(2nd International Cannabis and Mental Health Conference Programme [PDF] Logo)
Today, 13 states currently have active medical marijuana programs. Illinois, Texas, and Connecticut are chompin' at the bit (Connecticut just did the civil union thing - watch out). Grandma in the Bronx (colorectal cancer) isn't getting tagged for smokin' the rope. Hell, even Sanjaya's fam is in the growing business. Good reports? You got it: Marijuana has shown to cut lung tumor growth in mice and a marijuana-like compound may slow Alzheimer's.
So what has to come out? Marijuana makes makes you crazy and damages the brain. Sorry, that's FOX News. How about a more credible reporting source like Reuters through Scientific American?
Quick Psych 101: Psychology is only useful for broad, sweeping statements and we don't have a true understanding of all aspects of the brain or how they work, let alone how drugs interact with it (note: Not talking out of my ass; I have a Psych degree and recently had a great conversation with a neuroscientist on this exact topic).
From the article: the two main active components of marijuana are cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). CBD produces a calming effect. THC is associated with the paranoia, euphoria.
There are upwards of 300 active compounds in marijuana. This study took the two most abundant (THC and CBD), and looked to see where the brain was affected. Because of anti-drug taboos, these studies are almost always conducted with synthesized THC. And an MRI will give you an image of activity or inactivity, but - as already mentioned - we don't know all the details of activity in certain areas of the brain.
To sum up: Doctors treated patients with a synthesis of a compound known to cause mild paranoia. They then put their patients in this machine:
and reported that the brain scan showed affected areas related to paranoia. No shit.
I am not trying to slam the study. The media and its fervor, however, can go take a flying fuck at a rolling donut on this one. Reuters has this article titled "Brain scans pinpoint cannabis health risk." But they didn't. The brain scans show activity or inactivity of the brain, and and the implications affect mental health outlook, while "health" implies physical health or brain damage. First sentence: "Brain scans showing how cannabis affects brain function...." Hold it right there. Function is not measured but by behavior. See previous explanation of what is being measured.
"It's no longer a contentious issue. The expert community, by and large, accepts that cannabis contributes to the onset of psychotic symptoms in general and the severe form of psychosis, schizophrenia," [Professor Robin Murray, conference organizer] said.Wrong. That sounds like the "Weed makes you crazy" defense. Dr. Zerrin Atakan, author of the study, was found to be an astute, reasonable human being completely void of the sensationalism that would follow a story like this. He was quoted in the Telegraph in 2004 as saying:
Cannabis psychosis is a very vague term. If we ever use the phrase, it is only to describe very short-term effects immediately following smoking, and it certainly doesn't refer to users having a psychotic disorder. People may feel frightened or paranoid, but these feelings pass in a matter of hours or, more rarely, days, and practically never require treatment.He even laid out some very lucid guidelines in a message to the 2005 Cannabis Education March & Rally, telling everyone to make up their own mind about marijuana, but hitting on some basic facts about smoking before your brain is done growing, smoking if you have mental illness, or smoking every day. Very understanding and well-understood.
So why the hullabaloo? Two words:
(note: The Movie is public domain and the Musical is phenomenal.)
The media loves a good weed story; Marijuana's been tried by 1/4 to 1/3 of the US population, probably twice that have been affected by proximity. Sensationalism sells. So if you can blow a study into a headline, go for it, especially if it concerns marijuana and something bad. The federal government is in love with that. It wants to marry it and kiss it on the privates.
As for Robin Murray and his "weed causes schizophrenia" sensationalism, you might want to ask him to tone it down a bit. Of course, he may have to conference in the pharma behind his conference: Janssen-Cilag and Sanofi-Aventis. But I'm sure that their involvement and their production of schizophrenia treatment drugs are all just a coincidence.
I'll dismount the soapbox now and spare you, fair reader, a venture into legalization, the justice system, hypocrisies, and alternative energy, and leave you with this:
"Casual drug users should be taken out and shot"For real information about marijuana, please visit NORML.
Head of Los Angeles Police Department
United States Senate Judiciary Committee (1990)
(Bonus: 420 Origin Story)