More than 20 doctors have sounded the alarm on Ireland’s march toward marijuana legalization, lamenting what they called a “one-sided discussion about cannabis.”
The group of doctors, calling themselves the “Cannabis Risk Alliance,” voiced their concerns in a letter published Monday in the Irish Times; the signatories include Dr. Ray Walley, the former president of the Irish Medical Organisation.
“We are extremely concerned about the increasing health-related problems caused by cannabis across Ireland,” they wrote, citing “growing scientific data that indicates that cannabis use in young people is related to impairments to memory and thinking, which can endure long after cannabis use has ceased.”
Moreover, they wrote that cannabis use, particularly among young people, “is associated with increased risk of development of severe mental disorders particularly psychosis.”
Such warnings represent an increasingly fringe sentiment these days, with public polling around the world showing growing acceptance of recreational pot use and rising opposition to laws criminalizing the drug. In both the United States and Europe, efforts to roll back marijuana prohibition have been gaining steam.
The members of the Cannabis Risk Alliance acknowledged that the discussion surrounding cannabis use was driven by two separate concerns — “the argument in favour of legalising cannabis for medicinal use” and “the argument criticising the use of criminal sanctions to deter people from using cannabis.”
“Most of the people taking part in these discussions are sincere and well-intentioned,” they wrote in the letter. “However, as doctors, we are concerned that Ireland is being led down the path of cannabis legalisation. We are opposed to such a move as we strongly feel that it would be bad for Ireland, especially for the mental and physical health of our young people.”
Recreational marijuana use remains illegal in Ireland, but medicinal pot is available to select patients in the country. The Irish government is set to consider proposals to regular medical marijuana there, and an Irish supplier is expected to be made available imminently, both of which will broaden its access in the country. In February, the European Union overwhelmingly passed a resolution urging its members to remove barriers to medical marijuana.
But in their letter to the Irish Times, the Cannabis Risk Alliance raised an ominous warning about such efforts.
“While there is limited evidence that some products containing cannabinoids have medical benefit in a very small number of conditions, this has, in our view, been grossly distorted to imply that the cannabis plant in its entirety can be considered a ‘medicine,’” the doctors wrote. “Decriminalisation and “medical cannabis” campaigns have proven to be effective “Trojan horse” strategies on the road to full legalisation and commercialisation elsewhere such as the United States and Canada.”
Although attitudes surrounding marijuana have shifted dramatically this century, as many longstanding arguments against its use have shriveled under scrutiny, there remains a dearth of credible research on cannabis. That gap is what inspired Charles R. Broderick to make a $9 million donation to both Harvard and MIT last month to, as he put it, “fill the research void that currently exists in the science of cannabis.”
In that same vein, the members of the Cannabis Risk Alliance are “calling for an urgent and unbiased examination of the evidence about cannabis use and cannabis-related health harms in Ireland and a comprehensive public education campaign.”