Liberals pay little heed to cannabis health fears
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.