Pubdate: Thu, 26 Dec 2019
Source: Wall Street Journal (US)
Copyright: 2019 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.


A surge in vaping related lung illnesses this year caught the medical
community by surprise, with the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention (CDC) reporting more than 2,500 lung illnesses and 54
deaths. Politicians are targeting e-cigarettes, but the CDC reported
last week that marijuana is so far the greatest common

This is another reminder that America is undertaking a risky social
experiment by legalizing and especially destigmatizing cannabis, and
the potential effects are hard to foresee or control. The same
political culture that is in a fury over legal opioids, and is trying
to bankrupt drug companies as compensation, seems to have no problem
celebrating a drug that may be damaging young brains for a lifetime.

In October the CDC reported that 86% of 867 patients with available
data had used products containing THC shortly before the onset of
their symptoms while 64% reported using nicotine products. Only 11%
reported using exclusively nicotine e-cigarettes. The CDC has also
found that Vitamin E acetate, which is often added as a thickener to
marijuana vaping fluids, is a "very strong culprit."

Democratic Governors such as New York's Andrew Cuomo and California's
Gavin Newsom, who have supported legalizing marijuana, are attacking
nicotine e-cigarettes while ignoring the striking links to marijuana.
Yet pot products unlike those with nicotine are only lightly regulated
by the 11 states where cannabis has been legalized for recreational

One vaping-related death last month was linked to a device purchased
from a legal pot shop in Oregon. A state audit this year found only 3%
of recreational marijuana retailers had been inspected, and state
marijuana production is seven times higher than consumption. The
implication is that most pot grown in Oregon is exported to states
where it is illegal.

One argument for legalizing and regulating pot is that it would shrink
the black market, but there's little evidence that it has. The
California Department of Food and Agriculture found that only 16% of
the 15.5 million pounds of marijuana produced in the state each year
is also consumed in the state.

An audit by the United Cannabis Business Association this year turned
up 2,835 unlicensed dispensaries in California-more than three times
the number that are licensed. The California Department of Public
Health since June has linked more than 120 cases of lung illness to
recently purchased vape-pens including many bought at unlicensed shops.

Teens can't legally purchase pot in any state, but a survey by
Monitoring the Future this month found that youth marijuana vaping has
nearly tripled since 2017. While overall pot use has remained flat for
the past two years, daily use has increased by two-thirds. This is
especially troubling since chronic use of marijuana in adolescents has
been linked to cognitive impairment, anxiety and psychosis later in

About 95% of heroin and cocaine users report first using pot, and
studies show that marijuana users require more opioid medication to
cope with pain than non-users. Like all drugs, marijuana has different
effects on different users that are still not well understood. While
some say pot helps them relax, it can cause paranoid tendencies in

Older generations don't realize that the pot grown and sold today is
on average four to five times more potent than what they smoked in
college. There's also a misconception that pot is no more addictive
than alcohol. About 40% of people who used pot in the last month used
it daily compared to 10% of alcohol drinkers.

Political leaders and cultural trend-setters have removed the social
stigma around pot use, so it is socially acceptable even where it
remains illegal. Rarely can you take a walk in New York City without
marijuana smoke wafting into your nostrils.

While tobacco and e-cigarettes are denounced, smoking a joint is
chill, man, and young people get the message. A mere 30.3% of 12th
graders this year said smoking pot regularly was risky, down from
77.8% in 1990 and 52.4% a decade ago, according to the Monitoring the
Future study. Teens say pot is less risky than e-cigarettes (38%) and
easier to obtain (78.4%) than regular cigarettes (72.4%).

A large business lobby is now pushing for pot legalization. The rash
of vaping deaths and illnesses shows that pot is more dangerous than
people realize, and Americans should pause on the rush to legalize
until we understand how much medical and social harm it is doing.
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MAP posted-by: Matt