On a recent trip to Palm Springs, I was taken aback by how much cannabis was promoted in the shopping area of the town. Dispensaries were everywhere and looked like high-end retail shops. Come relax, shop, get what you need in all sorts of forms–candies, cookies…it’s all legal. What struck me was how in my face it all was. And the claims being made by those selling the products are wild! You’ve got “budtenders” providing all kinds of medical advice with no training, telling customers wellness benefits not based on research.

The National Institutes of Health tell us that since legalization, cannabis use among adults has doubled and is used daily by over 50% of users. In part, this is because of  low risk perception. With the push for constant use of more potent cannabis products, there is growing concern that cannabis use will become our next public health problem. Unlike the claims, we know that cannabis is not harmless or benign. People who smoke it regularly report difficulty quitting, smoke more than they intend to, and neglect responsibilities. They also experience short-term memory problems, a lack motivation, weight gain and mental health problems that accompany regular use.

Cannabis is still classified as a Schedule 1 drug by the federal government. This means it has no acceptable medical use despite claims to the contrary. It has been legalized without the due diligence of good research. It is not harmless or non-addictive. And natural doesn’t mean safe. I had to laugh when I saw an ad that showed cannabis and said, “No drugs!” Furthermore, who knows how the increased potency of many cannabis products will raise tolerance, create dependence and rewire the brain towards addiction?

Sadly, this strong push to legalization and commercialization is all about making money. The health and mental health of Americans will be addressed after the billions have been made on a new “legal” industry. I’m already seeing the fall out of those who use a little here and there, then a little more, and then decide it’s a good way to relax, but find it difficult to stop. It’s true that not everyone will have a problem who uses. But for those who do, it’s another substance we have to treat, and the numbers are rising.

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