Why Cannabis Warning Labels Are Necessary: America Deserves More

Why cannabis warning labels are necessary

Accurate science-based warnings on marijuana/THC and in advertisements should be available to the public.

The marijuana/THC now in use is not the cannabis of the 1960s, the 1970s, the 1980s or the 1990s. THC levels at that time were 4% or less. Currently used products are 5 to 20 times more potent. The science is settled that marijuana/THC causes a cluster of well-documented harms: psychosis, impaired driving, addiction, suicide, uncontrollable vomiting and harm to fetuses and nursing infants and now also cardiovascular, cerebrovascular and lung injury.

Risks and Warning Label Examples

The Consensus Recommendation

Physicians recommend, at a minimum, a 31-word warning label based upon medical literature. The warning is short and to the point.

WARNING: Cannabis/THC may cause: 1. Psychosis* 2. Impaired driving 3. Addiction 4. Suicide attempt* 5. Uncontrollable vomiting 6. Harm to fetus/nursing baby *This can occur in individuals with no previous history of psychosis or mental illness.”

Some of the best documented, most severe consequences of marijuana/THC use include psychosis and suicide attempts by individuals with no prior mental health history. The peer-reviewed literature strongly supports the causal link between marijuana/THC and psychosis. Hundreds of articles support the link to psychosis. Two leaders in the field of schizophrenia Dr. W. Hall and Dr. Robin Murray have weighed in on this issue. Dr. Hall wrote in 2020 in support of the fact that “cannabis is a component cause of psychosis.” See Murray and Hall, “Will Legalization and Commercialization of Cannabis Increase the Incidence and Prevalence of Psychosis?, JAMA Psychiatry 4/8/20, p.E1. Dr. Sir Robin Murray, the most cited researcher in schizophrenia, has said, ‘no serious scientist continues to dispute that cannabis is a component cause of psychosis.’

Cannabis hyperemesis syndrome: CHS did not substantially exist before cannabis commercialization. It can be expensive to diagnose and treat. Victims have died from CHS. As with cannabis induced psychosis, the treatment of choice is the cessation of marijuana/THC use. Until users see and understand that marijuana/THC can cause uncontrolled vomiting, they won’t suspect there is a connection and may continue or increase their marijuana/THC consumption in a futile attempt to mitigate the hyperemesis. Victim groups describe their suffering: https://youtu.be/y5WweNVc7nw.

Pregnant or breastfeeding: A warning should state in plain English that the fetus or infant may be harmed if one continues to use marijuana/THC during pregnancy.

Addiction to marijuana/THC: Use may cause addiction/use disorder, with all the costs, pain to self and others and loss of freedom that accompanies the development of a substance misuse or use disorder.

Colorado Warning Label

In Colorado, marijuana/THC has been commercially available for medical use since 2001 and for non-medical use since 2014. Recently the state overhauled their law because of the incidence of psychosis, cannabis hyperemesis and other marijuana/THC health harms presenting in unsuspecting users. Colorado now requires a warning be provided to purchasers of marijuana/THC concentrate (concentrated THC is defined here as greater than 10%).

WARNING Use of Marijuana Concentrate May Lead to: 1. Psychotic symptoms and/or Psychotic disorder (delusions, hallucinations or difficulty distinguishing reality); 2. Mental Health Symptoms/Problems; 3. Cannabis Hyperemesis Syndrome (CHS) (uncontrolled and repetitive vomiting); 4. Cannabis use disorder/dependence (including physical and psychological dependence).”

It is unclear if this Colorado rule is enforced. The misconception or misrepresentation of marijuana/THC as a benign drug has been advanced by the cannabis industry and its advocates. With a low perception of harm, now we are seeing more and more the unfortunate consequences of increased marijuana/THC use.

FDA Health Warning

As with tobacco, changing behavior first requires awareness. The FDA requires their evidence based health warnings for Marinol/THC https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2017/018651s029lbl.pdf be given to individuals using Marinol/THC in the United States, even in states where the drug is illegal and even though marijuana/THC is federally illegal. Yet the US government allows marijuana/THC to be sold in stores without public warnings of its health risks and advertisements on public highway billboards without any warnings are seen daily by American children.

Children are seeing advertisements on public highways without effective health warnings.

Protect Public Health with Required Health Warnings

Required health warnings are an effective, economical approach to educating the public at no added cost to government or consumers.

The difference between effectively communicated, science-based health warnings, and no or inaccurate warnings, may be the difference between sickness and health. Prompt action is required to make the public effectively aware of the FDA’s and the medical doctors’ science-based health warnings for marijuana/THC. For more information and references please see the IASIC1.org website and https://iasic1.org/doctors-warn-cannabis-can-cause-serious-health-hazards/.

IASIC is a non-partisan and non-political group created to facilitate informed decisions when considering cannabis policy and law.

Selected References

Murray and Hall, “Will Legalization and Commercialization of Cannabis Increase the Incidence and Prevalence of Psychosis?, JAMA Psychiatry 4/8/20, p.E1. Dr. Sir Robin Murray

Health warnings for Marinol/THC https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2017/018651s029lbl.pdf

Doctors Warn: Cannabis can cause serious health hazards, September 2, 2021 https://iasic1.org/doctors-warn-cannabis-can-cause-serious-health-hazards/