The words sound so reassuring — “medical marijuana.” Pot as medicine. You can almost hear teens caught smoking a joint telling their parents, “But, Mom, it’s not what you think. It’s medical marijuana!”

But let’s get one thing straight. Medical marijuana is a big lie. Even the name implies something that is not true.

The legalization of marijuana for medical or recreational use is a public health catastrophe across America.

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Hillary Clinton has praised medical marijuana, suggested rescheduling the drug; and the Democratic Party platform calls for the eventual legalization of pot. Even Donald Trump has suggested medical marijuana might be all right, although he favors keeping pot illegal. This November, 10 states are voting to either permit medical marijuana to be sold or to take the more extreme step of “legalizing” the recreational use of marijuana.

Unfortunately, everyone is being duped.

The legalization of marijuana for medical dispensation or general recreational use is a public health catastrophe happening in slow motion across our country. While marijuana use and possession remains illegal under federal law regardless of changes in state law, the Obama administration’s decision not to enforce federal law in those states that vote to legalize the drug under state law has effectively gutted the federal prohibition against marijuana use and possession in many parts of the country.

The concept of medical marijuana has allowed those who favor marijuana’s ultimate legalization to cloak the drug in a mantle of legitimacy. This is a trick that was tried by tobacco companies two generations ago. The myth of medical marijuana — that it somehow benefits people who smoke it — actually hides the truth that it is a dangerous, highly addictive drug with no known medical benefits that can seriously damage a smoker’s physical and mental health.

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[lz_bulleted_list title=”Non-Medical Cannabis Use” source=””]The most probable adverse psychosocial effect in adolescents who become regular users is impaired educational attainment. Regular cannabis use in adolescence might also adversely affect mental health in young adults, with the strongest evidence for an increased risk of psychotic symptoms and disorders.[/lz_bulleted_list]

There are several things the pot lobby won’t tell you, but a read of the medical science is clear.

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Marijuana is harmful to people in so many different ways it is truly astounding. Like cigarettes, smoked marijuana contains numerous known carcinogens. While lung cancer rates among marijuana smokers are hard to track, cancer and carcinogens go hand-in-hand.

Marijuana has been shown to increase substantially the rate of mental illness in regular users. The incidences of psychotic episodes or schizophrenia is about six times greater among regular marijuana users.

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Suicide is another side effect of marijuana use. One recent study, published in the Lancet Psychiatry journal in 2014, showed a seven-fold increase in the likelihood of suicide among regular teenage marijuana users as compared to the general population. Further, it is well established in the medical literature that marijuana use is associated with higher rates of suicide in the general population.

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But even setting aside these dramatic existential threats to people’s physical and mental health, marijuana has been shown to make people stupider, permanently. The average drop in IQ suffered by regular marijuana users is something like eight points. This is roughly equivalent to the IQ drop caused by being exposed to lead paint chips as a child. And lead paint has been outlawed!

Beyond IQ, simple memory is damaged by regularly smoking pot. The most recent studies show permanent memory loss is the end result of regular pot use.

Have you ever met anyone who is truly better off from using marijuana? Pothead is a word in our modern lexicon for a reason.

More generally, have you ever met anyone who is truly better off from using marijuana regularly? Pothead is a word in our modern lexicon for a reason. The lack of motivation engendered by regularly ingesting THC is also well documented and clearly apparent to any person who has seen a close friend or relative go down this path.

The advocates for medical marijuana would prefer to ignore all of these adverse health effects. They would prefer to focus our attention instead on the oil derived from cannabinoids in the pot plant that may treat certain rare forms of epilepsy or the anecdotal evidence of the calming effect of pot smoking on elderly people with cancer. Certainly research into the effects of any drug that may help people should be pursued. But legalizing the sale of smokable weed and edible gummy bears laced with THC is hardly justified by these unproven and ancillary benefits found in the cannabis plant.

A drug derived from pot, Marinol, is actually already available with a prescription to help treat pain relief. THC in pill form may have some benefits that outweigh the detriments, and this also may be true of cannabinoids derived from the marijuana plant. But this argues in favor of research or more applications to the Food and Drug Administration for drug approvals not legalizing medical marijuana.

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Then why have 23 legislatures passed some form of medical marijuana law? The short answer in many cases is because they have been duped. A more sinister and equally likely explanation is that they have been bribed. The legislators see the money pushing for the ultimate legalization of marijuana and they decide to get behind it to help their cronies rather than fight the good fight for the public health. Schizophrenic pot smokers are not very able to defend themselves and explain their story. Instead, people like former congressmen push their buddies in the state legislature to legalize medical marijuana so a company they are affiliated with can be awarded one of the few licenses to dispense pot legally.

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Of course, the game is not really about medical marijuana. People following the issue have known for years that the “medical” part of the equation was always a big lie — meant to act as a stepping stone to full legalization and commercialization of pot for any use. The acceptability of marijuana, brought on first by appealing to our common compassion, is a public health disaster. And it’s being pushed by a small group of people who want to get rich — very rich — off pot use by others. Meet the new big tobacco, ladies and gentlemen.

Greed is driving the new industry. Big Pot is looking to replace Big Tobacco as the new, new thing for young people. And just as Big Tobacco tried to wrap itself in the aura of the medical industry by hiring doctors to endorse its products, Big Pot is selling its bogus story of the safety and “benefits” of pot by pushing for medical marijuana. Don’t be fooled again.

Jonathan Talcott is a Washington, D.C.-based attorney and the chairman of Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM), Inc., a nonprofit dedicated to educating people about the dangers of using marijuana.