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Legalizing Marijuana Has Not Eliminated Health Risks


Just the Facts, Know the Risks!

 By Jennifer Faringer, MS Ed, CPP-G, Director of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence – Rochester Area (NCADD-RA)

As marijuana dispensaries begin to open across New York state, some view this as a business opportunity. It’s important to have the facts and and know the potential health risks and impact on our communities, our families and our youth. Legal does not equal safe. Marijuana remains an addictive drug.

With the legalization of marijuana comes a corresponding decline in the perception of risk which has been shown to result in an increase in use, especially among youth. Marijuana is often the first drug teens try, but it is typically not the last!

  • While teens report using marijuana to cope with anxiety and depression, more and more studies are showing that using marijuana only worsens both.
  • Smoking or vaping marijuana damages lung tissue similar to tobacco use. Studies have also shown that marijuana decreases the body’s ability to fight infection thus weakening the immune system.
  • With the potency of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in marijuana increasing from one to four percent in the 1960s to now 20 percent to 90 percent (as found in concentrated forms), the risk increases.

The effects of marijuana when ingested are not felt as quickly as when smoked or vaped. For those ingesting edibles intentionally, this delayed reaction often leads to taking more to feel the expected effect and may result in effects ranging from drowsiness/lethargy to loss of muscle coordination, agitation/irritability, and confusion.

Edibles continue to be a growing concern as reports point to increasing instances of pediatric poisonings due to children accidentally ingesting marijuana-laced food products and candy which are often packaged in a way that can be indistinguishable from actual food products. With children under age 3, the impacts of pediatric poisoning are often critical and may include respiratory depression and seizures.


There is also a risk to public safety when we consider the probable increase in drugged driving. Driving while impaired is illegal no matter what substance is being consumed. In New York, it is illegal for both the driver and passengers to use marijuana. Individuals under the influence of marijuana may feel focused and in control, but are instead experiencing narrow fixation of focus, a decrease in peripheral vision and a slowed reaction time. After alcohol, marijuana is the most frequently identified drug in deadly crashes. Impaired or drugged driving jeopardizes the safety of all who travel on the roads and highways.

As marijuana potency increases, the risk of becoming addicted has also increased. It is no surprise that marijuana is often the number one reason teens seek treatment. Despite legalization, marijuana remains an addictive drug with health risks!

For more information and a wide range of resources for parents and the community, visit the NCADD-RA’s website at . To schedule a presentation contact Jennifer Faringer at

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