Whether you like it or not, marijuana is becoming more and more prevalent in our country today. More and more people continue to push for the nationwide legalization of marijuana as they believe it has too many medical benefits to deny the public of its many uses. In this article, you can see states like Colorado, Washington, Alaska, and Oregon, who have made recreational use of Cannabis legal. Often, we see that those who do smoke tend to insist that marijuana is a harmless drug with many benefits, and on the other end, many of those who don’t smoke see this plant as a murderous cancer to our society. I’ve always wondered if there was solid evidence behind either argument, so I set out to find the truth.
I came across an article by Agata Blaszczak-Boxe outlining 20 years of marijuana research. She starts off the article by immediately stating how smoking marijuana before driving doubles your chance of getting into an accident. She also states that 1/10 daily marijuana users become reliant on the drug. But what led us to these conclusions, and have we found a real mechanism for these outcomes? Agata talks about author Wayne Hall’s research in which he tested the effects of marijuana on humans between 1993 and 2013. She states that his work shows a correlation between smoking marijuana and dropping out of school. It showed that kids who smoked were more likely to drop out of school than those who did not smoke. These children also experienced lesser brain function as adults. Now the question is, is marijuana simply a correlation to bad health effects, or is marijuana truly causing these things to happen. With a situation like this, where school children were observed, we can always assume there might be a 3rd variable affecting the children and the marijuana is not. Also, many people could argue that, without details of a timeframe, reverse causation might be the answer to this.
As Agata goes on, she explains another experiment that offers a little more proof of causation. In a Swedish study of 50,000+ young men, the men who smoke more than 10 times before age 18 were twice as likely to develop schizophrenia; as opposed to those who didn’t smoke. With a large sample like this, and a long term time-frame, we can rule out reverse causation. While we still cant rule out a 3rd variable, or chance, this experiment definitely provides some serious evidence showing that mild marijuana use may cause serious health problems. Still, there are many people who insist that this conclusion may be a false positive. Even for those who accept these findings, many believe that the benefits of marijuana outweigh the costs found in these experiments.
However, according to an article by Alice Park, there isn’t much scientific evidence behind the benefits of marijuana. She states that, in an experiment where patients (each had a certain condition that marijuana has been rumored to treat) were given doses of the drug, some reported that their condition improved. However, many of the volunteers admitted that the improvement could have easily been due to chance alone because the correlation was so minuscule. Park states that the experiment showed possible correlation with treating chronic pain while little correlation showed between marijuana and Tourette Syndrome.
Without larger and more in depth experiments we won’t be able to confirm an actual causation relating marijuana to medical treatment, but as marijuana become more prevalent in our society, I believe new experiments will expose the true benefits of this drug. Our national government has no yet recognized marijuana as a medicinal product because they still consider it an “illegal drug,” but I can bet we will see legislative changes on the national level in the next 20 years. At this moment in time, there is a lot more evidence backing the harmful effects of marijuana, so now it is up to everyone to decide: Do we take the risk in the hope that there are real benefits to the drug? Or do we stay clear knowing that evidence effectively shows that marijuana is a harmful substance?