Did America Jump the Gun on Marijuana?

Written by Erin Spellman

What’s happening: Amid reports of cannabis's strong link to mental disorders such as psychosis and schizophrenia, the Biden administration deems marijuana low-risk.

  • Less restrictions: In a groundbreaking review, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommended loosening federal restrictions on the drug, driving cannabis stock prices up 23 percent. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration is likely to approve the reclassification of marijuana, while marijuana-linked mental disorders rise.

  • New data: Even one psychotic episode following cannabis use was associated with a 47 percent chance of development of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. Today's marijuana can contain 20 times the quantity of THC as compared to products available 30 years ago, resulting in an increase in cannabis-related hospital visits and psychoses.

Big Marijuana: Marijuana lobbying grew exponentially over the last decade as the industry promoted decriminalization and encouraged recreational use.

  • By the numbers: In 2013, the industry spent $35k to influence lawmakers and, by 2022, lobbying dollars totaled almost $6 million. Lobbyist efforts resulted in the legalization of cannabis for adult recreational use in 24 states and D.C., and the marijuana market today is worth an estimated $33.84 billion.

  • No turning back: The marijuana lobby's monetary interest and the industry's expanding market means that restricting the drug, despite its risks, isn't likely. Advertising for marijuana is also drastically increasing on social media platforms.

  • The pot vote: Marijuana reform is a key issue on President Biden's campaign trail, reflecting the 68 percent of Americans who support legalization.

Why it matters: As America faces a mental health crisis, the Biden administration's endorsement of a drug with solid links to mental disorders raises fears that the issue will be exacerbated. If approved, this regulatory shift is likely to quickly cause a domino effect for the accreditation of cannabis on an international scale, glossing over European health concerns.

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