Months before California allows the sale of marijuana for recreational use, the state has launched an education campaign about the drug, including highlighting the potential harms of cannabis for minors and pregnant women.
The state is scheduled to issue licenses starting Jan. 2 for growing and selling marijuana for recreational use, expanding a program that currently allows cannabis use for medical purposes.
In response, the California Department of Public Health has created a website to educate Californians about the drug and its impacts, including how to purchase and safely store cannabis. “We are committed to providing Californians with science-based information to ensure safe and informed choices,” said State Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Smith. The website, “Let’s Talk Cannabis,” notes it is illegal for people under 21 to buy marijuana for non-medical use and warns that “using cannabis regularly in your teens and early 20’s may lead to physical changes in your brain.”
The site also warns that marijuana edibles may have higher concentrations of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. “If you eat too much, too fast you are at higher risk for poisoning,” the website warns. The state urges parents and guardians to talk to their teenagers about legal and health issues surrounding marijuana use. The state officials also say consuming cannabis is not recommended for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, or who plan to become pregnant soon, noting that it “can affect the health of your baby.”
The website got good marks from legalization activist Ellen Komp, deputy director of California’s chapter of National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. The website is “fairly accurate,” she said, but added, “The risks with pregnancy are somewhat overstated, telling women they should not use cannabis for nausea or even if they are thinking of getting pregnant.”
Some 43% of Californians have used marijuana for recreational purposes and 54% said they have not, according to a USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll last November. Among those who have not used it, just 2% said they are much more likely to use it if Proposition 64 passed, which it did, while 5% said they are somewhat more likely to use it, and 89% said they are no more likely to smoke pot if it was legalized.
Other advice from the state’s site: driving under the influence of cannabis is illegal and increases the chance of a car accident, and cannabis should be stored in a locked area to avoid poisoning children and pets.