Dr. Daniel Mamah, a Washington University psychiatrist, runs a local clinic that helps adolescents and young adults experiencing early signs of psychosis.
Through his work, Mamah has seen firsthand how serious psychiatric disorders are often associated with early and frequent marijuana use.
“Very, very often, we have people that come in, and we ask them, ‘When did your symptoms start?’ And they would link it to ‘When I started using weed’ or ‘When I started to increase my doses,’” said Mamah, director of the Washington Early Recognition Center, which opened two years ago.
On Nov. 8, Missouri voters will be asked whether to approve Amendment 3, which would remove bans on marijuana sales, consumption and manufacturing for adults 21 and older.
While the debate on the measure has focused on how criminal records will be cleared and who will be able to get into the business, health experts and doctors like Mamah are urging voters to consider the potential health impacts when they head to the polls.
“With marijuana there is still a lot to be studied,” Mamah said. “People think it is just this wonder drug that cures all or it’s purely natural. … But the reality is it has risks, different kinds of risks.”
Because it would change the Missouri Constitution if passed, Amendment 3 can only be altered by another statewide vote. Efforts by state legislators or public health officials to impose new restrictions or add safety measures would have to conform to the language of the constitutional amendment.
Amendment 3 supporters say legalization will allow the state to regulate the quality of marijuana products and make it harder for children and adolescents to obtain them. Opponents counter legalization will normalize marijuana, encouraging use by adolescents and contributing to impaired driving, addiction and accidental overdoses.
The Missouri Hospital Association, which represents and advocates for more than 140 hospitals across the state, is among those opponents. In a recent statement, the association warned, in part, that the public health costs, including emergency room visits and “treatment for psychological and addictive disorders,” likely would outweigh any increase in state revenues from taxes on cannabis products.