Opposition to the Legalization of Recreational Marijuana/Cannabis in CT
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There is a bill to legalize the recreational use of marijuana/cannabis in CT (HB 5314).
As mental health clinicians we should be aware of the implications of legalization on our work. Acutely, cannabis has a number of negative effects on cognition and behavior; this may be especially relevant to people with serious mental illness that we care for. For example, in people with psychotic disorders or bipolar disorder, cannabis may exacerbate symptoms and interact with psychotropic medications that our patients are taking. Furthermore, the regular and repeated use of cannabis is associated with negative consequences including, but not limited to, addiction/dependence, cognitive deficits, psychotic disorders and mood disorders. At least 10% of people who start using cannabis will become addicted to it and relevant to this, there are no good treatments for cannabis dependence. Caring for those people who become addicted to cannabis and for those people with serious mental illness whose conditions worsen with cannabis use will further burden our mental health system, families and society. Finally, there is accumulating evidence that states that have legalized recreational cannabis use are also the states that have the highest rates of adolescent cannabis use. We now know that the developing adolescent brain is more vulnerable to the effects of cannabis. Exposure to cannabis in adolescence is associated with a number of consequences including lower IQ, cognitive difficulties, worse academic performance etc. So, for the youth of CT - its future adult citizens - there are potential consequences to legalizing recreational cannabis use.
For those who believe in the medical benefits of cannabis, please note that CT already has a medical marijuana program. For those who are understandably concerned about unnecessary incarcerations, please note that cannabis was decriminalized in CT in 2010. For those who support legalization because it will help balance the state’s budget deficits, as stated by Andrew Freeman (Director of Marijuana Coordination for Colorado), it is a myth that legalization will lead to a windfall. Besides, do we really want to balance our budget with revenue from the sale of drugs? Furthermore, the costs to mental healthcare, and costs related to motor vehicle accidents may offset any additional revenue that the state earns.
So in summary, the risks of legalizing recreational cannabis outweigh the benefits. If you share these concerns, please consider signing this petition to 1) oppose the bill and 2) urge our legislators to carefully consider the scientific evidence and the potential mental health consequences of legalization before voting.
Please pass along this petition to other mental health clinicians who you think might be interested.
Deepak Cyril D’Souza, MD, MBBS
Professor of Psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine
Director Neuropsychiatry Firm, VA Connecticut Healthcare System
Director, Schizophrenia Neuropharmacology Research Group at Yale (SNRGY)
950 Campbell Avenue, West Haven, CT 06516
Phone: (203) 932-5711 x 2594
Fax: (203) 937-4860
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