A few weeks back, The Ellsworth American published an article about the relaxing of medical pot rules. It highlighted the push to increase access to another addictive drug in our state and across the nation. Although recreational use was approved by Maine voters in 2016 and legislation sponsored by New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker (D) to legalize marijuana nationwide, both are void of medical research.
There are compelling arguments that its sale will bring in tax dollars to be used for education and other social programs. However, the question remains, how much research has been done on the effects of secondhand marijuana smoke on children. We need to look beyond the projected tax revenue and promised economic boost and answer the questions about how its unintentional consequences will impact our children.
There is no doubt there are “responsible” adults out there who will consume legalized marijuana in such a manner as to not expose their children to the intoxicating affects of the drug as they would alcohol. Recent laws to ban smoking cigarettes in a car with children, though their intentions are good, are difficult to enforce. Then what about those parents who are less than responsible? What is happening to their children’s brains?
Dr. Claire McCarthy, a faculty editor for Harvard Health Publishing at the Harvard Medical School, stated in her blog of June of 2018 that education about the negative effects of secondhand tobacco smoke decreased significantly, but secondhand marijuana smoke is a new problem. She goes on to explain that not only do children experience getting high, there is the additional concern about long-term effects on the brains. The evidence from ongoing research suggest that when youth and young adults whose brains are still developing are exposed to marijuana, it may have permanent effects on executive function, memory and even IQ.
As legal use of marijuana grows more common, we need to create the same kinds of rules and laws we’ve created to protect people from secondhand tobacco smoke. Just because something is legal doesn’t mean it’s safe. And when we make choices that have risks, it’s not fair to impose those risks on other people — especially children, and especially when they could literally be harmed for the rest of their lives.