Dan Hart – The Washington Stand
Even as public support for marijuana legalization reaches record levels and more states vote to enshrine recreational use, studies continue to come out showing that regular use of cannabis substantially increases the risk of serious health complications.
On Monday, two new studies were presented at the American Heart Association (AHA) Scientific Sessions in Philadelphia that both starkly illustrate the damage marijuana use can inflict on the body. The first study looked at those who only used cannabis and not tobacco products in order to specifically home in on the effects of marijuana. It found that those who abused the drug had a 20% higher risk of experiencing a heart attack or a stroke while hospitalized.
A second study followed almost 160,000 adults for four years, finding that those who reported daily marijuana use were 34% more likely to develop heart failure. Both studies follow another study published in February finding that daily cannabis use raised the risk of coronary artery disease by one third. An abundance of further studies have found that marijuana use causes an increase in depression, suicidal thoughts, high anxiety, memory loss, lower IQ, severe vomiting, fetal development issues, bronchitis, emphysema, and ER visits, among other adverse effects.
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The studies come as an increasing number of Americans say they support the recreational use of marijuana. According to a Gallop poll released Wednesday, a record high 70% of adults now say they support marijuana legalization, up two percentage points from the previous high of 68%, which had held steady for the last three years.
This strong support has translated considerably to the ballot box, as an explosion of states across the nation have voted to legalize recreational use of the drug since 2012. On Tuesday, Ohio became the 24th state to do so, meaning that 53% of the American population now lives in a state where anyone 21 and older can legally possess the drug.
Despite marijuana’s popularity, medical experts continue to issue dire warnings about the dangerous health effects that the drug imposes on the human body.
“The latest research about cannabis use indicates that smoking and inhaling cannabis increases concentrations of blood carboxyhemoglobin (carbon monoxide, a poisonous gas), tar (partly burned combustible matter) similar to the effects of inhaling a tobacco cigarette, both of which have been linked to heart muscle disease, chest pain, heart rhythm disturbances, heart attacks and other serious conditions,” said Robert Page II, a professor in the Department of Clinical Pharmacy and Physical Medicine/Rehabilitation at the University of Colorado Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences in Aurora, Colorado, following the presentation of the new AHA studies.
Dr. John Fleming, a physician and Navy veteran who ran his own private practice in Louisiana, has done extensive research on the health effects of marijuana. On Thursday, he joined “Washington Watch with Tony Perkins” to discuss the latest AHA studies.
“I really felt at my core as a physician, as somebody who has treated a lot of people with lung and heart disease related to tobacco, that marijuana smoking has got to be as dangerous, if not more so, than tobacco and cigarettes,” he emphasized. “[I]n fact, this study … [proves] there’s no question now that the tar and all the toxic chemicals and everything that we find in cigarettes are also in marijuana as well.”
Fleming, who formerly served in the Trump administration and as a Republican congressman representing Louisiana’s 4th congressional district, further argued that the current fentanyl epidemic, which killed over 100,000 people in 2021 alone, can be directly related to the increased use of marijuana across the country.
“It’s a seamless process. … [T]he earlier a child is exposed to addicting chemicals, whether it’s tobacco, alcohol, marijuana, whatever, the studies show clearly that the brain becomes imprinted on these addictive substances, whatever they may be, and they have a much higher risk of ultimately developing alcoholism [and] drug addiction,” he explained. “And the rates of addiction have been going up progressively as we become more relaxed about access by children [and] young adults to these addicting substances.”
Fleming continued, “We’re having more and more problems, and the drugs are more and more powerful, which is why you see this zombie effect that we see today on the streets of San Francisco. So it’s bad on the addiction side. It’s bad on the health side. … [O]ther problems that we see [related to marijuana use are] hyperemesis syndrome, where people can’t stop throwing up, acute and chronic psychoses, including schizophrenia — a much higher percent. Even among young people, they’ve measured that from teen years to the early 30s, they lose eight points in their IQ.”
Fleming concluded by contending that the societal benefits that marijuana advocates use to justify legalizing the drug do not outweigh the negative consequences.
“Big Marijuana now is replacing Big Tobacco,” he observed. “It’s a big business and people are making a lot of money on it, and they’re doing it at the expense of our young people. And the taxes that are coming in from that [are] far below projected levels. But it doesn’t come close to taking care of the health and psychiatric problems that develop as a result of these drugs.”