U.S. marijuana legalization linked to mental illness surge, doctor warns

The movement to legalize recreational marijuana across the United States has been associated with a significant increase in mental health issues, suicides, and a heightened risk of psychosis, according to Dr. Kevin Sabet, a former White House drug policy adviser to Presidents Obama, Bush, and Clinton.

In a recent interview on "Sunday Night in America" with Fox News, Sabet expressed concern over the unintended consequences of widespread marijuana legalization, attributing the surge to profit-driven interests within the cannabis industry.

U.S. states have moved forward with recreational marijuana legalization, with at least 23 already having legalized it for adults, while others are likely to follow suit in the coming years. Washington and Colorado were the first states to approve recreational use in 2012, and New York followed suit in 2021.

Sabet pointed out that today's marijuana is substantially stronger than in the past, largely due to genetic breeding aimed at maximizing profitability.

He emphasized that the risk of developing psychosis and schizophrenia can increase up to fivefold with the use of today's marijuana. Additionally, marijuana use is linked to about a sixfold increase in the risk of suicide, contributing to an ongoing suicide epidemic in the country.

Internationally, several countries have also taken steps to legalize marijuana for medical or recreational purposes. In America, Canada, for instance, legalized recreational marijuana nationwide in October 2018, becoming the first G7 country to do so. Uruguay led the way by legalizing recreational marijuana in 2013.

Several European countries have decriminalized or legalized marijuana for medical use, with some even considering broader legalization. The Netherlands is known for its tolerant approach to marijuana, with "coffeeshops" selling small amounts for personal use. Spain, Portugal, and Germany have also decriminalized possession of small quantities for personal use.

In Asia, Israel has a well-established medical marijuana program, and Thailand became the first country in Southeast Asia to legalize medical marijuana in 2018. 

Despite these global developments, Sabet's warnings shed light on the concerning rise in mental health issues and other adverse consequences linked to the marijuana legalization movement in the U.S.

He said the push for legalization has been driven by profit motives, leading to stronger cannabis products with potential long-term effects on public health.

(Cover via CFP)

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