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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.

Nov 16, 2012 4:43PM
"Thank You" for REFUSING to POST my comment!
Nov 16, 2012 4:27PM
I don't think much will change in current health problems. Because it was legalized in a couple of states doesn't mean it will instantly create new pot smokers. Those that smoke now will continue, those that don't smoke probably won't start. There may be a few new users just being curious. What health problems people were experiencing from alcohol, tobacco and pot before the law will continue pretty much the same after the law. They could legalize it in all 50 states and nothing much will change regarding health conditions. I see many examples of death and illness from alcohol and tobacco, but can't say I see many stories of people dying from "overtoking" on mj.
Nov 16, 2012 4:24PM
It can't be much worse, if at all, than alcohol.  Why not legalize it and tax it and pay off some of this national debt.  It does have some proven medical benefits.  Maybe everyone would chill out and stop being so angry and full of hate.  I'm not talking about getting high and driving all over the place, but have the same restrictions as alcohol use.
Nov 16, 2012 4:24PM

its always bad when the smartest people in society are the most jaded

Nov 16, 2012 4:24PM
I hope that you are one of the first to be killed by a driver high on pot!
Nov 16, 2012 4:24PM

So.....Ms. Article writer, you voted for it, do not intend to use it, and you write an article listing all of the health hazards. Are you wishing bad health, and eventually death to all your fellow Coloadans? I ask because there appears to be a disconnect between your vote and your belief about the health risks.


Just to keep the record straight, I do not live in Colorado. I have never smoked the weed and do not ever intend to start. I also do not drink alcohol. Life is just fine the way it is, so there is no need to alter my perception with pot or booze.

Nov 16, 2012 4:23PM
One other symptom of pot use is the repeated uttering of the word "ear".  You know when you take a big toke off a joint and pass it to your buddy, it is usually preceeded by the word, "ear".
Nov 16, 2012 4:22PM

I am not going to recite some study by some doctors in a lab somewhere just what has happen to myself from smoking .  All of us weed smokers know that a joint burns hotter than a cig. dose.  I smoked since 1969 and quit in 2005 after a stay at the VA hospital.

I now have COPD with chronic bronchitis and emphysema.  I did cocaine for about 10 yrs in varies forms mainly smoking.  Smoking kills no madder what ur smoking.  You will never catch that high like the first one.  I chased it for over 40 yrs.  Lots of money and now my health.  Another point is who is going to pick up the bill when many more thousands health goes south.  U bet all ur neighbors with a increase in taxes.

     I quit just wish I had sooner.

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