Drug Law

Study: Smoking Pot Before 16 Harms Brain Function

| by NORML

By "Radical" Russ Belville

(NY Times) Young adults who started using [cannabis] regularly in their early teens performed significantly worse on tests assessing brain function than did subjects who were at least 16 when they started, scientists reported last week.

The findings led researchers at McLean Hospital to surmise that the developing teenage brain may be particularly vulnerable to the ill effects of marijuana.

The study, done in conjunction with brain scans, was small, consisting of 35 chronic marijuana smokers who were 22 years old on average. The subjects were asked to complete an assessment of executive function — the brain processes responsible for planning and abstract thinking, as well as understanding rules and inhibiting inappropriate actions. The test — in which participants were asked to sort cards with different shapes, numbers and colors — is a measure of cognitive flexibility.

We’ll talk to Dr. Mitch about this study on Wednesday, but it seems to underscore something we’ve said at NORML all along: marijuana use is not for kids.  It is incumbent upon us as reformers to emphasize this, to preach responsible use and that means “adults only”.

We also must illustrate that it is the prohibition of cannabis that most endangers their children.  It is ironic that the photo I’ve included in the post is a shot of what’s happening now under prohibition, but that it scares parents into resisting legalization.  Prohibition makes it profitable to deal weed in school.  Prohibition means nobody is checking any IDs for purchases.  Prohibition gives marijuana a rebellious quality adolescent boys find irresistible.

Even under legalization some adolescents will use marijuana but at least we’ll dismantle the economic incentive to provide weed to kids.  Our efforts to educate kids about cannabis will be taken more seriously by youngsters if we’re honest about cannabis and its responsible adult use.  As it is now, kids are told marijuana is a gateway to heroin and the people that use it are addicts and slackers who’ll never amount to anything.  Then they watch the Olympics and the World Series and see tokers like Michael Phelps and Tim Lincecum performing at the top of their sports.  Snoop Dogg and Ice Cube seem to have decent careers.

Why should they believe this latest NY Times headline when they hear so many reefer madness lies that are disproved by their own eyes?