David Rettew, M.D., is a child psychiatrist and Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics at the University of Vermont College of Medicine. He is the author of Child Temperament: New Thinking about the Boundary between Traits and Illness published by W. W. Norton in 2013. Dr. Rettew is the Training Director of the UVM Child & Adolescent Psychiatry Fellowship and the Director of the Pediatric Psychiatry Clinic at Fletcher Allen Health Care.
I came up with the idea of interviewing Dr. Rettew because of his article wrote on PsychologyToday.com, entitled ” Does Legalised Marijuana Result in More Teen Use?”. I consider it to be a very controversial topic, for which I felt the need to ask a specialised figure. Also, his twitter site is@Pedipsych if you have further questions regarding the subject.
(All the links you’ll need to find are at the end of the interview)
Q1: As a personal opinion, would you legalise marijuana? Why?
” This is a big discussion and debate in my home state of Vermont, in the U.S.A.. Personally, I am opposed to legalization, at least for now. While I am quite sympathetic to the argument that adults should have the right to do what they want (as long as it does not harm others), I find the argument that legalized marijuana will result in overall improved health and well-being to be extremely weak and misleading, especially with marijuana already being decriminalized here. We already have a tremendous problem with regard to substance abuse and mental illness and there is every indication that this will just get worse with legalization. While I know I sound like a stodgy old killjoy, governments, in my view, need to approach this issue very slowly and carefully before making irreversible decisions that could have major consequences.”
Q2: Is there any dangerous consequence in long term use that people should be aware of?
“Yes there are many. While it is certainly true that many people can use marijuana without major health consequences, research studies indicate that long term use approximately doubles the risk of a psychotic illness such as schizophrenia, results in decreased cognitive abilities, negatively affects brain development, and in pregnancy can hurt developing babies, among other things. Contrary to what many people believe, people can also become addicted to marijuana.”
Q3: Keeping in mind that teenagers are indeed easily influenced into trying all sorts of things, usually what seems interesting and not permitted, do you really think they’d still be tempted to try since everybody could legally do it?
“Absolutely. There are published studies of surveys that indicate that more teenagers would try marijuana than do now if it were to become legal. Alcohol is legal for adults and this legality does not dissuade teenagers from using alcohol or having problems with it.”
Q4: Could older people cope with this idea, that their children or grand kids might be trying or constantly using it?
“Older folks may be a little more flexible than people think. We can adapt to changes in our society, even those which overall exert a negative effect.”
Q5: Who do you think would be for and who against? (besides smokers and non-smokers)
“Obviously people who use marijuana right now are generally in favor of legalization and this is completely understandable that they would like to feel less like criminals while using it. People who could gain financially from a large legal industry are also in favor, and unfortunately some of these folks don’t disclose this conflict of interest when stating their case. On the other side, many medical groups voice concern about legalization, as they are the ones that tend to see and deal with the negative consequences of marijuana first hand. Despite the pro-legalization lobby trying to claim that crime would be reduced with legal marijuana, most law enforcement groups find these claims unreliable and they generally oppose legalization as well.”
Q6: Do you find any major differences regarding this topic,between USA and other countries of the world?
“This one is more difficult to answer given my experience only with the USA. My sense, however, is that other countries have taken a more cautious and slow approach which makes a lot of sense to me. The Netherlands, for example, has been experimenting with policy on this for many years. The USA, on the other hand, seems to have this strange need to rush into making big policy changes all at once. There also seems to be this odd peer pressure among the states, kind of the idea that “they are doing it so we have to as well”. “
Q7: How would you react when passing by a group of 14 year old children and they’d be smoking?
“I’d probably have the same reaction that I do now when I see a group of young teens smoking tobacco, which is to feel sad and sorry for them. They probably wouldn’t want my pity, but I’d wish that they could have the ability to view what they were doing from the perspective of themselves as adults 30 years later.”
Q8: Besides recreational use, could it develop into other uses too? (because medical is already permitted)
“The marijuana plant contains a huge number of different chemicals and it is certainly true that some of them could have medical uses. One of those substances is called cannabidiol. It is very important to remember, however, that isolating a single compound and testing it as a medicine is very different than smoking the entire plant and thinking it has medicinal properties. I heard one researcher compare this to the idea of wanting to eat mold just because some strains have penicillin in it.”
Q9: Which institution of the country do you think would disagree the most? and which one would be the most affected?
“Again, I think the medical and law enforcement groups are voicing the most concern about legal marijuana because they are the ones who see the negative consequences of it every day. When you evaluate psychotic patients in emergency departments, respond to a fatal accident on a road, or deal with an increasing homeless and crime problem in a neighborhood, it gives you pause.”
Q10: Do you consider this to be the open gate of being able to give people what they enjoy or the little opened door of Pandora’s ?
“ I do worry quite a bit about things getting worse and not being able to reverse some of the decisions we made. I’m not apocalyptic about legalized marijuana, but I do see it having a very negative effect overall on overall public health. I’m particularly concerned about the effects of big multibillion dollar cannabis industries and their advertising budgets. People have spent so much money and energy trying to get people to quit smoking tobacco or better yet not to start in the first place. We are finally seeing the benefits of this enormous effort and my concern is that we are now going to have to start this process all over again with marijuana. “
- book link: https://www.amazon.com/Child-Temperament-Thinking-Boundary-Professional/dp/039370730X?SubscriptionId=AKIAIRKJRCRZW3TANMSA&amp;tag=psychologytod-20&amp;linkCode=xm2&amp;camp=2025&amp;creative=165953&amp;creativeASIN=039370730X
- article link: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/abcs-child-psychiatry/201704/does-legalized-marijuana-result-in-more-teen-use
- PsychologyToday.com blog : https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/abcs-child-psychiatry