Legalized Marijuana Good for the Public? No.
to legalize recreational use of marijuana in New York is fraught with many
physician community, through the Medical Society of the State of New York
(MSSNY), supports efforts to remove the threat of criminal sanction for
marijuana use. We are also very concerned about the selective enforcement
of marijuana laws, not only in New York, but across the country.
Most physicians understand that marijuana does have medicinal
benefit for certain serious conditions that have already been qualified under
New York State law — such as cancer, AIDS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
(ALS), Parkinson's disease, or multiple sclerosis. However, at the same time,
physicians are very concerned that marijuana is an addictive drug that can have
significant adverse public health impacts if it
were to be legalized for non-medicinal purposes. We urge Governor
Cuomo and the Legislature to approach this issue with serious forethought, and
to heed the recommendations from leading medical organizations, and, with equal
attention to scrutinize data from other states that have legalized recreational
its 2017 national meeting, the American Medical Association (AMA) approved a
policy position based upon recommendations from its Council on Science and
Public Health that concluded that cannabis is a dangerous drug and a serious
public health concern, and that the sale of cannabis for recreational use
should not be legalized.
position was based upon the analysis of multiple studies that found that, even
as it had some therapeutic benefits, there was substantial evidence of a
statistical linkage between cannabis smoking and health issues.The paper looked
at data from jurisdictions that legalized cannabis that demonstrated adverse
impacts such as unintentional pediatric exposures resulting in increased calls
to poison control centers and ED visits, as well as increases in traffic deaths
due to cannabis-related impaired driving.
For example, in Colorado, it was noted that there was a 70%
increase in hospitalizations connected with marijuana use between
2013 and 2015 (legalized marijuana use commenced there in 2014).
Moreover, fatalities where the driver tested positive for cannabinoids
increased by 80% between 2013 and 2015.
AMA Says Use Should Be Discouraged
addition to opposing legalization, the AMA recommended that cannabis use be
discouraged, especially by persons vulnerable to the drug's effects and in
high-risk populations such as youth, pregnant women, and women who are
breastfeeding. They also recommended that states have already legalized
cannabis should be required to regulate the product effectively in order to
protect public health and safety and that laws that legalize cannabis use
should consistently be evaluated to determine their effectiveness.
is noteworthy that another leading medical organization, the American Society
of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), supports the “decriminalization” of marijuana, by
reducing penalties for marijuana possession to civil offenses, yet they do not
support the legalization of marijuana. ASAM recommends that states that
have not acted to legalize marijuana should not proceed until more definitive
data from the states that have legalized marijuana can be studied.
Addiction Specialists Say No, Too
ASAM recommends numerous limitations for those jurisdictions that do authorize
its use. These include: prohibiting sale of cannabis to those under 25;
prohibiting marketing and advertising to youth; assuring that non-FDA approved
products contain appropriate warning labels, and, finally, to limit the
purchase of cannabis to state operated outlets.
York State must not make policy based upon bumper sticker slogans.
Instead, it must proceed very carefully to prevent public health harm that
could arise from legalized marijuana use.