Nationwide, more states are voting to allow recreational cannabis | Commentary

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, marijuana has a strange lure over America.

Consider these examples just over the past couple of months:

— At the federal level, for the first time, the Democrat-controlled House approved a bill to decriminalize and tax marijuana. The bill would remove marijuana, or cannabis, from the list of federally controlled substances while allowing states to set their own rules on pot. The bill also would provide for the expungement of federal marijuana convictions and arrests.

— At the state level, four states voted to allow recreational cannabis this year — including neighboring South Dakota, where voters approved separate proposals to legalize both medical and recreational marijuana. Here in Nebraska, that’s prompted a renewed push to draft a constitutional ballot initiative to legalize cannabis for adult use. Officials with Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana said the group would be introducing ballot language in January for “full adult use” of marijuana, including medical and recreational use.

— And at the local level, officials in San Francisco have banned all tobacco smoking inside apartments, citing concerns about secondhand smoke. But such concerns don’t apply to marijuana as supervisors voted to exclude marijuana. Cannabis activists said the law would take away their only legal place to smoke, as it’s illegal under state law to smoke cannabis in public places.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smoked marijuana has many of the same cancer-causing substances as smoked tobacco, but there are still a lot of unanswered questions around secondhand marijuana smoke exposure and its impact.

That’s why San Francisco’s decision to allow marijuana use — while outlawing all tobacco smoking inside apartments — is such a head-scratcher.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the known health risks of secondhand exposure to cigarette smoke raise questions about whether secondhand exposure to marijuana smoke poses similar health risks. At this point, little research on this question has been conducted.

Among nearly 4,000 young adults in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults study tracked over a 25-year period until mid-adulthood, cumulative lifetime exposure to marijuana was associated with lower scores on a test of verbal memory but did not affect other cognitive abilities such as processing speed or executive function.

With these unanswered questions, this isn’t the right time for our country to go to pot.

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