders amongst this demographic.
As rates of consumption, potency, and addiction have risen, so have the negative impacts of marijuana. Despite the efforts of legalization advocates to diminish the risks associated with marijuana use, the drug was responsible for over 70,000 emergency department visits in 2021, involving individuals under the age of 18.
The marijuana industry had claimed that they would not market their products to children, but this has proven to be untrue. Edibles infused with high-potency THC, such as "Pot Tarts" and "Stoney Patch Kids," are often packaged to resemble conventional snacks. As a result, there has been a staggering 1,375% surge in at-home exposures to marijuana edibles among children under six years old between 2017 and 2021.
An increasing number of minors are getting behind the wheel while under the influence of marijuana. In 2021, 10.67 million individuals acknowledged driving after consuming marijuana, with 1.36 million being between the ages of 16 and 20. Shockingly, there were 2.41 times more minors driving under the influence of marijuana compared to those driving under the influence of alcohol.
Marijuana vapes, which are designed to contain a highly concentrated form of THC, have also gained popularity among minors. Between 2017 and 2020, the percentage of 12th graders who vaped marijuana rose from 9.5% to 22.1%, while among 10th graders, it increased from 8.1% to 19.1%. Among 8th graders, the usage increased from 3.0% to 8.1%. A 2022 study revealed that cannabis vaping has become the preferred method of consuming marijuana among adolescents in the United States, and frequent usage is rising at a faster pace than occasional usage.
The strategy employed by the marijuana industry involves creating a more concentrated and easily consumable product while promoting the perception that it is harmless. In 1991, 78.6% of 12th graders believed that using marijuana regularly posed a significant health risk. However, in 2021, only 21.6% shared this belief. Individuals who consider marijuana usage to be high risk are six times less likely to use it compared to those who believe it to be low risk.
As of 2021, approximately 70% of 12th graders appear to endorse the use of marijuana.
As parents, we all want the best possible future for our children. However, the expansion of the marijuana industry has increased children's accessibility to a substance that medical research has linked to numerous negative effects, including psychosis, depression, suicidality, and decreased IQ during a critical stage of brain development. Regular users of marijuana are almost five times more likely to develop a psychotic disorder, and high-potency marijuana users are four times more likely to develop an addiction compared to those who use low-potency products.
The number of young people grappling with marijuana addiction is on the rise, and it is causing an increase in hospitalizations. More and more youths are opting for the more potent forms of the drug. It is high time that our country reversed course and implemented drug policies aimed at safeguarding our children, rather than allowing them to become collateral damage for yet another Big Tobacco-like industry.
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