Story at a glance
- Marijuana use has been linked with mental health conditions among teens and adolescents.
- Currently, products do not need to include mental health warnings on their labels.
- A bill in California aims to require warnings in an effort to better protect users.
As more states across the country legalize recreational marijuana, some doctors and lawmakers are raising alarms about the risks of certain mental health conditions associated with the product’s use.
In California, Senate Bill 1097, the Cannabis Right to Know Act, would mandate mental health warnings be included on existing cannabis labels, similar to the health risks currently seen on tobacco products. Under the bill, an assessment of the labels’ efficacy would be conducted every five years.
Similar measures have been proposed in Oregon, Colorado and New York.
Although cannabis use has been linked with the development of mental health disorders like schizophrenia, it is unclear to what extent the substance actually causes conditions. According to the National Institutes of Health, “the strongest evidence to date concerns links between marijuana use and psychiatric disorders in those with a preexisting genetic or other vulnerability.”
After California legalized recreational marijuana in 2016, emergency department visits and hospital admissions related to cannabis use increased by 89 percent by 2019.
But frequency of ingestion, potency of the substance and the age at which individuals consume cannabis can all factor into risk profiles.
Severe cannabis use disorder is more common among adolescent users than adult users, and is more common among those with poor mental health. Frequent use of high potency marijuana has also been linked to poor memory, psychosis, and suicidal ideation.
One study published in the journal Molecular Psychology found global rates of schizophrenia could decrease by nearly 10 percent if adolescents did not use marijuana.
Advocates are also pushing for dispensaries to distribute information to first-time users warning of the heightened risks posed by high concentrations of THC. Efforts would also target those at a greater risk of adverse effects like drivers and pregnant individuals.
Convincing patients that a legal substance can be dangerous is challenging for some providers, and heavy marketing directed at youths compounds this hurdle. However, those opposed to the bill say it imposes unnecessary burdens on dispensaries, as advertising is already prohibited for children and the legal age to buy cannabis in California is 21.