Medical marijuana dispensaries lull teens, parents into thinking it’s harmless, say expert

By Erin Ellis, Vancouver Sun,  April 13, 2015
Medical marijuana shops popping up all over Metro Vancouver are giving parents and their children the wrong impression about weed, says an addictions specialist.

“Using the term ‘medical’ is giving a false impression to people — parents and kids,” says Dr. Siavash Jafari, who works out of several Vancouver Coastal Health clinics in Vancouver and also the Burnaby Centre for Mental Health and Addiction.

Photo by: Mark van Manen
“To say ‘medical’ means it is supported by the medical community. It is not. That’s a misconception among the public.” he says.

“Parents feel that it’s not dangerous so they don’t talk to their kids about it.”

The scientific evidence is simply not there for most health claims made by dispensaries, he says, with the exception of its use for patients in palliative care.

Jafari says he routinely talks to patients with health problems who don’t even think to mention how much marijuana they smoke — or how often — because they have been convinced that it’s a natural, harmless herb.

“They don’t even consider the health issues. It affects them from brain to toe.”

Far less addictive than heroin or tobacco, notes Jafari, studies show 10 per cent of people who use it regularly will become dependent on it. Problems increase with the amount consumed over time, he added, with little risk to someone who smokes weed once or twice a year, for instance.

Confusion over what’s safe and what’s not is the topic of a public forum being held Tuesday for parents and teenagers. It is sponsored by the Vancouver school board, Vancouver Coastal Health and SACY, the school board’s substance use prevention initiative.

The forum was prompted by the lack of information for parents and because one of the largest celebrations of cannabis culture in North America takes place outside the Vancouver Art Gallery every April 20: the 4/20 “smoke out.”

Panelist Joy Johnson, vice-president of research at Simon Fraser University, says teenagers want to hear factual information about marijuana but often have a hard time finding it. First off, it’s still illegal — a fact that gets lost as dozens of medical marijuana dispensaries have opened across the city in the last year.

“I’ll be frank, we’ve lost our credibility because young people go home and see their parents smoking it,” says Johnson.

The ‘just-say-no’ approach doesn’t work, she says, and should be replaced with a rational conversation about the effect cannabis can have on the human brain, which continues to develop into the early 20s.

“We’ve had pretty good public health messaging in terms of alcohol consumption. We tell kids not to drink and drive, to not binge drink, to watch the amount they’re drinking. I don’t think we’ve had very good messaging about marijuana, in part because we don’t have a lot of great evidence. But one of the things we do know is that you should delay use because of brain development.”

A study by researchers from Harvard Medical School published this month concluded that participants who started smoking marijuana regularly before the age of 16 had lower scores on a test used to determine brain damage than subjects who started later and people who had never smoked.

Teens and Cannabis, a free public forum, will be held Tuesday from 7-9 p.m. in the auditorium of Vancouver Technical Secondary School at 2600 East Broadway.
Related topic...

The over-selling of ‘medical’ marijuana

1 comment:

  1. As shown by four separate peer-reviewed studies published in respected journals, legalizing medical cannabis has not increased cannabis usage in teens:

    "This study did not find increases in adolescent marijuana use related to legalization of medical marijuana."
    Choo et al. The Impact of State Medical Marijuana Legislation on Adolescent Marijuana Use. Journal of Adolescent Health. 2014.

    "Our results suggest that, in the states assessed here, MMLs have not measurably affected adolescent marijuana use in the first few years after their enactment."
    Lynne-Landsman et al. Effects of state medical marijuana laws on adolescent marijuana use. Am J Public Health. 2013.

    "We find limited evidence of causal effects of MMLs on measures of reported marijuana use."
    Harper et al. Do medical marijuana laws increase marijuana use? Replication study and extension. Ann Epidemiol. 2012.

    "Our results are not consistent with the hypothesis that the legalization of medical marijuana caused an increase in the use of marijuana and other substances among high school students."
    Anderson et al. Medical Marijuana Laws and Teen Marijuana Use. IZA 2012.