MASSACHUSETTS: The argument that marijuana is poised to become Big, as in Big Tobacco, begins more than a hundred years ago, argues Dr. Sharon Levy, a pediatrician at Boston Children’s Hospital.
Changes in curing made tobacco easier to inhale, additives made it more addictive and machines began to churn out inexpensive, readily available cigarettes. With these “innovations” and lots of market savvy ads, tobacco use and addiction rose dramatically.
“Is there anything to prevent innovative products with marijuana that will do the exact same thing?” asked Levy, who runs the adolescent substance abuse program at Children’s.
Levy described her concerns about Big Marijuana in the New England Journal of Medicine last month. She acknowledges that marijuana is nowhere near as harmful as is tobacco and that marijuana has some health benefits. But Levy worries that marijuana addiction rates, now around 9 percent of users, could climb to those seen among tobacco users (32 percent) without strict controls on growers and manufacturers. Growers are already producing strains of marijuana with stronger and stronger concentrations of THC, the ingredient that makes people high. It’s also the ingredient that seems to trigger depression, anxiety and sometimes psychosis in Levy’s adolescent patients.