March 26, 2016

Vermont Doctors Warn Against Marijuana Legalization

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Montpelier (Mar 23) – Doctors in Vermont say that legalizing marijuana could harm Vermont’s youth. With the bill to legalize marijuana having made it to the house judiciary committee, Doctors are speaking up about potential dangers of passing the bill too quickly.

Dr. Jon Porter, a family physician and the director of the Center for Health and Wellbeing at UVM believes that, “we take marijuana too lightly as a society.” Dr. Porter testified before the House Judiciary Committee warning them against legalizing it before giving the health consequences associated with youth and marijuana serious consideration. Although marijuana would still be illegal for people under the age of 21 under the proposed legislation, Dr. Porter fears that with legalization would come an increase in normalization (societal acceptance), “there is a message with legalization,” youth may think that smoking marijuana is totally fine and safe for them. This is not true – according to Dr. Porter, “over time, people develop a deficit relative to what their potential is.”

Due to a strong association between marijuana use and mental health issues among the youth population, doctors are discouraging legalization because of the harm that could come from an increase in youth marijuana use. Marijuana consumption as a youth can be a slippery slope, and “robs people of their potential,” according to Dr. John Hughes, a professor of psychiatry at UVM. Overall, Vermont doctors are encouraging Vermont policy makers to slow down with the rush to legalize marijuana.

There are still many aspects of marijuana and its effects on the brain that are unknown. Dr. Porter thinks that we need more time to take a look at what’s happening in states that have already legalized use to see where Vermont could improve upon their models and how marijuana has affected the youth populations of those states. In the end, Dr. Porter believes the question that needs to be answered before legalization is, “how do we protect our youth?”

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