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Last updated: 6 months ago

Steps Towards Marijuana Legalization are Steps in the Wrong Direction

The Biden Administration just moved one step closer to relaxing federal restrictions on marijuana.

Less than a year after President Biden ordered the nation’s top health agency to conduct a review, the Department of Health and Human Services is formally recommending the Drug Enforcement Administration ease government restrictions on marijuana, reclassifying it from a Schedule I to Schedule III drug under the Controlled Substance Act.

In practical terms, the reclassification would mean marijuana moves from being considered a dangerous substance to a low-risk category.

While this step is being applauded by marijuana advocates and lobbyists, they view it as moving one step closer to their ultimate goal of removing marijuana from the list of controlled substances altogether.

They argue that more should be done to align federal law with states where marijuana is legal. Presently, marijuana is legalized for recreational use in 23 states and Washington D.C.

Steps Towards Marijuana Legalization are Steps in the Wrong Direction

As a doctor in the mental health and addiction recovery field, I’m alarmed at these developments. Legalizing marijuana means normalizing it, and this is now the first generation of young people being raised in this marijuana-normalized atmosphere. What will the ramifications be? Initial studies are yielding troubling results.

These initial studies are revealing marijuana use can cause and/or contribute to depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, psychosis, and even suicide.

The ties to suicide rates are especially alarming as marijuana is the number one substance found in the toxicology screens of youth and young adults who’ve taken their own lives.

Research also shows an increased risk of dependence, addiction, withdrawal symptoms when ceasing use, increased paranoia, and impaired cognitive function, including learning, memory, and attention.

While these studies are very concerning, it’s one thing to look at numbers on a screen and quite another to have them walk through your door.

At Sanctuary Clinics, we’re treating the patients—the real people—represented in these studies.

A mental health and addiction treatment center and the nation’s leading Cannabis Cessation Program, we are seeing an alarming rise in cannabis use disorder and cannabis-induced psychosis patients firsthand.

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The increase in cannabis use disorder and cannabis-induced psychosis numbers being reported in these studies are walking through our doors!

As a medical and mental health professional, let me summarize these findings for you: Weed can be addictive; Weed can be abused; and Weed can cause psychiatric problems.

Why are the government and our politicians turning a blind eye to the results of these studies and a deaf ear to the alarm being sounded by those of us in the mental health and addiction treatment field? Follow the money.

Combined U.S. medical and recreational cannabis sales are projected to reach $33.6 billion by the end of 2023. Retail cannabis sales are projected to be upwards of $53.5 billion by 2027. Make no mistake: a lot of money is being put into lobbying efforts—and political campaigns—fueling legalization and normalization efforts. Advocates argue that recreational marijuana use will have economic benefits for states. They’re all failing to consider the very real negative consequences, such as increased use among minors and the many adverse mental health effects these recent studies are reporting.

In defending his marijuana reform and re-classification push, President Biden stated, “Too many lives have been upended because of our failed approach to marijuana. It’s time that we right these wrongs.”

Reclassifying marijuana, mainstreaming, and normalizing it, is not righting any wrongs, it’s multiplying them. Just ask the growing numbers of people, individuals and families, whose lives have been upended because of marijuana use.

In the Cannabis Cessation Program at Sanctuary Clinics, we treat patients struggling with cannabis use disorder and cannabis-induced psychosis. The road to healing and recovery varies patient to patient, depending on the amount and frequency of their cannabis use and addressing other co-occurring conditions so often associated with substance use; depression, anxiety, PTSD, and other mental and emotional health issues. We are encountering more and more patients who report having turned to marijuana use in hopes of easing their mental and emotional struggles, only to discover marijuana use complicated and worsened those conditions.

Steps Towards Marijuana Legalization are Steps in the Wrong Direction

Make no mistake: We are on the verge of a drug contagion that is going to dwarf the opioid epidemic.

As cannabis is being medicalized, decriminalized, and legalized in state after state; as the Biden Administration continues to push the easing of marijuana restriction on the Federal level; as cannabis use is increasing at staggering rates across age demographics and particularly among youth and young adults, the message people are getting is that weed is safe.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Dr. Sesi Akoto is the Medical Coordinator and Medical Interventionist at Sanctuary Clinics.

Get Help Today.

We are here to help you through every aspect of recovery.
Let us call you to learn more about our treatment options.

We are here to help you through every aspect of recovery. Let us call you to learn more about our treatment options.

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