Health experts and broken-hearted family members along with former marijuana users themselves are all warning about the high potency of today's weed. The combination of a stronger product plus states legalizing the drug equals a dangerous situation. The highly concentrated marijuana is leading to greater levels of addiction and mental disorders.
Zach Plant starting using marijuana to ease the stress in his life, he told CBN News. At first he enjoyed getting high whenever he could.
"It just sounded like a great idea," he said, "I'd much rather be high than be sober."
Months later, Zach entered the hospital for cannabis-induced psychosis, a mental health disorder that can cause people to lose touch with reality, and experience hallucinations, delusions, and paranoia.
"I had thoughts of other people wanting to hurt me," Zach said, "Thoughts of the only way of being safe was to end my own life."
While Zach's symptoms didn't last, doctors warned him that if he used marijuana again he could risk going into psychosis and not ever coming out.
"Your brain may not recover," Zach recalled his doctors saying.
Higher THC Content
Up until about twenty years ago, most marijuana contained comparatively low levels of THC, the ingredient that makes users high, hovering around three percent. Now, that concentration can be ten times greater, 30-percent THC, and in some cases, much more than that.
"You can go to a gas station," Zach explained, "And you will find a vape pen that has, we call them carts, or dab pens, and it will have 50 times the potency of just smoking regular marijuana."
New research published in the medical journal Lancet Psychiatry show's today highly potent marijuana can be directly linked to a greater risk of mental illness and addiction.
Christine Miller, Ph.D., a neuroscientist specializing in psychosis, told CBN News the public should become better educated about the link between marijuana use and serious mental health impacts, including psychosis and suicide.
"Marijuana-induced psychosis and marijuana-induced schizophrenia is the single most well-replicated finding in schizophrenia research today," she said.
This super-strong weed is widely available on the streets as well as in cannabis dispensaries nationwide, sources that can both carry risks to the buyer.
"The legal pot shops are dedicated to selling very potent products," Dr. Miller explained, "The only caveat to that is the drugs on the street can have fentanyl laced-in, on occasion, which obviously can be fatal."
Making Marijuana Legal
So far 37 states have legalized medical marijuana and in 19 of those states, recreational use is also legal. All of these sales rake in billions of tax dollars for those state and local governments. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, (D-NY), U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden, (D-OR) introduced legislation in July to federally decriminalize marijuana and establish a federal cannabis tax.
"We are taking steps in the Senate to right the wrongs of the failed war on drugs," said Sen. Schumer.
However, many believe the U.S. needs to revive the war on drugs, now more than ever, including Aubree Adams, the Director of Every Brain Matters, an advocacy group supporting and educating families on the harmful effects of cannabis.
"Legalizing or promoting marijuana is not a solution. It's a nightmare," Adams told CBN News. "THC is the perfect drug to hijack our children's brains and embed the disease of addiction and mental illness and we have to stop this nightmare."
She speaks from personal experience.
"I've witnessed THC psychosis in my own son, and my husband was hearing voices after using 24% THC flour," she said.
The two used the amped-up weed after it became legal in their home state of Colorado, not knowing how powerful it had become.
"The THC content in marijuana is increasing on purpose," Adams said. "The legal marijuana industry has to addict their users. So the more potent the product, the more at risk they are of becoming addicted, just like the tobacco industry did."
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates one-third of today's marijuana users are addicted.
"Probably the majority who are using daily are addicted," said Dr. Miller "Because they're not just using once a day they're using several times a day."
Marijuana addiction interferes with normal life, as Zach Plant knows all too well.
"Can't get off work without doing it, can't go into work without doing it," he said.
Scientists say marijuana addiction can also hamper the development of children and young adults. Dr. Miller explained it can "interfere with developing careers and completing degrees and things like that."
It's been two years since Zach suffered from marijuana-induced psychosis, and he's doing great. He's glad to be off the drug and recommends other steer clear of it too.
"For me, it was detrimental," he said. "I don't think anyone can know if it will have that effect on them and so it's very risky to do."