After the legalization of cannabis in 2014, the authorities of Colorado faced many regulatory issues. Their new task was to improve the system and monitor potential outcomes. After that, the state began a massive study on cannabis in the new paradigm—as part of a class of such legal substances as alcohol, tobacco, and prescription drugs.
The first research report conducted by a panel of doctors was released in 2015. However, it contained only the baseline data.
The second report was published this year, in January. The Retail Marijuana Public Health Advisory Committee that is responsible for the document consists of 14 members who have studied the data closely trying to determine the patterns, behaviors, and potential health issues of marijuana usage and review the scientific literature on the matter. The findings are rather detailed and comprehensive. It took 300 pages to outline recent marijuana use trends and health effects.
The committee used a few surveys as the base of its report including The Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey, The Child Health Survey, The Healthy Kids Colorado Survey of middle and high school students, and The Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System survey.
The findings show that, since legalization, past-month marijuana use has not changed for adults and adolescents. The substance is also less frequently used than alcohol and tobacco.
Besides, the state's data on teens' use of the plant is almost identical to the national average.
However, not all data is encouraging and positive. For example, a recent survey shows that the percentage of adults using cannabis in Colorado is higher than the accepted national average.
Teens do not show positive results as well. Five percent of high school students use weed on a near daily basis. Among them, one-third of adolescents first consumed pot by the age of 14. In addition, about 14 thousand children in the state risk eating inappropriately stored and packed cannabis products. Even more children suffer from secondhand smoke at home.
The committee reviewed a few major aspects of marijuana in the life of the society. The first one concerned the use of the substance among adolescents and young adults. The study touched upon the issues of its influence on kids' cognitive abilities, mental health, and academic performance. The scientists report that weekly marijuana use lowers abilities and performance even 28 days after its last consumption. Besides, evidence shows that teens who use this substance are more likely to experience paranoia, hallucinations, and delusional beliefs in later life.
Another issue that concerns scientists is the relation of marijuana to cancer and the chemicals contained in the herb's smoke and vapor. Studies reveal that cannabis smoke contains the same carcinogens that are found in tobacco smoke. However, there are still debates about whether the accumulation of the chemicals leads to lung cancer. Also, there is little evidence of the connection between marijuana use and the cancers of bladder, head, and neck.
The committee also reviewed gastrointestinal, reproductive, and respiratory effects related to vaporized and smoked marijuana. Evidence suggests that daily or near daily cannabis use is associated with chronic bronchitis. It may also be connected to the bullous lung disease and pneumothorax in people under 40 years old. In terms of respiratory side effects, those people who switch to vaporizing instead of smoking face fewer problems.
In addition, the report touches upon the issue of a cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome that is expressed by cyclic vomiting in people who use weed for a long time on a daily basis. These cases show the connection between marijuana use and vomiting that often stops when a person ceases to take the drug. Research concerning male reproductive functions is lacking, therefore it is impossible to say whether the plant has any influence in this area.
And finally, the committee reviewed marijuana use and its association with mental heath disorders and cognitive impairments. The research shows that daily or near daily use of the plant may lead to the damage of memory that can last a week or more after quitting. Common effects of THC are hallucinations, paranoia, and delusional beliefs that develop when the dose is too high.
Examining all these effects associated with weed use, the committee gave some recommendations to the public at the end of its report.
First of all, one of the main recommendations is for Colorado to support research to fill the gaps in the public knowledge about the plant. The gathering of the data has to continue through carrying out surveys similar to those that lay at the base of the mentioned report.
The key to proper research is to separately evaluate the less frequent users and those who consume the herb on a daily basis.
Most importantly, public education on the issues of using cannabis during pregnancy, adolescence use, driving under the influence, and children exposure is the task that has to be dealt with immediately.
Here is the link to the full report if you are interested in detailed information.