Advocates against marijuana legalization frequently cite increased marijuana-related hospitalizations as proof the drug should not be sold commercially. But how much of a threat does cannabis actually present?

Since retiring from Congress in 2010, Patrick J. Kennedy has been speaking out about his struggles with drug addiction and mental health. Kennedy is the co-founder of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, a non-profit dedicated to combating cannabis legalization. The group refers to marijuana as “the next ‘Big Tobacco’” and advocates for increased research into cannabis as a potential medicinal source, rather than a recreational drug.

In Kennedy’s home state of Rhode Island, the push for recreational legalization continues. In February of 2018, the Rhode Island General Assembly resolved to create a working committee to study the effects of legalization. In May, Sen. Joshua Miller introduced a bill to the House to legalize for all people 21 and over. The day after the bill was introduced, the Providence Journal published an editorial by Kennedy.

In it, Kennedy draws connections between addiction and mental illness, and encourages readers to take control of their mental health through “healthy coping mechanisms and problem solving skills.” Especially for children, he writes, turning to drugs as a way of handling stress is a dangerous road to follow.

Good as that all sounds, one line in particular stood out to us: “These drugs (marijuana/THC), which masquerade as food, have caused emergency room visits to skyrocket,” Kennedy wrote.

Researchers have not been able to conclusively connect the drug with any serious long-term health problems. According to a 2003 study, the lethal dose of marijuana is 1,000 times more than an effective dosage (i.e. enough to feel the effects of the drug). No deaths caused by marijuana alone have even been recorded, according to a Drug Enforcement Administration fact sheet. But

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