I am writing to share why I believe legalizing marijuana, whether recreationally or medically, is not in the best interest of the patients we care for. It is important that voters understand the perspective of physicians.

The lack of FDA approval for marijuana to be used as a medication is of major concern. This isn’t addressed by the legalization activists who sought to put marijuana measures on the ballot. All prescribed medications should be subject to a rigorous approval process, which keeps the most advanced safety measures in mind and evaluates the benefits, risks and whether a drug provides a real health benefit. The proposals on the ballot circumvent the FDA process. Bringing an issue to the ballot is not an appropriate means to skip the proper process — a process that has worked for decades.

We already have an FDA approved drug derived from marijuana, which treats many of the conditions the proponents of marijuana legalization seek. Dronabinol has undergone rigorous testing and can be prescribed. There is no need for further legalization. ‘Medical marijuana’ isn’t a medicine, it is an attempt to sidestep the safety processes we rely on and that are working right now, in order to get smoked marijuana into the hands of the public.

Research shows marijuana can have negative impacts on the developing brains of our children. Under age 21 is a time when the brain is developing rapidly and is particularly vulnerable. Even if a drug is permitted, that doesn’t make it a safe product and unfortunately, if legalized, children may develop a mindset that it is safe.

Marijuana contains some 400 chemicals, many of which are known to increase the risks of cancer, lung damage, and poor pregnancy outcomes. Higher psychosis rates are seen in patients with predisposition to schizophrenia who use marijuana. Marijuana users are more likely to report symptoms of depression. The risks overwhelmingly outweigh the benefits, especially when we already have a properly-approved medicine available.

Reject marijuana legalization.

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