As a bill to commercialize marijuana is being moved swiftly through the Virginia legislature, the Virginia American Academy of Medical Ethics (AAME) is circulating a letter to lawmakers presenting the current state of the data on marijuana and urging them to slow the rush to legalize and commercialize the drug.
“As physicians and Virginia State Directors of the American Academy of Medical Ethics, we strongly agree with the American Medical Association (AMA) and do not support the legalization of marijuana in Virginia,” says the signers of the letter; Dr. James Avery and Dr. Thomas Eppes of the Virginia AAME. “As public servants elected by Virginia’s citizens, you have been entrusted to vote on legislation that will best serve them, their families, and community. Before voting proposed bills into law, you should understand the full implications of passed legislation on a community. If overlooked, the outcomes can be devastating, unintended or irreversible.”
The letter discusses the knowledge gap between “popular belief and scientific reality” when it comes to marijuana and lays out five key reasons why this particular moment is among the worst to consider such a policy change:
- According to Virginia’s Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee, setting up the commercial marijuana industry would cost Virginia between $8 million to $20 million upfront. With nearly 800,000 Virginians filing unemployment in just four months during the pandemic in 2020, this kind of tax spending is irresponsible.
- Virginia has had to cut funding for mental health, even as mental health issues and substance abuse are expected to rise as the pandemic continues. Marijuana is known to make users more susceptible to increased schizophrenia, psychosis, depression, and suicide.
- Marijuana use can contribute to respiratory complications such as bronchitis, making COVID-19 more dangerous for those who smoke marijuana.
- Marijuana legalization is known to cause increases in motor vehicle accidents and traffic fatalities, which would extract emergency medical resources away from COVID-19 victims.
- The socioeconomically disadvantaged were already at an increased risk for psychiatric disorders before the pandemic, and have been the most affected by it.