The Hidden Dangers of Medical Marijuana

Bottle of medical marijuana

Is medical marijuana safe?

Marijuana is included in the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Schedule I group of drugs. As such, it is legally categorized as being one of the most dangerous drugs, with the highest potential for addiction and with no accepted medical use. Not even cocaine is included in Schedule I. Is marijuana really so dangerous that it deserves to be listed as a Schedule I controlled substance? That question is the subject of an intense debate across the United States, one which has proceeded to the ballot box in many states.

Opponents of the DEA’s view that marijuana is among the most dangerous drugs available are gaining steam in their fight to have the drug legalized. The fact that Washington and Colorado passed laws to legalize marijuana last year made major headlines in the news, but in truth, they were only the two states that have traveled the furthest down a path that many others are also moving along. Several other states, including California, Nevada, Oregon, Nebraska, Minnesota, Mississippi, Ohio, North Carolina, New York, Maine, Vermont, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, have decriminalized marijuana.

Decriminalization means that an adult caught with a small amount of the drug will not be arrested but instead will be given a citation, similar to a traffic ticket. Many of these states have legalized medical marijuana, as have Arizona, New Mexico, Montana, Illinois, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey and Delaware. If the voters of so many states have chosen to make medical marijuana legal, you might be justified to think that the drug is safe for use. Supporters of medical marijuana point to claims that the drug can prove to be beneficial to patients in a number of different ways, including, but not limited to:

  • Pain relief
  • Reducing nausea felt by cancer patients during chemotherapy so that they can eat
  • Relief of glaucoma by reducing the intra-ocular pressure in the eye
  • Treating insomnia
  • Reducing spasticity

Certainly, many patients who use marijuana for medicinal purposes do report feeling relief from their symptoms, but this does not mean that the drug is safe. In fact, only 1-2 out of every 500 doctors say that they will recommend that a patient should use medical marijuana, according to a representative from the online database Most of the others simply do not consider that the benefits outweigh the risks.

Medical Marijuana Can Be Addictive

One of the major risks associated with medical marijuana—one which advocates will not likely mention when trying to sell you on the idea—is the fact that today’s pot is not the same as what they were smoking in the 1960s. The War on Drugs has made it necessary for growers, dealers, and users to get more bang for their buck by breeding the plants for the purpose of making them more potent so that a person can get high with a smaller amount of the drug. Consequently, cannabis is now as much as 20 times more potent than it previously was. The medicinal benefits of marijuana are associated with compounds known as cannabinoids, of which there are around 80 present in marijuana. The most well-known of these is tetrahydrocannabinol, more frequently referred to as THC, the chemical responsible for getting pot smokers high.

Cultivation of marijuana over the years has steadily increased the amount of THC all out of proportion to the other cannabinoids, so that the drug is now far more powerful in terms of getting a user high, while many of the other cannabinoids that contribute to the medicinal properties of the drug are less prominent. Consequently, marijuana is increasingly addictive. People who smoke marijuana can become physically addicted as well as forming an emotional dependence as they gradually become more and more prone to use the drug as a way to find relief from stress. Medical marijuana can be addictive just as much as pot smoked for purely recreational purposes.

Even Legal Medical Marijuana Can Still Get You Arrested

Another major issue to consider on the topic of medical marijuana is the fact that using it can still get you in trouble with the law. For one thing, marijuana is not recognized for medicinal use under federal law, so you could still be arrested and convicted for a drug crime if you were caught by federal law enforcement. The same is true if you transported the drug across state lines into a state where medical marijuana has not been legalized. Even in states where it is legal, a user can still be arrested under several different circumstances. You might get caught possessing more than the allowed amount. You could be discovered to be growing more plants than are permitted. You could even be arrested for driving under the influence and see your driver’s license suspended. These are only a few of the risks associated with medical marijuana. Supporters of legalization tend to argue that there is nothing wrong with cannabis and that the current legal situation is unjust, but there is far more to the picture.


Sue Birkenshaw

Sue has worked in the addiction field with the Narconon network for three decades. She has developed and administered drug prevention programs worldwide and worked with numerous drug rehabilitation centers over the years. Sue is also a fine artist and painter, who enjoys traveling the world which continues to provide unlimited inspiration for her work. You can follow Sue on Twitter, or connect with her on LinkedIn.