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May 6, 2019 Other Voices

Doctors: Recreational pot a bad prescription

PHOTO | CNN The commercial sale of marijuana could create a tax-revenue windfall for the state of Connecticut.

There is a notion that marijuana is relatively harmless, and it should be legal for recreational use — that it is not really any more dangerous than, say, hula hoops.

This idea is rampant, embraced by many, especially certain politicians. Legalizing and taxing it offers an easy way to expunge years of governmental mismanagement, which has led to financial instability. Connecticut is a prime example of this, but is certainly not alone among the states.

Dr. Michael M. Krinsky

For some it is a way to influence votes. But, before we jointly pursue pot legalization, it is worth spending at least a toke[n] amount of time understanding marijuana basics.

First of all, we don't know enough about marijuana because it has not been researched in enough scientific studies to conclude convincingly regarding its safety for recreational use.

There is plenty of folklore. But, in order to permissively and affirmatively promote a substance that has a potential darker side broadly into a population, prudence requires more than ignorance of its risks. We already have enough trouble with opioids and alcohol.

The main psychoactive chemical in marijuana is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. It is to be distinguished from cannabidiol (CBD), which has been mildly effective in, and Food and Drug Administration approved for, treating two rare genetic-seizure disorders in children. CBD is the substance that doesn't yield a buzz like its sister, THC, and is being incessantly hyped by lifestyle experts for almost incalculable uses in creams and oils for every purpose.

Marijuana is a schedule 1 drug, defined by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration as having “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” Clearly CBD is an exception. THC is another matter.

The potency of today's plant strains are at least 20 to 30 times stronger as the weed familiar to the Woodstock Generation. By the 1990s, the THC content in marijuana averaged 3.8 percent. In 2014, that rose to 12.2 percent. It is this potency that harbors extreme risks for today's user.

Dr. Myron Genel

A THC level of greater than or equal to 5 nanograms is thought to be the level consistent with intoxication, but there is no reliable way to test for that outside a hospital or lab setting. When multiple drugs are onboard, the intoxication level could conceivably be lower due to interactions with other drugs or substances in the body.

Until more research is done to qualify and quantify this substance as well as what research has already shown, it should not be considered for legalized recreational use.

Let's be forthright. Many want this legalization to legitimize their personal habits and to reduce the risk of legal exposure. Many just see an opportunity to enrich themselves by exploiting the vulnerabilities of others.

While our capital markets can survive without a questionable new investment vehicle, there is real risk as to the individual user's health and that of all our children and grandchildren.

Once upon a time we didn't know that we were inviting disease and death by smoking and chewing tobacco, by polluting land, air, and water with chemicals, and that repeated trauma from contact sports can lead to progressive and irreversible brain damage. Now that we do, we are impelled to make choices that benefit ourselves and our society in order to lead healthier lives.

The bottom line is that tax revenues will not reach projected levels, taxation will simply spur the black market, addictive behavior will rise, and human potential will be squandered.

The state medical societies of Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and Delaware, representing more than 40,000 physicians have said “No! No! No! No!” to legalizing recreational marijuana. Patients and politicians should listen to their doctors.

Drs. Michael M. Krinsky and Myron Genel are members of the Connecticut State Medical Society. The following is an excerpt from their April 2019 editorial in Connecticut Medicine. It can be read here.

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