Marijuana, new evidence, and changing views

I haven’t written about the legalization of marijuana very much on FTSOS, but I have long been in favor of it. No study has ever established a causative link between marijuana and cancer (or any other major disease), and I don’t think it is particularly detrimental to society to allow people to smoke it. Moreover, criminalizing the plant only creates an atmosphere of violence and real crime, not to mention the creation of criminals from the non-criminals who get locked up for using or selling it. That said, however, some new evidence has forced me to reel my views back at least a little:

Researchers found persistent users of the drug, who started smoking it at school, had lower IQ scores as adults.

They were also significantly more likely to have attention and memory problems in later life, than their peers who abstained.

Furthermore, those who started as teenagers and used it heavily, but quit as adults, did not regain their full mental powers, found academics at King’s College London and Duke University in the US.

Those who started later in life – usually during their college years – also experienced a drop in IQ, but were able to recover relatively soon after quitting.

I don’t particularly have a horse in this race – believe it or not, I do not smoke anything and I have no desire to ever start – but I’ve seen plenty of promising people lose track of their lives because of weed. Some have gotten things back on track and the others certainly could do the same, but that’s lost time and productivity. I think the world would simply be a better place with legalization and regulation of marijuana, especially where minors are concerned – and there’s good evidence behind that view.

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4 Responses

  1. And it doesn’t cure cancer either!

    And it might actually cause a bit of cancer if you smoke it. I remain a bit agnostic, like you, towards marijuana. But if it’s legalized, I suppose it might be a better thing, and the tax people would be happier.

  2. Losing 8 or so IQ points is quite a lot. Did they look into why these people were smoking? That is, what was the pot the alternative to? If pot was primarily an alternative to boredom, that’s terrible. But if it was an alternative to violence, then it’s great.

    Also, I think IQ is only a partial measure of a person’s mental abilities. While there may be one, I’m unaware of a solid measure of creativity or emotional capacity. I wonder how (or if) these were affected. It would be nice to know if we’re looking at a tradeoff, or an across-the-board loss.

  3. That’s definitely a good point about IQ, Randy. There really is no one way to measure a person’s complete intelligence.

  4. I wonder how big the sample was and, given that IQ test scores are a measure of the ability to do IQ tests, I am not convinced by the results. How much reduction in IQ score is due to old age? Who were the control group? Anyway, doing IQ tests when mellowed out is no fun.

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