As reported Friday in The Frederick News-Post’s front-page article (“Overdose rate spurs a change in tactics”), Frederick County, like so many other parts of the country, is experiencing an epidemic increase in the use of harmful substances. In addition to heroin, this includes the abuse of alcohol, prescription opioid medications and marijuana. Yes, both the latter two can be harmful, but also beneficial if used in a medically responsible manner.
Marijuana use in Frederick County is a subject of local interest with the county government’s proposal to expand areas where medical marijuana may be grown and the latest Centers for Disease Control Youth Risk Behavioral Survey, which indicated that several thousand students in the county’s high schools (27 percent in 12th grade) use non-medical marijuana on a regular basis.
The well-attended (1,000-plus) National Institutes of Health’s March 22 and 23 Marijuana and Cannabinoids Conference, which I had the privilege of attending, presented a balanced view of this complex and controversial subject.
The presenters were prestigious, educated leaders from universities, think tanks, medical service providers, nonprofits and government research organizations. The research presented included both the positive and negative aspects of marijuana use. A few of the beneficial and harmful aspects presented were:
Marijuana was reported to be helpful in treating epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma, certain types of pain and other medical conditions.
Depending upon the regularity of use and the potency of marijuana, there were reported to be significant harmful physical and psychological effects. These are most pronounced when marijuana initiation begins early while the brain is developing (adolescents).
A cogent observation made by an articulate, highly educated presenter at the conference was that policy decisions — poorly informed, poorly defined and made too quickly — are having unintended adverse consequences. Informed decision-making, based on broad and thorough education, is the key to better formulating public policy.