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Got the munchies?

What new laws legalizing pot may mean for our health.

By Sally Wadyka Nov 15, 2012 6:49PM

I don’t personally smoke (or eat) marijuana, but I do live in Colorado, so if I decided to take up the habit, I would no longer be risking arrest. As of last week, Colorado and Washington became the first two states to legalize the recreational use of the drug.

As soon as the news broke, the jokes started flying (Rocky Mountain high, anyone?). Even my state’s governor, John Hickenlooper, couldn’t resist taking a “pot” shot:
Colin Brynn/Getty Images
“Federal law still says marijuana is an illegal drug, so don’t break out the Cheetos or Goldfish too quickly.”

But just because smoking weed will no longer get you arrested in these two states doesn’t mean it can’t wreak havoc on your health. The adverse effects of pot smoking (or eating — since the edibles market is likely to increase in places where consumption is now legal) are the subject of much debate. Pot’s proponents claim that a little weed is no worse for you than a cocktail or a couple glasses of wine. And to some extent, they’ve got a point. Some of the major hazards of marijuana intoxication are virtually the same as those associated with alcohol intoxication — namely, impairments in reaction time, information processing, motor coordination and focus.

Other connections to ill health are a little more elusive. A couple of studies have linked regular marijuana use to an increased risk of testicular cancer.

And it stands to reason that smoking pot can set you up for many of the same respiratory troubles —such as chronic cough and bronchitis — as cigarette smoking.  And according to Wayne Hall, a cannabis researcher at the University of Queensland, Australia, marijuana use is “highly correlated with use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs — all of which adversely affect health.”

The real question, though, is whether or not legalization will make more people likely to overlook the potential health dangers and become marijuana users. I don’t know of anyone who reacted to the election news by going out and grabbing their first pot brownie, but it is possible that some people will now treat Colorado and Washington as stateside versions of Amsterdam. Honestly, I don’t think the law will ultimately change most peoples’ behavior, and, with any luck, it will add some revenue to the states’ coffers.

So I may not smoke it, but yeah, I voted for it.

767Comments
Nov 15, 2012 11:27PM
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The studies you are citing are not considered credible, because they are all tainted by anti-marijuana agendas and bad science.  The testicular cancer studies you mention are a JOKE> please look into the science before you irresponsibly print propaganda!
  In reality, there are few unbiased research projects to do with marijuana.  Why don't you mention any of the studies that have shown how relatively harmless marijuana is?  Because this article is biased as well.  If this really was a cautionary piece, it would tell both sides of the story.  
  You don't even mention the studies that show the cancer fighting properties of marijuana.  Or the studies that have shown that people who regularly smoke marijuana are no more likely to have ANY sort of lung problems than the average person.  
  You don't mention the fact that the AMA finally admitted that marijuana has medicinal benefits.  The very people the US government has used for so long to prop up their prohibition argument.  The fact is that the benefits of marijuana far outweigh the risks involved.  Especially now that it is legal!!!!!!!!  That was the only risk any thinking person ever had to be worried about.
  You don't mention that marijuana is illegal because the corporate powers that be cannot profit from legalization.  The banking industry loses money laundering jobs for the black market, the medical industry loses it's ability to prescribe more pills, and the cotton industry has a serious contender for the big boy on the block when it comes to natural fiber.  The alcohol industry is afraid that they will lose customers.  The police oppose because if the war on marijuana dies, they cannot justify their ridiculous budgets.  These are the real reasons marijuana has been so vigorously demonized.  You don't seem to know much about this subject, you only seem to know the propaganda point of view that has been spun by the US government.
  You don't mention many facts, and you don't even mention one whole side of the story.  That makes your little cautionary tale a useless piece of garbage.
Nov 15, 2012 11:10PM
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Eating it..smoking..vaping it..it will never be as dangerous as booze or butts.
Nov 15, 2012 11:19PM
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I'm 60, smoked pot since I was 16. Played ice hockey, slow pitch softball, tennis and bowled. Worked every day, and  did stand-up comedy, also write and sing songs. I work with a guy from Cambodia, he says pot is legal in his country and hardly anyone smokes.
Nov 15, 2012 11:25PM
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The only side affect that I ever read that has been highly researched and pretty much proven, is memory problems after quite a few years of heavy use. What surprises me the most is to hear experts talk about the evils of weed and not feel twice as worried about alcohol.  I think they avoid saying much about alcohol because it's here to stay, but in my opinion it's much worse than weed.  
Nov 15, 2012 11:23PM
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I have yet to met a single pot smoker who has developed an illness of any kind from that pot smoking. And where I live, pot smoking is more common than drinking. And these are life long smokers, and some of them are beyond middle age now. All the drinkers on the other hand, are already starting to die off, or are sick with some disease.  The difference is remarkable, and obvious. As for the "intoxication" comment, you obviously dont know what you are talking about. Pot doesnt intoxicate you. You cant get drunk on pot. It doesnt even make you slur your words. No matter how much you smoke.
Nov 15, 2012 11:07PM
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I know people who have smoked marijuana for over forty years and they have no health problems except for aging.  If you smoke marijuana, drink booze, and smoke cigarettes, it is not the marijuana that you have to worry about.  All the crap about respiratory problems is just that... crap.  If your marijuana use is "highly correlated with use of alcohol, tobacco, and othe drugs."  The marijuana is keeping you alive.
Nov 15, 2012 11:21PM
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Ironic being illegal yet helpful in so many ways.  Why was it made illegal in the first place?   Who supported that bill? 

Decriminalize Hemp.  It is not a schedule 1 drug, hell, it's not a drug at all...

Nov 15, 2012 11:09PM
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The story regarding an increase in testicular cancer should not even be referenced in this article.  Read it.  The study says nothing at all.  They recognize correlation, but don't even touch causation on that.
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