In this era of legal cannabis, a doctor's warning | Michigan Radio
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In this era of legal cannabis, a doctor's warning

Jun 25, 2019

Recreational marijuana is legal in Michigan. But physicians are warning that more research is needed to determine how, exactly, cannabis affects the brain and body. 

Dr. Christopher Blazes, addiction psychiatrist and emergency medicine physician at the University of Michigan, says today’s pot is much stronger than the kind that was around during the 1960s and 1970s.

“The percentage of the THC content — which is the most psychoactive component of cannabis — is so much different. Back then it was maybe three to five percent, and now, [with] the genetic engineering of the plants themselves, it’s probably around 15 to 20 percent,” Blazes said.

Stronger weed produces stronger psychological and physiological effects, which Blazes says can lead to a range of issues. He notes that users can experience a significant increase in heart rate after consuming cannabis, which can worsen symptoms for those who have underlying cardiac issues.

Blazes also says that cannabis can exacerbate psychotic disorders and even cause episodes of psychosis in those who don’t have a history of mental illness.

Although more research is needed to figure out the various physiological and psychological effects of marijuana, Blazes explains that because cannabis is classified as a “Schedule 1” drug at the federal level, it’s “incredibly complicated” for medical studies involving the drug to get approved. 

In the meantime, Blazes recommends that Michiganders “pause for a moment” before deciding to take advantage of recreational marijuana's new legal status.

“We have certain governmental bodies that are saying — like a lot of the state governments — [that marijuana] is safe and effective for so many different things. But the data really isn’t there to support that,” Blazes said. “So I think we need to take a pause and step back and say, ‘Wait, I’m not going to use myself as a guinea pig and end up being one of those complications that happens.’”

This post was written by Stateside production assistant Isabella Isaacs-Thomas.

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