The public health potential of recreational marijuana

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FILE – This April 15, 2017 file photo shows marijuana plants for sale at the ShowGrow dispensary a medical marijuana provider in downtown Los Angeles. California’s struggling legal cannabis industry is expected to grow next year to $3.1 billion, but it remains far outmatched by the state’s thriving illegal market. A report released Thursday, Aug. 15, 2019, finds consumers are spending roughly $3 in the state’s underground pot economy for every $1 in the legal one. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel,File)

LANSING, Mich. (WLNS)– The state of Michigan is still working out how to regulate recreational marijuana. And with more people interested in trying pot, health officials are working to make sure it’s used safely.

Thousands of people already use medical marijuana to treat pain. Some wonder if recreational marijuana could manage pain well enough to keep people from using opioids.

Ingham County health officer Linda Vail says it’s too early to tell for sure, but she’s not ruling it out either.

“That’s a big question right now,” Vail says. “I will say that certainly there is some talk out there about whether or not that is a likely outcome. There’s some talk out there about, you’re seeing studies even that show some use of marijuana potentially for during a detox phase.”

Vail expects people who study and specialize in pain management to make that determination as time goes on. For now, she and other public health officials are more concerned with making sure people are using recreational marijuana legally and safely.

“Where we are at is one, acknowledging that is is legal in the state of Michigan, and then talking about the public health impact of that, which has to do with the fact that despite it being legal in the state of Michigan, it is still going to be illegal to drive under the influence.”

She says failing to use or store marijuana responsibly–or buying it from unregulated sources– could pose even more risks to the public than the drug itself.

As lawmakers decide how the state will regulate and monitor the drug, she says the Ingham County Health Department will continue to encourage people to use it safely.

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