More than half the states have now legalized recreational or medical marijuana — and the U.S. could rapidly become the first country in the world where marijuana is legally and readily available to the general public.

Last week, eight more states passed some form of marijuana initiative. This demonstrates the power of the cannabis industry and the poor understanding the public has about the risks and dangers of modern cannabis.

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This is not your father’s or grandfather’s marijuana. It is not the “harmless plant that nature created,” which had at best a 3-percent THC content. Today’s marijuana is a high-potency, genetically engineered, highly addictive, and lucrative cash crop. It’s here and “growing.” At this point, it is also probably unstoppable.

The average THC content is 15-25 percent, and with edibles and extract that content is perhaps 80-90 percent. One by one, states are passing legislation, mostly because of the powerful cannabis legalization movement that has been well-funded, patient, and calculating in its every move to sway public opinion and gain support.

“Election Day dealt another body blow to our nation’s costly, failed, and discriminatory policy of marijuana prohibition,” Erik Altieri, the executive director for NORML, a pro-marijuana lobbying group, wrote in a statement. “If anyone thought our victories in 2012 and 2014 were a passing fad, it is now clear they were mistaken. With adult use measures being approved in four states (CA, MA, ME, NV) and medical marijuana initiatives passing in another four (AR, FL, MT, ND), the era of marijuana legalization is upon us. By standing together and fighting for our shared beliefs, we spread the seeds of the cannabis revolution far and wide.”


This really is all about the mega-billion-dollar recreational cash market. If you had a medical marijuana dispensary that only sold non-THC strains of cannabis, strains that did not produce any psychoactive effects (weed that doesn’t get you high), you would go broke. People want weed that gets them high. And if recent research is correct, with the higher potency of today’s smoked cannabis (not to mention the massive development of high-potency edibles) the risk for addiction is increased — which ensures a steady supply of faithful craving customers ready to spend their hard-earned dollars for more marijuana regardless of the cost, the harm, or their lack of money for other life or family needs.

Related: Marijuana Doesn’t Work in the Workplace

Altieri is probably correct: The era of legalization is coming. The genie is out of the bottle  — and until the public begins to see the high cost and damage that is likely to result from this experiment in providing a dangerous legal drug, we are not going to get it back in.

As a doctor, I am seeing more and more admissions to our treatment center among those whose only drug addiction is marijuana.

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I am seeing more and more admissions to our treatment center among those whose only drug addiction is marijuana. We are told that cannabis never killed anyone, but what about the thousands of heroin deaths that started down the tragic road of addiction because of an initial exposure to marijuana?

We are in the middle of a great science experiment, except that the research rats are the general public — this is mostly our young adults, and sadly, also our children.

The same groups of people who Big Tobacco hurt are going to be hurt by Big Cannabis. The same deceptions, lies, and denial that Big Tobacco held as dogma to protect the monthly profit will be repeated again. We should develop standards for the use of medical marijuana, and standards for the physicians that want to prescribe it. But the truth is that there are actually no prescriptions; there is no pharmacy anywhere that dispenses marijuana. It is still a Schedule I drug, because there is insufficient credible evidence that passes the strict Food and Drug Administration standards needed to call it a legitimate medicine.

Related: High-Potency Pot Doubles Risk of Dependency

That may change in the future. But even if marijuana or marijuana-based medications become legitimate treatments, the cash crop is still recreational use. We should not be naive — full legalization was, is, and will always be the goal.

Timothy Huckaby, M.D., FASAM, is the medical director of the Orlando Recovery Center.