The legalization of marijuana is changing the fabric of American culture. Marijuana has gone from cottage industry to big business, and is the new darling of Wall Street. Whether this is good or bad is subject to endless debate around the dinner table, in statehouses and in Washington.

First here’s the good news.  The Indica strain of marijuana is rich in a chemical called Cannabidiol or CBD. CBD has recently been marketed as the first FDA approved Cannabis medication called Epidolex used to treat two rare forms of childhood epilepsy.  CBD also has medicinal value as a pain reliever, anti-inflammatory and anti- anxiety agent, and when combined with an opioid pain pill reduces the overall amount of opioid needed. This could change the way doctors treat pain.

Unlike opioid pain pills, CBD is not associated with tolerance or overdose, and there are no cases of death resulting directly from it.  The World Health Organization recently reported, “To date, there is no evidence of the recreational use of CBD or any public health-related problems associated with the use of pure CBD”.  It “does not induce physical dependence and was not associated with abuse potential.” In other words, CBD is not addictive.

The bad news is that the Sativa marijuana plant is high in a chemical called tetrahydrocannabinol or THC. This popular and widely used chemical acts in the brain to cause a high, is addictive and can be abused.   In susceptible individuals, those genetically more sensitive to it, or in high enough doses THC can cause a bad trip characterized by paranoia, mood changes and seizures.  Evidence is strongly suggesting that up to 50 % of marijuana users who have experienced severe bad THC trips will go on to develop Schizophrenia like disorders over their life time. This is especially dangerous for adolescents and young adults whose brains are still developing.

The ugly news is that is that state lawmakers do not understand the potential dangers of marijuana. Unlike legal alcoholic beverages that by law that can only be 50% or less, there are no legal limits on the amount of THC or for that matter any of the other 300-400 chemicals found in marijuana. Marijuana containing higher and higher concentrations of THC is being cultivated.  Almost pure THC products called budder, shatter, wax or honey are being made available through a process called “dabbing”.

Like with alcohol and tobacco, it may take decades before the full health consequences of marijuana legalization are known.  It is ironic that CBD may play a major role in controlling the Opioid Epidemic while THC may be the cause of a new and crippling public health crisis, the Marijuana Epidemic.

If you or someone you love is struggling with an addiction don’t wait to get help. We at Advanced Addiction Medicine and Psychiatry are here to help. Addiction is treatable and recovery is real. Please call us now.