Ross Parker was chief of the criminal division in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit for 8 years and worked as an AUSA for 28 in that office.
By Ross Parker
A recent study by researchers from Northwestern University and Harvard University Medical School has concluded that even moderate use of marijuana by young adults affects the structure of their brains.
The study, published in the April 16, 2014 Journal of Neuroscience, found that the size and shape of the region of the brain involved in emotion and motivation were abnormal in these casual users compared to non-users. Further, the more an individual uses marijuana, the more pronounced these structural changes are.
The study is significant because most of the recent studies showing the effects of marijuana on the brain were performed with heavy rather than casual users. The study joins the increased amount of recent scientific and medical evidence that marijuana use, especially for young brains, has unhealthy side effects. As reported the last few months in this column, these reports have shown:
- The tripling of calls to Poison Centers in states that have legalized marijuana in some form about young children who have ingested marijuana (University of Maryland, Center for Substance Abuse Research)
- Dramatic increase in the need for medical intervention for children in states that have decriminalized marijuana use (American College of Emergency Physicians)
- The marijuana addiction rate for youth is 17%, three times that of adults (American Society of Addiction Medicine)
- In medical marijuana states, one-third of the 12th graders report that one of their sources of supply is from adults with a medical marijuana prescription (University of Michigan, Institute for Social Research)
- Increased use of marijuana by American teens and a sharp decline in their perception that marijuana use can be risky (Same source)
- Use of marijuana during pregnancy affects the baby’s brain (Live Science)
- Increased statistics of marijuana-related emergency room visits (DAWN)
- Chronic use of marijuana may result in increased anxiety by down regulating the cannabinoid receptors in the brain (Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Neuron)
After years of very limited research on the medical effects of marijuana, this barrage of recent studies seems to be receiving little attention among state legislatures which are following the trend toward legalization which has changed the national culture in such a short period of time. Twenty years ago marijuana was illegal in all states in all forms. Today two states have legalized recreational use as well as numerous random municipalities, and 21 have authorized its “medical” use. Numerous states are considering similar bills, and the federal policy on enforcement has been altered dramatically by the present administration.
Pro-marijuana advocates are quick to point out their views on the harm of prohibition and the benefits of legalization. If there is to be a full and fair discussion on the future on this issue, the mounting scientific and medical evidence deserve full consideration.