A number of published studies have found that using marijuana (and other psychoactive substances) is associated with an earlier onset of psychotic illness (notice I said “is associated with” rather than “causes”).  National mental health surveys have repeatedly found more substance use, especially cannabis use, among people with a diagnosis of a psychotic disorder.

A new study published today on-line in the Archives of General Psychiatry found “a relationship between cannabis use and earlier onset of psychotic illness… supporting the hypothesis that cannabis use plays a causal role in the development of psychosis in some patients.”  The authors go on to say that reducing marijuana use could delay or even prevent some cases of psychosis.

The earlier the onset of schizophrenia, the more challenging it is to manage.  So reducing the use of marijuana could be one of the few strategies that could help delay the onset of symptoms.  The article suggests that “… an extra 2 or 3 years of psychosis-free functioning could allow many patients to achieve the important developmental milestones of late adolescence and early adulthood that could lower the long-term disability arising from psychotic disorders.” The results of this study confirm the need for a renewed public health warning about the potential for cannabis use to bring on psychotic illness.

Anyway- there have been some public comments on our medical marijuana rules that have questioned the wisdom of requiring dispensaries to have access to a Medical Director.  Hopefully this study and others that link marijuana use to bad outcomes will convince some folks that it makes sense to have some professional medical oversight at dispensaries to help protect the health status of the patients with debilitating medical conditions that will be using the dispensaries.