N.H. should not commercialize marijuana
There is growing evidence that people with serious mental illness, including depression and schizophrenia, are more likely to use cannabis or have used it for long periods of time in the past. Regular use of the drug has appeared to double the risk of developing a psychotic episode or long-term schizophrenia. Over the past few years, research strongly suggests that there is a clear link between early cannabis use and later mental health problems in those with a genetic vulnerability, and that there is a particular issue with the use of cannabis by adolescents.
Young people’s brains are still being developed through their mid-20s. Use of cannabis during that time has been linked to health problems later in life, including mental health disorders.
Commercializing marijuana would allow a new large industry to enter our state and market marijuana to Granite State residents.
Legalizing marijuana is bound to make it easier for New Hampshire’s young people to get their hands on the drug, which, as stated, can be harmful to young and developing brains. Those who are struggling with an undiagnosed mental illness may already be even more likely to use it than other people their age.
In other states that have legalized marijuana, such as Massachusetts, organizations who support those with mental illness, like the National Alliance on Mental Illness, have come out against the legalization of recreational marijuana because of the detrimental effects of marijuana use on those with mental illness and those predisposed to mental illness.
Organizations also have noted the alarming relationship between cannabis use and psychotic disorders, especially schizophrenia. A recent study in Israel found the effects of marijuana seem to be stronger in individuals who already are at risk, such as people with a family history of psychotic disorders or those who have experienced childhood abuse.
It is important to us that, as a state, we have important conversations around mental health, reducing stigma and that we support our friends and family who are struggling with mental illness.
It is particularly important to discuss the incredibly high rate of people suffering from both a substance use disorder and mental illness at the same time. Legalizing marijuana would threaten to increase this number.
In our view, the recreational use of any psychoactive drug is not conducive to overall health. In people who already are vulnerable due to mental illness, the risks of such use are greatly magnified. The New Hampshire Community Behavioral Health Association opposes the commercialization of marijuana.
Peter Evers is president of the New Hampshire Community Behavioral Health Association and CEO of Riverbend Community Mental Health Inc. in Concord.