Gov. Wolf continually points to “that virus”—coronavirus—to deflect blame for his shutdown orders. In doing so, he is claiming to have no choice in the policies he creates and, as he so often puts it, is just  “following the science.” But if he claims to be shackled to the policy demands of science on public health measures related to coronavirus, then he’s a hypocrite for ignoring the science on other public health measures, like marijuana.

After years of wavering on marijuana legalization, Wolf now says, “I’m with John Fetterman” on legalization. And he’s made it clear that his primary reasoning is tax revenue. But not only is it a pipedream to think legalization will answer budget shortfalls, it completely ignores the host of public health organizations that caution or oppose the move to full, recreational marijuana legalization because of its negative health consequences and  harmful impact on children and teens.

You might be asking yourself, “Harmful? Says who? Name your sources.” I’m glad you asked.

When State Representative Mary Jo Daley (D-Montgomery), a full marijuana legalization supporter, was discussing policy issues on children (unrelated to marijuana) during a Pennsylvania House Health committee debate, she identified four groups as “mainstream medical experts”: the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American Medical Association (AMA), the American Psychological Association, and the Endocrine Society.

What should alarm everyone — including Rep. Daley — is, apparently unbeknownst to her, all four of these organizations caution or outright oppose the legalization of marijuana for recreational use. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics, representing over 67,000 pediatricians, opposes the legalization of marijuana “because of the potential harms to children and adolescents.” Ironically, Gov. Wolf has previously highlighted AAP’s support of one of his COVID-19 mandates. Too bad there’s been no mention of AAP’s opposition to Wolf’s pursuit of marijuana at any of his press conferences. 

The American Medical Association, the largest association of physicians, is opposed to the legalization of marijuana, finding it as “a dangerous drug and as such is a serious public health concern.” As AMA President Dr. Patrice A. Harris puts it, “The AMA has urged legislatures to delay legalizing cannabis until further research is completed on the public health, medical, economic, and social consequences of its use.”

The American Psychological Association highlights several concerns with marijuana use, from risk to brain development in teens and young adults to the research gap resulting in a lack of current understanding of the full effects. 

The Endocrine Society published a study last year that suggests marijuana may impair fertility. “Female eggs exposed to THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, have an impaired ability to produce viable embryos, and are significantly less likely to result in a viable pregnancy.”

READ MORE — Kyle Sammin: Gov Wolf wants to legalize marijuana. He should fix PCLB first.

And these four sources aren’t the only mainstream health experts pointing to the health harms of marijuana and the push for full legalization. The National Academies of Sciences, the gold-standard for evidence-based research, found substantial evidence that marijuana use is linked to problems such as increased risks of motor vehicle accidents, low birth weight, respiratory issues and the development of mental illnesses like schizophrenia and psychosis.

The American Addiction Centers — the nation’s leading provider of addiction care— understands marijuana as an addictive drug and says as much to those seeking treatment: 

“[Marijuana advocates] want others to believe that marijuana doesn’t cause any addictive problems whatsoever. Unfortunately, that’s not an opinion that’s borne out by science.”

And the Center for Disease Control approximates one out of every ten marijuana users are addicted or will become addicted; it jumps to one in six if they start before 18 years of age. 

This is not just “reefer madness.” This is mainstream, peer-reviewed science. I could go on with more examples, but the mounting evidence that continues to build the case for stopping —- or at least pausing —- any push for marijuana legalization is too much to fit in one article. 

Suffice it to say that the additional health problems caused by marijuana use can include damage to your heart and blood vessels (American Heart Association), worsening of underlying mental health conditions like thoughts of suicide (American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry) and damage to your lungs along with increased risk of COVID (American Lung Association).

Pennsylvanians should urge Gov. Wolf to be consistent. If he claims to follow the science, then he shouldn’t only do so when it’s convenient for his political agenda, and he should respect the undeniable scientific facts proving that recreational marijuana legalization is a bad idea.

Dan Bartkowiak is director of communications at the Pennsylvania Family Institute. @DanBartkowiak.

3 thoughts on “Dan Bartkowiak: Why is science not Gov. Wolf’s guide for marijuana policy?”

  1. Cannabis is a neuroprotectant as described in your government’s patrnt 6630507. Science shows adolescent traima causes structural changes. Your opinion on cannabis is based on faulty and very biased research. Please stop spreading this fake news.

  2. So the author supports criminalization of tobacco? How about required exercise? Or is consistency only a good argument when you’re picking on the other big government party?

  3. I’m disappointed to see this in B&L. Isn’t the L for Liberty?
    The argument against marijuana legalization because of its harm for children is a red herring. Is anyone proposing legalizing it for minors? Hardly.
    And, if it is addictive, so what? We allow adults to use addictive recreational drugs like alcohol and tobacco, and to take prescription drugs that have addictive properties, so clearly, its being addictive can’t be the determinant to its being illegal.
    If this site stands for liberty, it ought to favor allowing adults to legally ingest substances of their choosing so long as they do not recklessly endanger others in doing so.

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