Despite benefits, pot could still be harmful to your health

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Despite Benefits, Pot Could Still Be Harmful to Your Health

There's been a lot of positive pot press recently. The drug's medical uses have gained widespread acceptance, and there's more and more support for full legalization.

"The time is long overdue for us to remove the federal prohibition on marijuana," Democratic Sen. Bernie Sanders told a crowd.

SEE MORE:Where the presidential candidates stand on legalizing marijuana

But for all its beneficial effects, there is a flip side — cannabis can have severe health consequences.

First up, addiction. Yes, you can get addicted to marijuana; about 9 percent of cannabis users develop a dependence on the drug, and the risk is higher for adolescents and heavy users.

Though that 9 percent is markedly lower than addiction numbers for other drugs like nicotine.
And addicted or not, it's also possible to build up a tolerance to marijuana. Both dependency and tolerance can lead to a host of unpleasant withdrawal symptoms for people who try to quit.

See how Colorado is testing for pesticides in marijuana:
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Despite benefits, pot could still be harmful to your health
DENVER, CO. - AUGUST 20: Peter Perrone, lab director at Gobi Analytical, sets the sample size on his Liquid chromatographymass spectrometry machine to test marijuana samples for pesticides. It is a complicated process and as of now, Perrone is the only person the city of Denver has stated is qualified to do the testing. (Photo By Mahala Gaylord/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
DENVER, CO. - AUGUST 20: Gobi Analytical is the only lab in Denver that is approved to test cannabis for pesticides. This sample of a cannabis infused edible is at the beginning of the preparation process to undergo pesticide testing. (Photo By Mahala Gaylord/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
DENVER, CO. - AUGUST 20: Peter Perrone, the lab director at Gobi Analytical, the only lab in Denver that tests marijuana for pesticides, points towards a clean bell curve that indicates presence of a pesticide in one of the marijuana samples he is testing. (Photo By Mahala Gaylord/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
DENVER, CO. - AUGUST 20: Peter Perrone, center, is the lab director at Gobi Analytical, the only lab in Denver that tests marijuana for pesticides. Perrone uses a Liquid chromatographymass spectrometry machine to test marijuana samples for pesticides. It is a complicated process and as of now, Perrone is the only person the city of Denver has stated is qualified to do the testing. (Photo By Mahala Gaylord/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
In this Wednesday, June 17, 2015 photo, Frank Conrad, head of pot-testing lab Colorado Green Lab, checks on potency levels of marijuana in his lab in Denver. In states that regulate marijuana, officials are just starting to draft rules governing safe levels of chemicals. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
In this Wednesday, June 17, 2015 photo, Frank Conrad, head of pot-testing lab Colorado Green Lab, charts potency levels of marijuana while his co-worker, Cindy Blair, works behind, at the lab in Denver. In states that regulate marijuana, officials are just starting to draft rules governing safe levels of chemicals. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
This photo taken on Friday, Jan. 4, 2013, shows a lab technician loading a tray of marijuana samples into a Chromograph at CannLabs in Denver. The Chromograph analyzes the samples and reports their chemical content and strength. From potency standards to labeling requirements and even regulations about pesticides and fungicides, marijuana production is largely unregulated, for now. That's why there are places like CannLabs in south Denver, where medical marijuana dispensaries and consumers can voluntarily have their marijuana and pot-infused edibles tested. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)
In this Wednesday, June 17, 2015 photo, Frank Conrad, right, head of a pot-testing lab Colorado Green Lab, and Cindy Blair pose for photos at their lab in Denver. In states that regulate marijuana, officials are just starting to draft rules governing safe levels of chemicals. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
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Acute paranoia and anxiety or panic attacks are well-known possible side effects of cannabis use. Psychotic episodes, schizophrenia and increased severity of mental illness symptoms have also been associated with pot use in some studies.

There's some research suggesting regular pot use might affect brain development in teenagers, and the drug has been shown to harm memory centers in lab rats.
Still, marijuana does have several medical benefits; two cannabis-based chemicals have been shown to help treat nausea, chronic pain and potentially a host of other conditions.

SEE MORE:Support for pot has been changing -- here's a look at legality by state

We should also point out there are plenty of drugs used in modern medicine with far more known harmful side effects than pot — morphine, pentobarbital, and amphetamine are a few examples.
There's still a lot that we don't know about marijuana — research on the drug has been severely hampered due to legal and ethical concerns.

Understanding the drug's health effects will be more important as pot use becomes more and more widespread. From 2002 to 2013, marijuana use in America rose from 4.1 percent to 9.5 percent.

See more related coverage
Where the presidential candidates stand on legalizing marijuana
Support for pot has been changing -- here's a look at legality by state
Surprising ways pot may improve your health

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