The federal government issued new health advisories on the risks of marijuana use for youth and pregnant women, among other vulnerable groups.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Surgeon General Jerome Adams said at a briefing in Washington Thursday that the government is now looking to expand its work in research, education and prevention efforts surrounding the use of the drug.
And Azar and Adams noted that President Trump donated $100,000 of his presidential paycheck to efforts on the digital side of the department's plan to combat the marijuana culture.
The new advisory is intended to raise awareness about "the known and potential harms to developing brains, posed by the increasing availability of highly potent marijuana in multiple, concentrated forms."
While marijuana use has surged in recent years as more states have moved to relax laws on recreational use, health experts warn that pregnant women in particular face increased risks because this demographic uses marijuana more than any other illicit drug, often to try to control nausea from morning sickness.
"There is a false perception that marijuana is not as harmful as other drugs. I want to be very clear - no amount of marijuana use during pregnancy or adolescence is known to be safe," Surgeon General Adams warned.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's recently released 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) data showed that marijuana continues to be the most widely used illicit drug and that further, frequent marijuana use among youth ages 12 to 17 and young adults, appears to be associated with risks for opioid use, heavy alcohol use and major depressive episodes.
In 2017 alone, approximately 9.2 million youth aged 12 to 25 reported using marijuana in the past month, and 29% more young adults aged 18 to 25 started using the substance.
Adams pointed to risks associated with brain development and marijuana use as more products with higher levels of THC, the compound found in marijuana, are becoming more accessible nationwide.
The urgent warning by the federal government comes on the heels of steps recently taken to improve access to legal marijuana for medical and scientific government researchers. The Justice Department announced just this week that it would take action on long-delayed applications to expand the number of entities certified to grow marijuana plants.
Support for more marijuana research has been growing. Earlier this year, a bipartisan group of lawmakers sent letters to the DEA urging the agency to resolve the outstanding applications.
Currently, a majority of Americans support legalizing cannabis, but a recent CBS News poll found the issue may not have have much of an impact on voters in the upcoming 2020 election. According to the poll, 65 percent of Americans think marijuana should be legal, but 56 percent said the issue wouldn't sway them to vote for a candidate across party lines.