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Pot is making people sick. Congress is playing catch-up


02/06/2023 05:30 AM EST

Now that a growing body of evidence says marijuana is bad for you, more regulation is in the offing.

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When Gallup asked about legalizing weed last year, two-thirds of Americans supported it — up from 12 percent when the pollster first asked in 1969.

Recognition of marijuana’s medical benefits, the harms of punitive drug policies, and the prospect of new tax revenue to fund popular services, have driven that change in attitudes and led 21 states to legalize recreational sales.

But the policymakers overseeing legalization were flying surprisingly blind about its effect on public health. Only recently has a steady flow of data emerged on health impacts, including emphysema in smokers and learning delays in adolescents. Lawmakers’ reaction to the bad news raises the prospect that the loosely regulated marijuana marketplace, worth $13.2 billion last year and growing 15 percent annually, could come under pressure.

Even some of those most supportive of legalization, such as the co-chairs of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and Dave Joyce (R-Ohio), are calling for more regulation and better oversight.

“One of the reasons I have fought so hard to be able to legalize, regulate and tax is because I want to keep this out of the hands of young people. It has proven negative consequences for the developing mind,” said Blumenauer, Capitol Hill’s unofficial cannabis czar.

Last year, he and Joyce teamed on legislation, since enacted, to ease federal restrictions on researching cannabis for medical purposes and on growing marijuana for research.

That could significantly improve understanding of the drug.

They’re now talking about standards on dosing, mandates for childproof containers for edibles, and advertising restrictions aimed at protecting children. They’re also concerned about high potency cannabis and its effects.

Federal agencies are also taking action. The FDA recently rejected applications from companies making products out of cannabis who were seeking regulation under the loose standards governing dietary supplements.

The agency said that the use of cannabidiol,