Lib­er­als pay lit­tle heed to cannabis health fears

Standard-Freeholder (Cornwall) - - OPINION - NAOMI LAKRITZ

Last week, the fed­eral govern­ment an­nounced a pro­posal to put health warn­ings on ev­ery sin­gle cig­a­rette in a pack­age. Mean­while, it was full speed ahead on le­gal­ized pot, de­spite the fact that to­bacco smoke and mar­i­juana smoke both have ap­prox­i­mately 400 car­cino­gens. Why the dis­crep­ancy in con­cern?

Health Canada would like to re­duce rates of cig­a­rette smok­ing to below five per cent by 2035. Health Canada es­ti­mates 45,000 Cana­di­ans a year die from causes re­lated to cig­a­rette smok­ing. But no­body seems con­cerned about the thou­sands of Cana­di­ans who are likely to de­velop ill­nesses from in­hal­ing pot smoke, with the ac­com­pa­ny­ing in­evitable costs to the health-care sys­tem.

Those costs will in­clude not just res­pi­ra­tory dis­eases, but also schizophre­nia, which has been linked with mar­i­juana use in youth. It will also in­clude the treat­ment of stroke pa­tients, as re­searchers now say heavy use of mar­i­juana is tied to an in­creased risk of stroke. That in­cludes younger peo­ple, but ag­ing baby boomers who are cel­e­brat­ing le­gal­iza­tion with a re­turn to in­dulging are also prime can­di­dates.

Last year, the Euro­pean Jour­nal of Pre­ven­tive Car­di­ol­ogy re­ported pot users had a three-fold greater risk of death from hy­per­ten­sion, which in­cludes such things as kid­ney dam­age, than non-users.

The Euro­pean So­ci­ety of Car­di­ol­ogy quoted re­searcher Bar­bara Yankey, of Ge­or­gia State Univer­sity’s School of Pub­lic Health in At­lanta, as say­ing, “mar­i­juana is known to have a num­ber of ef­fects on the car­dio­vas­cu­lar sys­tem. Mar­i­juana stim­u­lates the sym­pa­thetic ner­vous sys­tem, lead­ing to in­creases in heart rate, blood pres­sure and oxy­gen de­mand. Emer­gency rooms have re­ported cases of angina and heart at­tacks after mar­i­juana use.

“We found higher es­ti­mated car­dio­vas­cu­lar risks associated with mar­i­juana use than cig­a­rette smok­ing. This in­di­cates that mar­i­juana use may carry even heav­ier con­se­quences on the car­dio­vas­cu­lar sys­tem than that al­ready es­tab­lished for cig­a­rette smok­ing.

“Need­less to say, the detri­men­tal ef­fects of mar­i­juana on brain func­tion far ex­ceed that of cig­a­rette smok­ing.”

That’s why em­ploy­ers don’t care if you smoked to­bacco re­cently, but they do care if you smoked pot.

The Jour­nal of Car­dio­vas­cu­lar Medicine re­cently re­ported a dif­fer­ent study that linked pot use to a higher risk of stroke and heart fail­ure. Two years ago, the Jour­nal of Alzheimer’s Dis­ease pub­lished the re­sults of a study that showed smok­ing pot could heighten a per­son’s risk for Alzheimer’s be­cause “the drug se­verely re­duces blood flow in an area of the brain af­fected by the ill­ness.”

Med­i­cal News To­day said this re­search found mar­i­juana “re­duced blood flow in nearly all ar­eas of the brain,” but “the hip­pocam­pus saw the largest re­duc­tion in blood flow with mar­i­juana use.” Alzheimer’s strikes the hip­pocam­pus — con­nected with mem­ory and learn­ing — first.

In spite of this grow­ing body of ev­i­dence, Health Canada lists the longterm risks of mar­i­juana use only as “bron­chi­tis, lung in­fec­tions, chronic cough (and) in­creased mu­cus buildup in the chest.”

It will only be after years of stud­ies con­nect­ing mar­i­juana to this, that or the other fa­tal or chronic ill­ness and years of mount­ing costs to the health­care sys­tem that a light bulb will go on in some­one’s head some­where. Only then will cam­paigns be­gin to make mar­i­juana use as so­cially un­ac­cept­able as cig­a­rettes.

The light bulb should have lit up long be­fore le­gal­iza­tion. It’s only com­mon sense that when you in­hale par­tic­u­lates — whether from to­bacco, mar­i­juana or your neigh­bour’s firepit — you will even­tu­ally pay the con­se­quences.

Justin Trudeau, what were you think­ing? Naomi Lakritz is a Cal­gary jour­nal­ist.

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