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(USA) Health issues murky in coming pot debate

SACRAMENTO, May 17 (UPI) — Medical researchers say there are health issues to be considered should California take up the question of legalizing marijuana.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger recently said the state should study the idea, and the effect pot smoking has on human health will likely be a major bone of contention.

The Sacramento (Calif.) Bee reported Sunday that researchers caution that published studies can be clouded by the political debate over legalization.

“Although we like to say we separate politics from science, with

medical marijuana, that’s really difficult,” said Dr. Donald Abrams, a researcher at the University of California in San Francisco. “It depends on who does the study, where it’s published and what their agenda is.”

Dr. Donald Tashkin, a pulmonologist at UCLA, told the Bee his extensive studies of cannabis showed it to be actually less harmful than tobacco, but by no means harmless.

“I wouldn’t encourage anybody to smoke any substances, because of the potential for harm,” Tashkin said. “But I don’t think it should be stigmatized as an illegal substance.”

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