Pro-Marijuana? What You Must Know About The Health Risks

September 18, 2019

By now, you likely have come across at minimum one article that somehow was related to marijuana on a daily basis. Be it a piece on medicinal marijuana, the differences between hemp and marijuana or drug cartel wars, most of us have gathered at least some knowledge about this plant…and have also formed an opinion with regards to the legalization vs. criminalization of this plant.

If, like me, you are in the age group 40 and under, chances are that you are in favor of legalizing marijuana, even if you don’t make use of it in your own life. You might be an occasional marijuana smoker or perhaps simply let your friends have some “relaxation” time with it while you indirectly inhale it and either way not see a big issue with legalization of marijuana because “a little” can’t hurt, right?

That used to be my point of view as well. I don’t do drugs, but having lived through the drug cartel wars in Mexico and hearing about the supposed decrease in crime as a consequence of legalization, I started supporting the global legalization movement. However, the more mainstream marijuana and its derivatives are becoming, the more I hear about unexpected side effects marijuana can have. In recent months, hospitalizations and even deaths in the U.S. due to e-cigarettes and vaping devices burning marijuana oil have dominated the headlines.

Though there is still no consensus on whether the smoking instruments, marijuana, or another element is causing these illnesses and deaths, a nationwide investigation by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) concluded that the cause could be contaminated marijuana that users buy on the black market rather than from a store. Moreover, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also launched an investigation and pointed out that the contamination might come from vitamin E acetate sold on the black market and used as a thickening agent to adjust THC levels in marijuana.

It may or may not be the marijuana, but since the actual cause of these illnesses is not clear yet, health officials are calling for stricter regulations around e-cigarettes and vaping devices. There has been a huge increase in the number of people using e-cigarettes and vaping devices, and unfortunately many of them are minors. The sweet and candy-like flavors are designed to target minors and mask the fact that one pod of e-cigarette fluid can contain more nicotine than a pack of cigarettes. Last year already, San Francisco became the first city to ban all flavored vaping products and now it has also outlawed e-cigarettes. Following this example, Michigan and Boulder, Colorado just announced a ban on flavored products, as well. Hence, the FDA is now proposing to make favored vaping products illegal, including marijuana vaping roses.

Regulations like the ones these health agencies are proposing are seminal in a number of ways. They are certainly neither opposing medical marijuana not are they criminalizing cannabis use for recreational purposes entirely. In the end, in states where marijuana has been legalized for recreational purposes, it is up to each user to decide how much to smoke. Nonetheless, taking into consideration the recent hospitalizations and deaths might hopefully make users reconsider where they buy their products.

Luckily, there has been a growing quest for transparency to find out where all the things we own, touch and put in our bodies come from. Among others, this has made us question whether the foods we eat are contaminated with undesirable microorganisms or whether the fruits and vegetables we buy are covered in pesticides. Especially for vegans who already pay attention to their food sources, it seems like an obvious next step to pay more attention to the source of the cannabis and other products needed to consume/smoke cannabis. But even for those people who are not vegan (yet) but who are marijuana consumers, hopefully, the news on hospitalizations and even deaths after vaping marijuana oils are an alarm bell.

Putting a stop on vaping marijuana does not mean opposing marijuana entirely. There are many reasons to justify why cannabis should be legal everywhere. For example, according to a team of drug experts in the UK, marijuana may be safer than many other drugs including tobacco and alcohol, and it is actually much less addicting than tobacco. Hence, you can be pro-marijuana while still remaining a responsible consumer. Whether you choose to consume marijuana via vaping or another form, don’t put your life at risk by buying cheap black-market products. As with pretty much anything in life, dig a bit deeper and know where thing come from, especially if you will put them in your body.

Also by Tatiana: Will Cell-Based Horns Save Rhinos From Poaching?

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Photo: Rick Proctor

Tatiana, a global citizen, studied molecular biology at the University of California, San Diego (B.S.) and environmental engineering and science at Stanford University (M.S.). After two internships in food technology in Germany and Chile, Tatiana moved to Christchurch, New Zealand, where she now works as an assistant manager at a small vegan eco-hotel and at an ecological consultancy.


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