Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in America, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. It is especially popular among young people aged 18-25, many of whom believe it does not pose a health risk. Those beliefs are fortified by the legalization of both medicinal and recreational marijuana in a growing number of states. However, marijuana use can have serious, long-term negative effects on physical and mental health, especially in youth, young adults and women who are pregnant or nursing.
Medical marijuana refers to the use of the marijuana plant or its extracts to treat certain medical conditions or symptoms of an illness.
To date, only two medications using marijuana extracts have been given FDA approval. These medications are in pill form, dronabinol and nabilone, and are used to treat nausea and boost appetite. The FDA has not approved the marijuana plant for medical use.
The chemicals in marijuana called cannabinoids include THC and CBD. Scientists are researching both these extracts to determine their effectiveness in treating symptoms of illnesses including pain, inflammation, seizures, substance use disorders, and more.
The Council on Chemical Abuse’s (COCA) Position on Legalization of Marijuana for Recreational Use in Pennsylvania.
COCA does not support the legalization of marijuana for recreational use. The potency of marijuana has increased dramatically with current strains of marijuana being significantly more potent than in the past. Contrary to popular belief, people who use marijuana risk developing a substance use disorder. This risk increases with those who begin using marijuana in their adolescence and have easy access to the drug. We believe that the legalization of marijuana will significantly increase the availability of the drug to youth and young adults in our community.
COCA recommends the expansion of Student Assistance Program efforts to require a fully functioning Student Assistance Program team and process in all Pennsylvania elementary, middle, and high schools. This will ensure that students who use marijuana or other substances have access to intervention and treatment services.
COCA recommends enhancing community educational efforts with respect to the use of marijuana and other substance use.
COCA recommends the expansion of substance use preventative services and treatment opportunities particularly for youth and young adults. Such services should be readily available regardless of health insurance coverage or ability to pay.
COCA supports greater research efforts into the effects of marijuana use as it relates to both the individual and the community.
COCA does not oppose the “decriminalization” of marijuana which would reduce penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana. People charged with this offense should be offered an opportunity to attend an appropriate education and/or intervention program.
COCA does not oppose Pennsylvania’s current statutes for Medical Marijuana.
Regardless of the legal status of marijuana, COCA will continue to provide prevention education to youth, families, and the community regarding substances and substance use disorders as well as assist individuals to access appropriate treatment and recovery support services to address substance use disorders.