SF report weighs well being dangers raised by authorized pot

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Simply weeks earlier than leisure pot turns into authorized in California, San Francisco public well being officers have printed a report on their greatest guesses for issues that might come up from widespread marijuana use, together with abuse of the drug by younger individuals and unexpected well being dangers amongst adults.

The problem, authors of the report famous, can be warning new customers concerning the hazards of hashish consumption — like the potential of overdosing or driving underneath the affect — with out straying into fearmongering.


The report takes no stand for or towards legalization, which was adopted by California voters in November 2016. As a result of legalization remains to be a comparatively new phenomenon in the US, although, it’s not but clear what public well being points would possibly come up, officers stated. The report, subsequently, stands as a kind of benchmark.

“Legalization is in an infancy stage,” stated Israel Nieves, director of the Public Well being Division’s Workplace of Fairness and High quality Enchancment, which compiled the hashish report. “There’s been quite a lot of work performed round medicinal use, however not leisure. We have to put together ourselves.”

The five-page government abstract of the report was printed on-line earlier this month. The complete report is predicted earlier than the tip of the 12 months. The abstract contains six suggestions, largely round schooling and group outreach.


Picture: Michael Quick, Particular To The Chronicle


Affected person guide staff chief Lee Coleman smells a jar of buds whereas serving to a buyer on the Apothecarium medical hashish dispensary in San Francisco.

Affected person guide staff chief Lee Coleman smells a jar of buds…

The report additionally discusses public well being hazards related to clustering pot dispensaries in sure neighborhoods; already, medical marijuana outlets are largely situated in lower-income areas with extra black, Asian and Latino residents. However in interviews, public well being officers stated they make no suggestions on the problem and are leaving choices about the place dispensaries needs to be allowed to policymakers.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors has been debating for a number of weeks greatest distribute permits to promote leisure marijuana. The difficulty is so contentious that it appears unlikely the board will attain a consensus earlier than the state regulation legalizing leisure pot use takes impact Jan. 1.

Drug and public well being consultants praised the report, however some stated it’s not sturdy sufficient in warning of doable hazards of standard marijuana consumption, together with habit.

“We have to be extra involved about grownup use,” stated Keith Humphreys, a Stanford habit knowledgeable who served on the state’s Blue Ribbon Fee on Marijuana Coverage, which helped form the legalization laws authorised by voters. “How we give it some thought in the mean time — and this report exhibits that pondering — is it’s unhealthy for youths, however for adults it’s protected. And we have to begin enthusiastic about it like we do alcohol, which is it’s unhealthy for youths, however there are adults who do harm to their lives with this drug too.”

Public well being officers started compiling the report about six months in the past. They based mostly their suggestions on research performed in states the place leisure marijuana is already authorized, in addition to a spotlight group assembly with San Francisco youngsters and interviews with medical doctors, drug-use consultants and hashish representatives.

An overarching concern, public well being officers stated, is that legalization could also be seen as an endorsement and gives the look that consuming marijuana is basically risk-free. That message could possibly be particularly problematic for younger individuals, who could not notice that hashish can impression mind growth and trigger different well being points, Nieves stated.

Patient consultant Melissa Zoppa jokes with fellow consultant Nick Finch as they restock drawers with edible cannabis products at medical cannabis dispensary the Apothecarium in San Francisco. Photo: Michael Short, Special To The Chronicle


Picture: Michael Quick, Particular To The Chronicle


Affected person guide Melissa Zoppa jokes with fellow guide Nick Finch as they restock drawers with edible hashish merchandise at medical hashish dispensary the Apothecarium in San Francisco.

Affected person guide Melissa Zoppa jokes with fellow guide Nick…

He added that public well being officers usually are not desirous about scare ways like these used throughout the “simply say no” campaigns of the 1980s and ’90s. However there are unfavorable results potential customers — teenagers and adults — needs to be made conscious of, he stated.

Already, as legal guidelines have loosened round hashish use and extra individuals are utilizing it — and because the drug itself has turn into stronger — hospital and emergency room visits associated to hashish have elevated. The report notes that in San Francisco, visits for cannabis-linked issues had been roughly double for the five-year interval 2011-15 in contrast with 2006-10, although the general numbers are nonetheless low. Within the earlier years, there have been 133 complete ER visits, in contrast with 251 within the later years. Hospitalizations elevated from 21 to 52.

Edible hashish merchandise are of explicit concern as a result of it’s simple to eat an excessive amount of of them, Nieves stated. The report recommends San Francisco undertake sturdy regulation of edibles and be sure that advisories on protected consumption are handed out to customers once they purchase the merchandise.

On the identical time, some consultants in tobacco and hashish merchandise warned that inhaling pot carries its personal dangers.

“The work we’ve performed has stated you wish to keep away from smoke. That might imply you steer individuals towards edibles,” stated Matthew Springer, a UCSF scientist who research the consequences of tobacco and marijuana smoke on the center. “However personally, I do know somebody who tried taking (hashish) capsules and ended up going to ER with paranoia and palpitations.

“There are well being results from each approaches to taking this drug,” he stated. “Making an attempt to roll that right into a well being coverage turns into sophisticated.”

Individuals who work at medical marijuana dispensaries stated that schooling will certainly be key to serving to new customers safely eat hashish. With edibles, they advise, individuals ought to begin with very small doses and take their time, preserving in thoughts that they may not really feel results of the drug for 30 minutes or extra.

On the Apothecarium, a dispensary with three San Francisco areas, workers consultants endure not less than three days of coaching on acceptable use of hashish earlier than they work with prospects, stated Michael Caruso, retailer supervisor of the store on Lombard Road within the Marina district.

“We stress schooling a lot, as a result of there are such a lot of individuals coming by means of this door who’re model new to this (hashish) world, or they haven’t smoked since school they usually don’t know,” Caruso stated. “There are such a lot of totally different merchandise, so many alternative avenues you may take. For those who’re simply thrown into it, it’s very doable you’re going to have a nasty expertise.”

Erin Allday is a San Francisco Chronicle workers author. E mail: eallday@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @erinallday

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