Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States. It is a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), with a high abuse potential and no approved therapeutic use through the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) process for establishing medications.
Marijuana use is associated with a range of adverse health effects. Short-term effects include altered senses and sense of time, impaired motor coordination, impaired memory and problem-solving abilities. Recent research suggests that early use of marijuana may impact thinking, memory, and learning. Marijuana use also is associated with addiction to other substances and dependency; respiratory problems; child developmental problems related to use during pregnancy; and mental health problems including psychotic episodes, depression, and anxiety.
Access to high potency marijuana has been increasing in recent years, in part because some state-level initiatives have permitted sale of marijuana edibles and marijuana extracts, which can deliver large amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) to the body. High levels of THC can be harmful to users, and amateur preparation of marijuana extracts, which usually involves butane (lighter fluid), is very dangerous.
To address marijuana use and consequences of use, the Federal Government promotes substance use prevention, treatment and recovery support services; supports law enforcement efforts to reduce use and availability of marijuana, especially among young people; funds research on the health risks and associated with marijuana use, including effects on pregnancy and driving; and supports surveillance on the impact of marijuana use on public health and safety.
Public safety issues related to marijuana include the use of public and tribal lands as grow sites for marijuana. People as well as flora and fauna are threatened by criminal organizations growing marijuana on public lands. Individuals tending domestic grow sites often use weapons—such as semiautomatic assault rifles and high-powered rifles—against intruders to protect grow sites. Outdoor marijuana cultivation also results in the chemical contamination and alteration of watersheds; diversion of natural water courses; elimination of native vegetation; wildfire hazards; poaching of wildlife; and harmful disposal of garbage, non-biodegradable materials, and human waste. Law enforcement officials are also increasingly encountering dumpsites of highly toxic insecticides, chemical repellants, and poisons purchased by drug trafficking organizations and transported into the country.
ONDCP and the U.S. Department of the Interior co-chair the Public Lands Drug Control Committee, which brings together Federal public lands and enforcement agencies; state, local, and tribal partners; as well as researchers to address the drug trafficking and cultivation threat on public lands. By investigating, removing, and reclaiming illegal grow sites, and by apprehending and prosecuting drug offenders and traffickers, law enforcement agencies protect public safety and the environment, while depriving marijuana traffickers of their illicit revenue.
To learn more about marijuana and the U.S. government’s response, please see the following resources: