What could be wrong with using marijuana? It is supposed to help with pain control, nausea, and even increase a cancer patient’s appetite.  Plus it is supposed to be fun and relaxing. Looking around online, it is hard to find actual research suggesting marijuana is not safe.  Many young people swear there is nothing wrong with it.  So why do all the doctors and adults say it is bad for you?


Is marijuana safe enough to use occasionally to relax and have fun without any regulations?


Is it dangerous enough to need regulation to protect our health?


What does the research say?

Because marijuana has only recently become legalized for medical purposes and for recreational use in just a handful of states, there have not been many studies completed regarding the safety of the drug. It is hard to get subjects willing to admit to using an illegal substance for research. Although good studies are hard to find, there are a few out there that show marijuana does have some negative outcomes.  More are being conducted now because it is easier to study when legalized.

Here are some links for a few different studies:

Take a look at a study from the University of British Columbia:  The researchers determined that fatal car accidents increase when more people are using marijuana.  Beginning in 1991, the 20th of April has become a holiday of sorts celebrating marijuana use with events in many cities including San Francisco, Denver, and Vancouver.  The research looked at traffic fatalities that took place on April 20th after 4:20 PM. The researchers examined traffic records spanning back over the last 25 years and compared the fatalities from 4/20 to control days one week before and after 4/20.  The results were significant.  There was a 12% increase in risk for traffic fatalities during that time frame, and for drivers under 21, the risk increased to a 38% higher risk for being involved in a fatal traffic accident.  Some people believe driving under the influence of marijuana isn’t a problem, yet this study demonstrates that the risk for fatal traffic accidents increases with marijuana use.

Another article listed some different side effects with links to pertinent studies.  Negative effects of the drug included a suppressed immune system, male sexual dysfunction, memory loss, increased risk for psychoses and schizophrenia, and even an increased cancer risk.

Here is a study specifically about the risk for psychosis and schizophrenia.


What about while you are pregnant?

Is marijuana safe for the unborn baby?  Some of our patients admit to using the drug to combat the nausea from morning sickness.  Based on the few studies we found, we can’t recommend marijuana use during pregnancy because of the risks for the unborn baby. Some of those include:

*Increased risk for preterm birth.

*Decreased birth weight with increased risk for Intensive care placement.

*Altered brain structure in children whose moms used marijuana when pregnant.  The defects occured in the children’s prefrontal cortex involved in decision making, working memory and complex cognition.


Always weigh the risks and benefits

While there are not yet many studies completed regarding the safety of marijuana, there is preliminary evidence suggesting many negative effects of the drug on the developing brains of our youth and on the unborn as well.  Risks and benefits must be weighed before using any substance; and just because there are not many studies on a substance does not imply the drug is safe.  If marijuana is legal for recreational use where you live, take some time to consider the risks and benefits before using.  Could you be pregnant?  Do you have small children that might be exposed? Will you be driving?  Are you at risk for a mental illness? And if it is not legal, are you putting yourself at risk for criminal charges by using?