Michigan Marijuana Legalization: Effects on Cannabis Use on Mental Health

In November 2012, marijuana legalization initiatives for recreational use under state law were approved in Colorado and Washington. Nine additional states—Alaska, Oregon, California, Nevada, Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, Michigan, and Illinois—plus the District of Columbia have since followed suit, either by ballot initiatives or legislative action. Voters in four additional states—New Jersey, South Dakota, Arizona, and Montana—approved state ballot measures that would have legalized marijuana for recreational use in the upcoming election in November 2020.

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Various arguments are made in favor of and against the legalization of marijuana at the state level. Advocates contend that legalizing marijuana lowers crime, generates tax revenue, decreases spending on the criminal justice system, enhances public health, boosts traffic safety, and boosts the economy. Critics contend that legalization encourages the use of marijuana and other drugs and alcohol, boosts crime, reduces traffic safety, endangers the public’s health, and reduces young academic attainment.

There is a need to assess the possible effects of this policy change on vulnerable populations, such as individuals with mental illnesses, including schizophrenia, and mood and anxiety disorders, given the growing movement to legalise cannabis in Western countries.

This is crucial since these people have tremendous motivations to seek out immediate gratification (like “getting high”). However, there is little evidence to back up the positive effects of cannabis usage in psychiatric populations, and mounting evidence points to possible risks for patients with psychosis and mood disorders.

Is Cannabis Effects Your Mental Health?

According to Ross, understanding how cannabis usage affects physical health is crucial for public health because the literature to date has produced contradictory findings. “The rise in adult cannabis use has been linked to changes in the legalization of cannabis use across the United States.” The effects of cannabis use on physical health are still unclear, though.

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Cannabis use can affect one’s chances of developing or aggravating a mental disorder. The development of a psychotic condition, linked to early and persistent use in children and young people, is the strongest indicator of risk.

Anxiety, suicidal thoughts, psychotic or attenuated psychotic symptoms, and other mental health adverse events associated with cannabis can lead to presentations to the emergency department (ED) or emergency medical services (EMS) and can account for 25–30% of all cannabis-related ED visits.

Up to 50% of patients who report to the ED with psychotic symptoms related to cannabis and need hospitalization will later develop schizophrenia.  Although it has been widely accepted in popular culture for years that cannabis use is not more dangerous than alcohol use, this does not necessarily appear to be the case for everyone.

It is clear that information mobilization has to incorporate these ED presentations as another facet of possibly detrimental effects.

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In the absence of a firm understanding of the risk factors for mental health adverse events associated with cannabis use, it can be useful to examine the characteristics of new presentations of mental disease in emergency departments (ED) and early intervention services for mental illness. Numerous lines of research point to the therapeutic potential of cannabis use in psychiatric populations as well as its negative effects.

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