How safe is cannabis

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Enthusiasm for cannabis in the 1960s and early 1970s was rapidly followed by a wave of reaction in the Western world. Extravagant warnings were issued, suggesting that cannabis was a highly dangerous drug that could cause chromosomal damage, impotence, sterility, respiratory damage, depressed immune system responses, personality changes, psychosis, and permanent brain damage (1R, 2S). Most of these claims were later proved to be spurious, and balanced reviews (3R-5R) have shown how effectively many of them have been demolished.

Currently cannabis is widely perceived to be relatively safe. Many people believe that there are genuine medical uses for cannabis-based medicines (6R, 7r, 8rs), and it seems likely that such products will gain official approval in several Western countries. At the same time there is a move towards relaxation of the criminal penalties associated with the recreational use of cannabis, ranging from a proposed downgrading of criminal penalties in the UK to the possibility of full legalization in Canada and Jamaica. In the light of these changes in attitude it is timely to consider again the adverse effects that are associated with the use of cannabis, since no drug can ever be considered completely safe.

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