Health concerns are mounting over marijuana. Are you listening, Lt. Governor Fetterman?

Sep 14, 2019 | 0 comments

Lt. Gov. John Fetterman’s taxpayer-funded marijuana “listening” tour ended in June and his office had said a summary report would be out by the end of July. It’s now September and still no report.

Whenever the report is released, I’m certainly concerned with the amount of taxpayer funds spent on this one area, already shelling out tens of thousands of dollars to hold more than 70 events to listen about something the Lt. Governor had already made up his mind on well before the tour began.

But could this delay in the report’s release possibly be due, in part, to the recent outbreak of concerns surrounding marijuana use? Just look at what’s happened since the tour concluded:

  • In August, several prominent doctors voiced concerns with the rise of marijuana use. Dr. Sheryl Ryan, Chief of Adolescent medicine at Penn State Hershey, shared concerns about teens using high concentrations of marijuana through e-cigarettes: “Between 2011 and 2018, the rates of vaporizer (including e-cigarette) use by high school students increased from 1.5 percent to 20.8 percent.”
  • Dr. Abigail Schlesinger, Chief of Behavior Science Division for UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, said it’s “very concerning” to see the findings of a new study that showed teens who use concentrated marijuana are more likely to use other drugs. “This is not your grandparents’ cannabis. It’s more concentrated. And there’s a lot of reason to believe that in the adolescent years, it alters brain development.”  
  • On August 29, United States Surgeon General Jerome Adams and Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar issued an advisory with urgent concerns about marijuana use on the developing brain, saying, “recent increases in access to marijuana and in its potency, along with misperceptions of safety of marijuana endanger our most precious resource, our nation’s youth.”

“In my travels around the country – I’ve been to many of your states – I’ve had the opportunity to listen,” says Surgeon General Adams. “I’ve heard from communities, and importantly from clinicians, in places like California, Colorado, Washington, Alaska, Oregon and Oklahoma. And over and over again I hear a great and rising concern about the rapid normalization of marijuana use and the impact that a false perception of its safety is having on our young people and on pregnant women.”

  • In September, the University of Michigan released a study highlighting how the rate of marijuana use by college students is the highest in 35 years. Would college students in Pennsylvania use marijuana more often or less if, in the words of Lt. Gov. Fetterman, we go “full-on Colorado” — where there are more marijuana dispensaries than Starbucks and McDonalds combined?
  • More recently, the national spotlight has turned to the rise of developed and severe illnesses due to vaping marijuana. First, public health officials in Oregon reported a person died of a “severe respiratory illness” from an e-cigarette containing marijuana purchased from a legal state dispensary.
  • Then the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a warning plea to stop using e-cigarettes altogether while an investigation is ongoing into how hundreds of people became sick – and at least five people have now died – using a variety of products through e-cigarettes, with many reported cases involving marijuana. As Bloomberg reported, “a preliminary report of 53 patients with lung illnesses in Illinois and Wisconsin found that 84 percent had used a product containing THC.” It’s still too early to tell what’s causing these problems, but testing so far is pointing to marijuana products as the culprit for the most dire symptoms.
  • KYW NewsRadio (Philadelphia – CBS) shared more about the connection of marijuana and vaping in their recent interview with Dr. Wilson Compton, Deputy Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. “More and more youth are reporting use of these butane hash oil or other marijuana vaping products than ever before.”
  • Boston University public health professor Michael Siegel puts it bluntly, “Don’t vape THC oils.”

There’s much we still do not know about marijuana. But we are seeing more and more reasons why any push to green-light the commercialization of marijuana through state legalization is both problematic and awful timing, especially with the recent health warnings.

Lt. Gov. Fetterman, are you listening?