As more jurisdictions across the planet are moving to legalize marijuana for medical and recreational purposes, it feels like a sensible move for the world’s leading health authority to publish the truth on the safety of the cannabis plant. And it has done just that… and in a big way. It was just last week that the World Health Organization (WHO) gathered in Switzerland to conduct a first-of-its-kind peer-review of the entire cannabis plant, not just specific compounds. Now, the agency’s Drug and Dependence Committee has published a new report, calling marijuana “a relatively safe drug” that causes no significant health issues, only “euphoria, laughter and talkativeness.”
Similar to the prohibitionary standard of the U.S. government, the World Health Organization has never really been a friend to marijuana. The agency still considers the herb a mostly dangerous substance in the same ranks as heroin. But if the latest review has any clout, whatsoever, world health officials could be forced to change their position.
Not only is cannabis “safe,” according to the latest report, but also “it is not associated with acute fatal overdoses.”
Referencing a mega-study published last year by the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine, which found no evidence of fatal overdoses from pot, the agency admits that the cannabis plant is not likely to leave bodies in the wake of widespread consumption.
The review goes on to touch on the subject of cannabis and its impact on the cardiovascular system. There remains a lot of confusion about whether smoking marijuana is a detriment to cardiovascular health. While some evidence shows there is no significant risk that pot consumption leads to cardiovascular problems, this is not to say it doesn’t have some effect. WHO found that marijuana users are subject to a slightly higher blood pressure reading than non-users. Yet, the agency says this eases up over time.
“With repeated exposure, tolerance develops to these effects, and, in some instances, repeated cannabis exposure lowers blood pressure and heart rate beneath the baseline,” the report reads.
As far as concerns regarding marijuana causing heart attacks and stroke, WHO says the evidence pointing to this madness is “weak.” But if there are increased risks, it is from “smoking.” Other consumption methods do not appear to bring about any problems.
“When novel drug delivery modes other than smoking become more widely available (e.g. vaporization, sublingual or oral administration), associations between cannabis use and cardiovascular events may become less pronounced, or even absent,” according to the report.
In small amounts, “cannabis smoking acutely improves airway dynamics and forced expiratory capacity due to the bronchodilatory effects of Δ9-THC.” But this only if the user smokes no more than five joints per month. Higher rates of smoking can produce respiratory problems. Fortunately, more non-smoking consumption methods are becoming popular in the cannabis scene. Edibles are predicted to become the next big thing on the legal market, which is a good in the grand scheme of respiratory health, according to WHO officials.
“Increasing use of vaporizers and other non-smoking modes of delivery is likely to reduce respiratory complications,” the report says.
With respect to the decline in cognitive function that some anti-drug warriors often give as a reason for leaving weed in the underground, WHO could find “no association between cannabis use and reduced cognitive function. The health agency adds that this means “the effects of cannabis use on cognition were reversible,” not permanent.
The report goes on to cover a few other topics from mental health to driving under the influence. WHO admits driving stoned is less of a risk than driving drunk, and that “the relatively low risk may be due to cannabis users overestimating their level of impairment and recruiting strategies to compensate for the effects of cannabis on their driving performance.”
But overall, the only adverse reactions the cannabis plant has on humans are “euphoria, laughter and talkativeness,” the report reads.
“It is an appetite stimulant and may promote dry mouth and dizziness as well as increasing visual, olfactory and auditory perceptions,” WHO officials said. “Conjunctival reddening occurs, due to vasodilation of blood vessels in the eyes. Time perception may be altered and some users may experience anxiety and panic reactions.
Cannabis intoxication can impair attention and short-term memory function and can precipitate psychotic reactions in vulnerable individuals. The pharmacological effects of cannabis are subject to tolerance following repeated exposure and therefore many of the marked reactions observed in naive users are diminished in frequent users.”
This is not the first time WHO published a favorable report on cannabis. Last December, the agency said that cannabidiol, the non-intoxicating compound of the cannabis plant, “could have some therapeutic value for seizures due to epilepsy and related conditions.” It went on to say that this form of medical marijuana was not addictive, nor was it likely to be abused.
TELL US, do you think cannabis is safe?