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It's 'Weed Science': Here's a Blueprint for Safe Marijuana Use

August 30, 2021

With legalization of recreational marijuana in Connecticut, lawmakers, healthcare providers and citizens should look toward rules that guide its safe use. Dr. Godfrey Pearlson, director of the Olin Neuropsychiatry Research Center at the Institute of Living, investigated marijuana use, its side effects, legal ramifications, impact on driving and other related issues for much of his career and, in 2020, published "Weed Science: Cannabis Controversies and Challenges," a popular science book. The book outlines a variety of harm minimization steps Dr. Pearlson believes are needed with legalization of the drug. “My biggest concern . . . is that potent extracts with attractive flavorings aimed at teens (will be) marketed for use in small, pocket-sized, inconspicuous e-cigarettes, ostensibly to adult consumers,” he said. “These products then rapidly disseminate into an enormous teen marketplace, where use multiplies quickly with short- and long-term adverse health consequences.” Harm reduction measures outlined in "Weed Science" include:

  • Setting age limits on cannabis sales, with significant penalties for underage sales. Although neurobiology dictates the best age is 25, he said 21 would be more practical.
  • Limiting drug potency, although he added it could inadvertently encourage an illicit market for high-potency substances.
  • Reducing cannabis consumption rates by limiting the amount of product sold to individuals during a single sale, restricting sale locations and limit advertising.
  • Ensuring product uniformity and safety with national standards and quality testing.
  • Pricing product appropriately. Adding too much tax will drive consumers back to unregulated illegal suppliers.
  • Teaching youth facts about use, especially those at high-risk for psychosis based on family history.
  • Reducing marijuana-impaired driving with evolving technology and public safety advertisements.
  • Change drug laws and policies, incorporating restorative justice elements.
  • Testing for acute performance-impairing effects of drugs in the workplace to prevent injuries due to cognitive impairment. Portable test devices can establish cognitive baselines.