Surgeon General Releases Advisory on Marijuana’s Damaging Effects on the Developing Brain

HHSEncourages Youth and Pregnant Women Not to Use Marijuana

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Surgeon General Vice Adm. Jerome M. Adams, issued an advisory emphasizing the importance of protecting youth and pregnant women from the health risks of marijuana use.

Marijuana, or cannabis, is the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States. Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a component of marijuana, binds to receptors in the brain, producing euphoria and a variety of potentially harmful effects, including intoxication and memory and motor impairments. Newer strains of marijuana have also shown to be increasingly more potent, leading to other risks like anxiety, agitation, paranoia and psychosis.

“Marijuana is a dangerous drug, especially for young people and pregnant women,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar. “This historic Surgeon General’s advisory is focused on the risks marijuana poses for these populations, which have been well-established by scientific evidence. As indicated by President Trump’s generous donation of his salary to support this advisory, the Trump Administration is committed to fighting substance abuse of all kinds, and that means continuing research, education, and prevention efforts around the risks of marijuana use.”

Pregnant women use marijuana more than any other illicit drugs. It is also commonly used by adolescents. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s recently released 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) data showed that marijuana continues to be the most widely used illicit drug and that further, frequent marijuana use, in both youths (12-17 years old) and young adults, appears to be associated with risks for opioid use, heavy alcohol use and major depressive episodes. In 2017 alone, approximately 9.2 million youth aged 12 to 25 reported using marijuana in the past month and 29% more young adults aged 18 to 25 started using the substance.

“There is a false perception that marijuana is not as harmful as other drugs. I want to be very clear – no amount of marijuana use during pregnancy or adolescence is known to be safe,” said Surgeon General Adams.

Compounding concerns regarding marijuana use and the developing brain is the surge in products with a higher THC concentration, and their accessibility. The risks of physical dependence, addiction, and other negative consequences increase with exposure to high concentrations of THC, daily use, and the younger the age of initiation.

As the advisory notes, it is “… intended to raise awareness of the known and potential harms to developing brains, posed by the increasing availability of highly potent marijuana in multiple, concentrated forms. These harms are costly to individuals and to our society, impacting mental and physical health and educational achievement and raising the risks of addiction and misuse of other substances.”

Read the U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory: Marijuana Use and the Developing Brain.

Nominee For US Attorney General Will Not Take Action Against State-Sanctioned Marijuana Industry

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: The Trump administration’s nominee for US Attorney General, William Barr, during Senate testimony on Tuesday affirmed that he would not use the power of the Justice Department to target marijuana-related activity in jurisdictions where the plant is legally regulated.

In response to a question posed by Democratic Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, Barr said, “My approach … would not be to upset the settled expectations and the reliant interests that have arisen as a result of the Cole memorandum.” The 2013 Cole memo, which was rescinded by former US Attorney General Jeff Sessions, directed prosecutors not to interfere with state legalization efforts and those licensed to engage in the plant’s production and sale, provided that such persons do not engage in marijuana sales to minors or divert the product to states that have not legalized its use, among other guidelines.

Although Barr said that he personally opposed the increasing divide between state and federal marijuana laws, he acknowledged that he will not “go after companies that have relied on the Cole memorandum.”

“It is encouraging that William Barr pledged not to enforce federal marijuana prohibition against the majority of US states that have reformed their laws. With this commitment, Congress has a clear mandate to take action and end the underlying policy of federal criminalization,” said NORML Political Director Justin Strekal.

William Barr is awaiting confirmation by the the Senate Judiciary Committee.


For more information, contact Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director, at (202) 483-5500.