As cannabis comes from the cannabis plant and is naturally occurring, many people are under the impression that it is safe to take, despite it being a Class B illegal drug here in the UK. The risk of cannabis addiction and other health problems mean it is likely to remain an illegal drug here, but in the US it is a different story. Many states have legalised cannabis, with more looking to follow.

More Dangerous Than Previously Thought

Studies have found that many Americans now believe cannabis to be harmless. They are of the opinion that taking it poses no health risks, but a report by scientists say the drug is actually more dangerous than previously thought.

An article published in the Lancet Psychiatry stated that the number of individuals in America who believe that smoking cannabis once or twice every week can pose a ‘great risk’ to health, decreased from a half to a third over the twelve-year period from 2012 to 2014.

However, Dr Wilson Compton from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, said, “If anything, science has shown an increasing risk that we weren’t as aware of years ago.”

Completely Harmless

Other studies and research have shown a link between cannabis and mental impairment, and certain people with specific genes could be at risk of developing psychosis from early or heavy use of the drug, according to Dr Compton.

With dozens of states allowing the use of medical marijuana, and another four that have legalised the drug completely, there has been a relaxed attitude towards cannabis in the United States. In fact, a government survey has found that the number of people using the drug has increased from ten per cent to thirteen per cent.

Many individuals are now of the opinion that cannabis is completely harmless, according to Professor Roger A. Roffman, emeritus professor at the University of Washington, School of Social Work. He added, “The drum is beating and has been now for a number of years to remove criminal penalties for possession and make it legal to be grown and sold to adults. With that movement comes some claims that marijuana is not dangerous enough to justify there being severe criminal penalties. For many people who hear these claims, the message translates to them that ‘there is nothing to worry about’.”

Potential for Harm

Just as more and more Americans are developing a relaxed attitude towards cannabis, research is showing that it has a greater potential for harm than many actually realised. Dr Patrick Fehling, from the University of Colorado Hospital Centre for Dependency Addiction and Rehabilitation, said, “There is a very big difference between recreational use and ‘addictional’ use.”

A new report in the US into the use of cannabis from 2002 to 2014 found that the number of cannabis users had increased to around thirty million and that one in every eight adults admitted to using the drug in the past year. This is up from one in ten adults. The number of people using the drug every day has doubled to around 8.4 million people. The report found that changes in perception towards the drug and the use of it began to increase during 2006 to 2007.

Nevertheless, there was no increase in the number of cannabis disorders such as difficulty concentrating, impaired memory, and withdrawal symptoms such as depression, insomnia and cravings, which, according to Wayne Hall, an Australian researcher, is surprising, considering that the potency of cannabis has increased in recent years.

Hall said that an increased use of the drug should mean a higher number of cannabis related disorders, and he pointed out that a different survey did indeed find an increase. Dr Compton agreed, and said, “I agree that this is a puzzle, and needs to be researched further.”

He added that the relaxed laws in certain states regarding the sale of the drug could lead to increased use and an increased report of related disorders such as cannabis addiction.

Although there have been reports of teen cannabis use falling in the last two decades, many experts believe that now the drug is going to be easier to get and the fact that teenagers are less likely to find themselves in trouble with the law, might mean an increase in the numbers using cannabis.

Dangers of Cannabis Use

Although many individuals still believe that cannabis is harmless, some are struggling with cannabis addiction and related health problems such as depression, anxiety, paranoia, hallucinations, and delusions. There has been a direct link between cannabis and psychosis, with some experts saying that a quarter of all new psychosis diagnoses are cannabis-related.

Cannabis addiction is a very real illness, with many people becoming dependent on the drug and experiencing cravings for it when they are not using it. Some find it difficult to stay off the drug while others are unable to control their use.


  1. More Americans now think marijuana is harmless than ever before – at the same time as scientists grow more aware of the dangers it poses (Daily Mail)