California may require labels on potted plants to warn of mental health risks

Liz Kirkaldi says her grandson’s use of marijuana led to his diagnosis of schizophrenia. She says she is skeptical that labels will work: “But if it helps even one person? Great.”

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Liz Kirkaldi says her grandson’s use of marijuana led to his diagnosis of schizophrenia. She says she is skeptical that labels will work: “But if it helps even one person? Great.”

Beth Laberge / KQED

Liz Kirkaldie’s grandson was the best in his class in high school and a talented jazz bassist when he started smoking a pot. The more serious he was about music, the more serious he became about the pot.

And the more serious he became about the pot, the more paranoid, even psychotic he became. He began to hear voices.

“They were going to kill him and there were people coming to eat his brain. Strange, strange things, “says Kirkaldi. “I woke up one morning and Corey was nowhere to be found. It turned out that he ran on Villa Lane here completely naked.

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Corey came to live with her grandmother for a few years in Napa, California. She thought maybe she could help. Now she says it was naive.

Corey was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Kirkaldi blames the pot.

“Drug use activates psychosis, I really think,” she said.

Really, a lot of research have linked marijuana use to an increased risk of developing psychiatric disorders, including schizophrenia. The risk is more than four times larger for people who use high-performance marijuana on a daily basis, compared to those who have never used it, according to of research published in Lancet psychiatry in 2019. A study found that eliminating marijuana use in adolescents will reduce global levels of schizophrenia with 10%.

Doctors and lawmakers in California want cannabis manufacturers to warn consumers about this and other health risks on the labels of their packaging and in advertising, similar to the requirements for cigarettes. They also want vendors to distribute health brochures to customers for the first time, outlining the risks that cannabis poses to young people, drivers and pregnant women, especially to a pot that has high concentrations of THC, the chemical primarily responsible. about the mental effects of marijuana.

“Today’s turbocharged products charge the turbo damage to cannabis,” he said. Lynn Silver s Institute of Public Healtha non-profit organization sponsoring the proposed labeling legislation, SB 1097The law on the right of cannabis to know.

Californians voted to legalize recreational pots in 2016. Three years later, emergency room visits for cannabis-induced psychosis rose 54 percent nationwide, from 682 to 1,053, according to state hospitals. For people who already have a psychotic disorder, cannabis makes things worse – it leads to more emergency room visits, more hospitalizations and more legal issues, he said. Dr. Deepak Cyril D’SouzaProfessor of Psychiatry at Yale University School of Medicine, who also serves at advisory council of doctors for the Medical Marijuana Program in Connecticut.

But D’Susa faces great difficulty in convincing his patients of the dangers, especially 19 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for entertainment.

“Both my patients with schizophrenia and adolescents hear many conflicting reports that this is legal; in fact, there may be medical applications for it, ”he says. “If there are medical applications, how can we say that there is something wrong with that?”

Legalization is not a problem, he says, but rather the commercialization of cannabis – the heavy marketing that can be aimed at attracting young people to become customers for life, and increase in THC from 4% on average to between 20% and 35% in today’s varieties.

Limiting the amount of THC in potted products and including health warnings on labels can help reduce the health damage associated with cannabis use, D’Souza said, in the same way that these methods work for cigarettes. He attributes warning labels, educational campaigns and marketing restrictions to the sharp decline smoking rate among children and teenagers in the last decade.

“We know how to send them messages,” D’Souza said. “But I don’t think we still have the will or the resources.”

Some states, including Colorado, Oregon and New York, are working on cannabis warning label requirements. The proposed rules in California are modeled on comprehensive protocols established in Canada: rotating health warnings will be placed on a bright yellow background, a 12-point black font will be used, and they will occupy one-third of the front of the package. The bill proposes a language for 10 different warnings, including:

The proposed rules in California are modeled on comprehensive protocols established in Canada: rotating health warnings will be placed on a bright yellow background, a 12-point black font will be used, and they will occupy one-third of the front of the package.
The proposed rules in California are modeled on comprehensive protocols established in Canada: rotating health warnings will be placed on a bright yellow background, a 12-point black font will be used, and they will occupy one-third of the front of the package.

Opponents of the proposed warning labels say the requirements are excessive and expensive, especially since children’s marketing is already banned in California and people must be 21 to buy.

“This bill has indeed been duplicated and places unnecessary burdens on the legal cannabis industry, as we already have incredibly restrictive packaging and advertising requirements,” said Lindsay Robinson, CEO of California Cannabis Industry Associationwhich represents legal sweat businesses.

The state needs to focus more on fighting the illegal market than on further regulating the legal market, she said. Legal dispensaries are already struggling to deal with existing rules and taxes – they have generated 1,500 licensed retailers in the country $ 1.3 billion in state tax revenue last year. Adding more requirements only makes them harder to compete with the illegal market, she says, and more likely to go out of business.

“The only real option if they fail to get out of the legal system is to shut down their business completely or work underground. And I don’t think the state of California with tax revenue wants either to happen,” she said. “The heart of the matter is that there is a huge, unregulated market in the country.”

Liz Kirkaldi holds a photo of her grandson Corey as a child. He started smoking potty in high school and developed schizophrenia.

Beth Laberge / KQED


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Liz Kirkaldi holds a photo of her grandson Corey as a child. He started smoking potty in high school and developed schizophrenia.

Beth Laberge / KQED

Some people are skeptical that labels will work. Liz Kirkaldi’s grandson, Corey, is now stable, living with his father. But she’s not sure a yellow warning would have stopped him when he was a teenager.

“They just won’t pay attention,” she said. “But if it helps even one person? Great.”

Scientists still don’t know what causes schizophrenia, but they believe there are many factors at play, including genetics, family history, trauma and other environmental influences, such as smoking a potty. Some scientists believe that this is the very presence of schizophrenia predisposes people to smoking. Although it is difficult to prove a direct causal link between cannabis use and schizophrenia, the associations are strong enough to impose action, D’Souza said, and importantly, potty use is one of the only risk factors that people can control.

“Not everyone who smokes cigarettes has developed lung cancer, and not everyone who has lung cancer has smoked cigarettes,” he said. “But I think we will all agree that one of the most preventable causes of lung cancer is cigarette smoking.

Applying the same health education strategies to cannabis that were used for tobacco, he says, is long overdue.

This story comes from NPR’s reporting partnership with KQED and Kaiser Health News (KHN).

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