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story.lead_photo.caption Joy Sweeney of Council for Drug Free Youth delivered a presentation Wednesday on medical marijuana consequences during a lunch and learn at Capital Region Medical Center's Southwest Campus. Photo by Julie Smith / California Democrat.

More information is released every day on the possible outcomes of legalizing marijuana.

About 40 people Wednesday attended Capital Region Medical Center's lunch and learn event titled "Medical Marijuana: The Unintended Consequences."

Within the program, Joy Sweeney, executive director of the Jefferson City-based Council for Drug Free Youth, provided some of the most recent data available about marijuana and addiction, social issues, self-medication, coping skills, stress, depression and marijuana's connection to opioid use.

"Every day, information on this topic is changing dramatically," she said.

She said the level of THC (the primary intoxicant) in marijuana has increased from about 1 percent in the '70s to 17-30 percent today. "That's basically a hallucinogen," Sweeney said.

Further, she said, studies have shown there are more than 500 compounds in marijuana.

"That's the main reason the DEA won't approve it (for medical use)," Sweeney said. "It's one of the main reasons it can't be considered a medicine."

She explained drugs the agency does approve act alone, but with so many chemicals in marijuana, there is no way to predict what effect they will all have on any one individual.

Adding to concerns is how inconsistent marijuana is chemically. A person could roll two joints from a single plant, and they might vary widely on composition and purity, Sweeney said.

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Also, one in six marijuana users will become addicted, she said.

"All scientific evidence says it's addictive and it's not consistent," Sweeney said.

It has been argued medical marijuana can relieve symptoms of glaucoma.

It's true that in some cases marijuana relieves high eye pressure associated with glaucoma, she said, but once the patient comes off their high, the pressure returns and can rebound even higher, causing more eye damage.

"(The argument in favor of) medical marijuana relies largely on testimonials and not on evidence," Sweeney said. "We need more research. We need clinical trials and double-blind studies."

About 12 men in neon orange sweatshirts and T-shirts sat in the back of the conference room, listening as Sweeney spoke. The men, Jefferson City employees who chose to use the lunch-and-learn event at the Southwest Boulevard campus of Capital Region Medical Center as a wellness part of their health program, took notes and spoke among themselves.

Ed Savage, a senior maintenance worker in waste water management, said many of the men have children, and they're worried about the outcomes if the state were to legalize medical marijuana.

Sweeney had shown the audience data showing youth located in states where marijuana is legalized for use by adults have much higher rates of marijuana use than in states that don't have legalized marijuana.

"I definitely don't want that here in Missouri," Savage said.

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