ISSUE: CANNABIS USE DISORDER
STATEMENT: Marijuana is the most-used drug after alcohol and tobacco in the United States. According to SAMHSA data, in the past year, 4.2 million people ages 12 and up met criteria for a substance use disorder based on marijuana use.
Marijuana’s immediate effects include distorted perception, difficulty with thinking and problem solving, and loss of motor coordination. Long-term use of the drug can contribute to respiratory infection, impaired memory, and exposure to cancer-causing compounds. Chronic use can also lead to compulsive vomiting requiring medical visits and hospitalization for Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome. Heavy marijuana use in youth has also been linked to increased risk for developing mental illness and poorer cognitive functioning. Studies show that marijuana use has been tied to psychotic behavior and may increase the likelihood of Opioid Use Disorder.
Symptoms of cannabis use disorder include disruptions in functioning due to cannabis use, the development of tolerance, cravings for cannabis, and the development of withdrawal symptoms, such as the inability to sleep, restlessness, nervousness, anger, or depression within a week of ceasing heavy use. Cannabis use can be particularly damaging to young people. Still scientific studies of cannabis may yield formulations and protocols that increase its utility and decrease the potential for physical damage to the lungs and airways as well as addiction. MHAI supports scientific research to determine the potential medical benefits of cannabis available by prescription as permitted by the FDA. This does not include the illegal use of marijuana for recreational or "medical purposes".
Criminalization of drug use can be a major barrier to getting people to initiate and accept treatment. It may also affect future employment, even when the charge is on a minor. While many American cities and states have legalized or decriminalized cannabis use and minimal possession, while retaining prohibitions of public use, only Indiana and Oregon have proposed to reduce penalties across the board for other drugs. Drug courts and other specialized treatment courts have provided an alternative to criminal sanctions, and some help for co-occurring mental health conditions. MHAI supports treatment for drug use generally (including cannabis use) in lieu of incarceration, whenever such does not pose a public safety risk.
MHAI supports the decriminalization of cannabis use such that treatment is made available in lieu of incarceration, but does not support the legalization of cannabis for recreational or “medical purposes” except as approved by the FDA.
PRIORITY LEVEL: III