Legalization of recreational cannabis has seen usage rise by 20 percent, according to new research on America’s rapid and risky experiment with a drug that can be damaging — and even deadly — for young people.
University of Minnesota researchers say the frequency of pot use in California, Colorado, Oregon and other states that legalized adult recreational use jumped by a fifth, prompting ‘complex questions’ for policymakers.
The research counters other studies that recorded no increased use, and pro-cannabis campaigners who argued legalization would not boost consumption as black market pot was always widely available.
It also adds to fears that America’s rapid experiment with cannabis legalization has spawned a $30 billion-and-growing pot industry producing ever-more potent and addictive products regardless of public health.
The Minnesota team studied some 3,500 participants across the U.S., focusing on 111 sets of identical twins — one living in a state that had legalized recreational cannabis use and the other where pot remained illegal.
The twins in cannabis-friendly states recorded a 20 percent rise in frequency of use. Researchers called pot an ‘addictive substance associated with negative health and psychosocial outcomes’.
Lead researcher Stephanie Zellers called for more investigation into the ‘complex questions around the public health impacts of legalization’ and how greater cannabis use ‘translates to changes in health or behavioral consequences’.
Experts say legalizing pot has led to it gaining acceptance in recent years, leading more people to try it. Stress from the COVID-19 pandemic has also driven up the number of users.
Colorado teenager Brant Clark killed himself after a bout of cannabis psychosis from smoking a bong with friends. His mom, Ann, wants to slam the brakes on America’s rapid legalization of pot
The study comes on the heels of the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s (NIDA) annual survey, which this week found the number of under-30s using marijuana hit record levels last year.
Dr Nora Volkow, who has led the agency for almost two decades, said cannabis use among young adults was a ‘concern’ and called for ‘urgent’ research into the ‘potential health risks’ for youngsters.
It is now only fully illegal in just four states — Idaho, Kansas, South Carolina and Wyoming — with 19 approving it for adult recreational use and nearly every state already green-lighting medicinal use, typically to treat chronic pain.
Dr Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, told DailyMail.com that young people using cannabis was a ‘concern’
In November six more states — Arkansas, Maryland, Nebraska, North and South Dakota and Oklahoma — are set to decide whether to also liberalize the use of pot and its psychoactive component THC.
Kevin Sabet, a former White House drug advisor and author of Smokescreen, a book about the burgeoning cannabis industry, said new studies were exposing the falsehoods of pro-cannabis arguments from decades past.
‘Legalization proponents promised everything from lower drug use to a reduced illicit market and tax revenue that would outweigh costs,’ said Sabet, also president of the campaign group Smart Approaches to Marijuana.
‘None of that has been fulfilled, and instead we see today’s supercharged THC being marketed, commercialized, and promoted by a for-profit industry that will stop at nothing to make money at the expense of public health.’
The cannabis industry was, he said, following the tobacco firms that misled the public with bogus health claims in the 1950s, saying it would ‘make the product more addictive, downplay risks, rake in money, and deny wrongdoing’.
The $30billion cannabis industry argues that taking the drug — either smoking it, vaping it or as an edible — can help relieve feelings of anxiety or depression, chronic pain, and even help fight addictions.
The U.S. Cannabis Council, a major lobbying group, said legalization was widely supported, that pot was safe and could help addicts beat opioid and alcohol dependency.
‘Cannabis is incredibly popular with Americans, and we expect that to grow as the nation turns away from the failed drug policies of the past,’ a spokesman told DailyMail.com.
‘Unlike in the illicit market, regulated cannabis programs are able to ensure quality, safeguard the health and safety of customers and prevent underage access.’
But in states where pot has been legalized many parents say their children have been sucked into an addiction spiral.
Experts describe a ‘potential explosion’ of underage cannabis use and raised the alarm over the weak oversight of the pot industry.
They also raised concerns over a free-for-all market in which super-strength cannabis products are sold in cartoon-covered packaging.
Colorado resident Ann Clark was already worried when her state became one of the first in the U.S. to legalize recreational cannabis in 2014 — she had already lost her son Brant in a pot-smoking tragedy.
Brant Clark was a ‘happy, bright healthy and normal’ until he smoked a bong with friends in a tepee
Colorado teenager Brant Clark killed himself after a bout of cannabis psychosis from smoking a bong with friends. His mom, Ann, who wrote about the tragedy in her book, Gone to Suicide.
The 17-year-old was ‘happy, bright healthy and normal’ until he tried smoking a bong with friends in a tepee for hours in 2007, only to suffer a ‘sudden psychosis’ that put him in hospital for days and led to his suicide weeks later, said Clark.
‘I will never stop missing my only child,’ she told DailyMail.com.
‘Suicide is a soul-crushing death, but especially when it is triggered by a marijuana-induced-psychosis. Most people are still completely unaware that marijuana can trigger psychosis, and it is very painful to constantly have to explain it.’
Nowadays, she laments how cannabis dispensaries have opened up across Colorado, selling ‘highly processed concentrates’ of 95 percent THC that are worlds apart from the budding plants associated with 1960s hippy culture.
‘A multitude of young people are living high on weed, and believing that it is safe and harmless,’ said the bereaved mom, who wrote about Brant’s tragedy in her book, Gone to Suicide.
‘My state has become one of the least desirable places to raise a child, and I feel sure that other locations legalizing marijuana are experiencing similar problems.’
Researchers say cannabis-infused gummies in brightly colored cartoon packaging could appeal to youngsters and should face the same kinds of regulation as tobacco and alcohol. Pictured: child-friendly cannabis gummy packaging
Teenagers are lured by colorfully-packaged candy-like products that leave them vulnerable to higher rates of dependency, psychosis and school dropouts, researchers warn. Pictured: child-friendly cannabis gummy packaging
Teens are more prone to addiction and dependency than adults, and greater availability and use means more cases of anxiety, depression, psychosis and even suicide. Pictured: child-friendly cannabis gummy packaging
America’s $30 billion legalized cannabis industry is causing an ‘explosion’ of teen users
Teenagers in states that have legalized cannabis use more of it and are lured by colorfully-packaged candy-like products that leave them vulnerable to higher rates of dependency, psychosis and school dropouts, researchers warn.
A DailyMail.com analysis of research focusing on California, Massachusetts, Nevada, and other states that have legalized recreational pot shows experts warning of a ‘potential explosion’ of under-aged use — and more youngsters using it than in states where it’s illegal.
They are alarmed by the weak oversight of a $30billion business and warn of a free-for-all market in which super-strength cannabis products are sold in cartoon-covered packaging that attracts youngsters, even as tobacco and alcohol firms are barred from targeting youths.
Data from the 19 states that have permitted recreational pot this past decade, as well as the 38 states that allow medical use, indicates that teens and young adults there are using stronger products more often.
Not every teen who eats a pot gummy sees their life unravel. But they are more prone to addiction and dependency than adults, and greater availability and use means more cases of anxiety, depression, psychosis and even suicide.
In November, voters in Arkansas, Maryland, Missouri, Nebraska, North and South Dakota, and Oklahoma will decide on whether to liberalize their own cannabis laws — and let windfall pot industry taxes flow into state coffers.
‘Cannabis use is more common among youth and adults in states where cannabis use is legal for recreational use,’ Renee Goodwin, who leads Columbia University’s research, told DailyMail.com.
‘Legalization has moved from a social justice issue, to the other extreme of big business commercialization without any of the same restrictions that tobacco and alcohol now need to follow.’