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As the states of Washington and Colorado wrestle with the details of setting up a supply, distribution and sales system for legal marijuana in the wake of voter-approved initiatives, and legalization for small quantities for the 21-and-over set increases street availability, there are some important things to bear in mind when considering when making a decision whether to use it or not.

Q. Is marijuana good for one’s health?

The answer to this question is complex and heavily debated, and may depend on whom you ask or where you go for information. An article specifically addressing the health issue as it relates to lung cancer risk was recently published by the Swedish Cancer Institute at Swedish Medical Center in Seattle.
Marijuana abuse is associated with many detrimental
 health effects. These effects can include frequent respiratory infections, impaired memory and learning, increased heart rate, anxiety, panic attacks and tolerance.  
Animal studies suggest marijuana causes physical dependence and some people report withdrawal symptoms. Someone who smokes marijuana regularly may have many of the same respiratory problems that tobacco smokers do, such as daily cough and phlegm production, more frequent acute chest illnesses, a heightened risk of lung infections and a greater tendency toward obstructed airways. Cancer of the respiratory tract and lungs may also be promoted by marijuana smoke. Marijuana use has recently been linked to risks for increased stroke. 

There are also some reported health benefits to the use of marijuana. Medical marijuana patients report that it helps overcome nausea and vomiting, stimulates hunger, reduces intraocular eye pressure and helps treat gastrointestinal illness.

More detailed discussion and scientific information regarding marijuana health can be found at the National Institute on Drug Abuse,  WebMD, National Office of Drug Control Policy. Wikipedia provides extensive sources for its extensive entries on both the health impacts and the medical use of cannabis.

Q.     Is marijuana addictive?


Yes, according to the National Office of Drug Control Policy in detailing its case.


Q. Is marijuana use more risky for youth?


According to the Washington Department of Social and Health Services report: 
2010 Abuse Trends in Washington State (p. 259), marijuana is the most frequently citied drug of abuse in youth admissions among youth whose treatments are state-funded.   
A study updated in 2013 by the National Research Center for Women and Families states: There are growing concerns about the short-term dangers of marijuana use among youth, as well as the long-term health risks, such as cancer. The short-term dangers include but are not limited to memory loss, distorted perception, trouble with thinking and problem solving, loss of motor skills, and increased heart rate. As teens get older, other short-term dangers may arise from marijuana use. It has a very negative effect on driving, for instance. In a road test, reaction time increased 36 percent, which would result in driving an additional 139 feet before stopping if the person was driving 59 miles per hour. And infants born to mothers who smoke marijuana during pregnancy are shorter, weigh less, and have smaller heads.


Crime and Public Safety and Health Issues

According to the Northwest HIDTA’s: “Threat Assessment and Strategy for Program Year 2013”:   

  • Marijuana and meth are still considered by the Northwest HIDTA to be Washington State’s greatest drug threats, due to their prevalence and detrimental impacts throughout the community.
  • Youth treatment admissions for marijuana continue to climb in Washington. Marijuana youth admissions far outnumber even alcohol treatment admissions. Due in part to the growth in marijuana dispensaries and a vague state law regarding marijuana, the drug is easily available in most parts of the state. As a result, Drug Trafficking Organizations (DTO) are beginning to expand their activity outside of the state to acquire a higher price for their product.
The National Office of Drug Control Policy indicates violent Mexican criminal organizations will continue to operate in the United States regardless of whether marijuana is legal because of its association with other illicit substances and other violent and illegal activity.


See ONDCP’s “Facts and Answers to the Frequently Asked Questions about Marijuana” for more information and discussion, as well as our additional resources page.   

Subpages (1): Additional resources