Marijuana isn’t medicine. So says the FDA, the AMA, and countless other medical and scientific professionals. The North Carolina Medical Society announced they have “not supported the legalization of medical marijuana,” yet out-of-touch legislators in Raleigh are again trying to legalize so-called “medical marijuana.” And this time they’ve paired it with a radical legalization of other dangerous, psychoactive drugs.

Despite rejecting marijuana legalization last year, the North Carolina Senate recently passed House Bill 563, bundling this reckless marijuana and THC drug policy proposal with a legislative package that would also legalize hemp-derived THC drugs known to harm thousands of kids every year. This radical drug legalization effort will account for hundreds of millions (or even billions) of dollars in annual revenue for out-of-state addiction profiteers.

It makes you scratch your head and raises the question of whose interest these lawmakers are really serving. Thankfully, session adjourned before they could pass it. But when legislators come back in 2025, it will almost certainly be revisited.

In the months since legislators rejected the most recent push to inject more dangerous drugs into the state, the science and medical data on today’s marijuana and high-potency THC drugs has only grown worse. Just this month, Psychological Medicine published a new study that found that teens who use marijuana are 11x higher risk of developing a psychotic disorder compared to those who do not use the drug.

The preeminent national drug survey found marijuana use among kids in states with “medical marijuana” programs was worsening–despite those states continuing to outlaw use of the psychoactive drugs by minors. The same survey results also found increased daily marijuana use by 8th, 10th and 12th graders. And, a 20-year study in Australia, found “no evidence to suggest cannabis reduces illicit opioid use, and it may not be an effective long-term method of reducing harm for those with an opioid use disorder or problematic use of opioids.”

Legislators either haven’t been paying attention, or they’ve willfully stuck their heads in the sand to benefit an industry built on the backs of low-income and minority communities.

If lawmakers enact something similar to HB 563 when they return, marijuana and THC drug products will inevitably fall into the hands of minors. When asked where they obtained marijuana, a survey of Arizona high school students found 30% of 12th graders, 22% of 10th graders, and 20% of 8th graders said they got it “from someone with a medical marijuana card.”

The 2020 Illinois Youth Survey found that 11% of 12th graders, 9% of 10th graders, and 9% of 8th graders who used marijuana in the past year in suburban counties obtained it through “someone else’s medical marijuana prescription.” This percentage increased to 15% of 12th graders in urban counties and 18% of 12th graders in rural counties.

This is especially concerning because today’s high-potency marijuana and THC drugs are medically and scientifically linked to lower IQ, psychosis, depression, suicidality, motor impairment, and schizophrenia, among other consequences — especially for young people with developing brains.

If that’s not bad enough, legislators are now also trying to legalize hemp-derived products, which were created by a loophole in federal legislation a few years ago, but come with all the same dangerous outcomes as traditional marijuana. As opposed to traditional marijuana, hemp-derived products have innocuous names like “Delta-8” and “Delta-10.” For parents who might not be familiar, they’re all dangerous, psychoactive drugs. In 2023, 11% of all 12th graders in the nation admitted to using Delta-8 THC products.

It should go without saying, but there are predictable consequences to this policy. In 2022, there were 3,358 exposures related to Delta-8 THC managed by poison control centers, up 82% from 2021. In 2022, more than 55% of these were for individuals aged 19 or younger. The board president of America’s Poison Centers and leader of the Illinois Poison Center warned about “emerging public health threats, such as fentanyl and Delta-8 THC.”

The FDA warned that these products — which are sold as vapes, candies, cookies, and more— “have not been evaluated or approved by the FDA for safe use in any context.” Worse yet, they warned that the companies selling these hemp-derived products are relying on “marketing, including online marketing of products, that is appealing to children.” 

Congress never intended for this product to exist, which is why language to ban it nationwide is in the current version of the 2024 Farm Bill. The risks have led 24 states, including Colorado and New York, to ban these drugs.

Yet a handful of industry-friendly legislators are threatening to move North Carolina in the opposite direction with HB 563. Again, it makes one question whose interest is being served by Raleigh’s push to inject more drugs in our community.

In order to protect public health and public safety, when they return, legislators in Raleigh should not revive the language found in House Bill 563, the latest attempt to welcome the addiction-for-profit industry into the Tar Heel State. By saying “no” to this dangerous industry, legislators will be standing up for the health and well-being of our next generation.