The following is a statement on the marijuana holiday dubbed “4/20” from former U.S. Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy:
“Our country is seeing alarming spikes in depression and anxiety, particularly among young people, as well as increased rates of substance use.
“A CDC report released just last week showed more than 87,000 Americans died of drug overdoses in the 12-month period that ended in September—a nearly 30 percent increase. A study by the American Psychological Association in March showed that nearly one in four adults reported drinking more alcohol to cope with stress.
“Despite these startling statistics, states continue to push for the legalization of recreational marijuana—a substance that has shown to negatively impact mental health.
“We are setting our young people up for failure by enabling self-medication via today’s much more potent form of THC. A massive study out of California looked at data from more than three million 7th, 9th, and 11th graders and found significant increases in lifetime and past-month marijuana use among almost all demographics. This directly undercuts the idea that legalizing marijuana and deeming it safe somehow won’t lead to more youth using the substance.
“Exploiting addiction in this country is nothing new. Make no mistake: the Big Marijuana industry is actively targeting young people, just like the tobacco and alcohol industries have done for centuries. The impact of this exploitation will be devastating for individuals who are already extremely vulnerable to substance use, depression, and anxiety.
“I encourage our leaders to instead put their energy toward increasing access to mental health and addiction care by ensuring equal reimbursement for providers, integrating mental health into the rest of health care, and fully enforcing state and federal parity laws.
“Immediate action is required to mitigate the long-term mental health and addiction consequences of the COVID pandemic. Prioritizing public health, rather than the profits of Big Marijuana, is critical to saving lives.”
About Patrick J. Kennedy
Former U.S. Rep. and founder of The Kennedy Forum Patrick J. Kennedy was lead author of the landmark Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008. He is also co-author of the New York Times Bestseller, “A Common Struggle: A Personal Journey Through the Past and Future of Mental Illness and Addiction,” which details a bold plan for the future of mental health care in America. In 2017, Kennedy was appointed to the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis. In 2019, he co-founded Psych Hub, the most comprehensive online learning platform on mental health, substance use, and suicide prevention topics in the world. Kennedy currently serves as co-chair of The National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention’s Mental Health & Suicide Prevention National Response to COVID-19 and co-chair of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Behavioral Health Integration Task Force. To learn more, visit www.patrickjkennedy.net.