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Marijuana’s effects on young brains diminish 72 hours after use, research says

By Mark Lieber, CNN

Updated 11:17 AM ET, Wed April 18, 2018

(CNN)Marijuana is notorious for slowing certain cognitive functions such as learning, memory and attention span (maybe that’s why they call it “dope”?). But new research in young people suggests that these cognitive effects, while significant, may not persist for very long, even among chronic users.

The meta-analysis, published Wednesday in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, combines data from 69 previous studies that look at the effects of heavy cannabis use on cognitive functioning in adolescents and young adults. It found that those young people who identified as heavy marijuana users scored significantly lower than non-users in a variety of cognitive domains such as learning, abstraction, speed of processing, delayed memory, inhibition and attention.

“There have been a couple of meta-analyses done in adult samples, but this is the first one to be done specifically in adolescent and young adult samples,” said Cobb Scott, assistant professor of psychiatry at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and a lead author of the study.

    “We looked at everything from learning and memory to different aspects of executive functioning such as abstraction ability,” Scott said. “And we basically showed that the largest effects — which was around a third of a standard deviation — was in the learning of new information and some aspects of executive functioning, memory and speed of processing.”

    Weed users found to have poorer verbal memory in middle age

    Weed users found to have poorer verbal memory in middle age

    But when the researchers separated the studies based on length of abstinence from marijuana use, the difference in cognitive functioning between marijuana users and non-users was no longer apparent after 72 hours of marijuana abstinence. That could be an indication “that some of the effects found in previous studies may be due to the residual effects of cannabis or potentially from withdrawal effects in heavy cannabis users,” Scott said.

    The study comes as America continues to debate the merits of marijuana legalization. Recreational marijuana use is legal in nine states. Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia have legalized some form of medical marijuana use, with at least three additional states potentially deciding on the issue in the upcoming November election, according to Melissa Moore, New York deputy state director for the nonprofit Drug Policy Alliance.

    Studies on the long-term cognitive effects of marijuana use among adolescents and young adults have shown inconsistent results. A 2008 study reported that frequent or early-onset cannabis use among adolescents was associated with poorer cognitive performance in tasks requiring executive functioning, attention and episodic memory.

    A 2014 study also warned against the use of marijuana during adolescence, when certain parts of the brain responsible for executive functioning — such as the prefrontal cortex — are still developing.

    “There have been very important studies showing evidence for irreversible damage (from marijuana use), and so there needs to be more research in this area,” said Kevin Sabet, assistant adjunct professor at the Yale School of Medicine and president of the nonprofit Smart Approaches to Marijuana, who was not involved in the new study.

    “I hope they’re right. We want there to be little effect after 72 hours. But given the other studies that have had very large sample sizes that have been published over the past five years in prominent journals, I think we need to look into that more,” added Sabet, whose group is focused on the harms of marijuana legalization.


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    But a number of recent studies have also shown that the association between marijuana use and reduced cognitive functioning disappears after controlling for factors such as psychiatric illness and substance use disorders, according to Scott.

    In an attempt to make sense of these discordant results, the new research combined data from 69 previous studies, resulting in a comparison of 2,152 frequent marijuana users with 6,575 non-users. Participants ranged in age from 10 to 50, with an average age of 21.

    The researchers found that, overall, the cognitive functioning of frequent marijuana users was reduced by one-third of a standard deviation compared with non-frequent marijuana users — a relatively small effect size, according to Scott.

    “It surprised, I think, all of us doing this analysis that the effects were not bigger than we found,” Scott said. “But I would say that the clinical significance of a quarter of a standard deviation is somewhat questionable.”

    But according to Sabet, even a relatively small effect size could be important, especially in a large meta-analysis such as this one.

    “The small effect size may be meaningful in a large population, and again, all (cognitive) measures are worse for those using marijuana,” Sabet said.

    “The study is pretty bad news for marijuana users,” he added. “Overall, I think this is consistent with the literature that marijuana use shows worse cognitive outcomes among users versus non-users.”

    In an effort to identify other potential factors that could have affected the relationship between marijuana use and cognition, the researchers also separated the studies based on the length of marijuana abstinence, age of first cannabis use, sociodemographic characteristics and clinical characteristics such as depression.

    Of these, only the length of marijuana abstinence was found to significantly affect the association between chronic marijuana use and reduced cognitive functioning. Specifically, cognitive functioning appeared to return to normal after about 72 hours of marijuana abstinence — a threshold identified in previous studies, according to Scott.

    “The reason we chose the 72-hour mark is that in looking at the data on cannabis withdrawal effects in heavy cannabis users, 72 hours seems to be past the peak of most withdrawal effects that occur,” he said.

    Marijuana legalization by the numbers

    However, the 69 studies included in the review did not have a uniform definition for “chronic” or “frequent” marijuana use, one of the study’s main limitations, according to Sabet.

    “When you put all of these studies together that have different definitions of marijuana users and are from different times, it’s not surprising that you’d get a smaller effect size,” Sabet said.

    The studies also relied on a variety of tests to determine cognitive functioning, including the Trail Making Test, the Digital Span Memory Test and the California Verbal Learning test, according to Scott.

    “The other thing that’s important to highlight is that we’re only looking at cognitive functioning. We’re not looking at risks for other adverse outcomes with cannabis use, like risk for psychosis, risks for cannabis use problems or other medical issues like lung functioning outcomes,” Scott said.

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    But the results still suggest that the negative cognitive effects of marijuana use, while significant in the short-term, probably diminish with time. They also shed light on the need for more research in this area, particularly as cannabis policy in the United States continues to change at a rapid pace.

    “As attitudes change about cannabis use and cannabis use becomes a little bit more accepted in terms of policy and government regulation and medical cannabis use increases, I think we need to have a real understanding of the potential risks and benefits of cannabis use,” Scott said.

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    MERRY (f/g) CHRISTMAS! “The Jirons now face felony charges of possession of marijuana…” OR.. SANTA CLAUS GOT BUSTED FOR cHRISTMAS!

    Sheriff’s deputies in York County, Neb., stopped a pickup truck on Tuesday when they noticed it driving over the center line and the driver failing to signal.

    During the traffic stop, deputies noticed a strong smell of raw marijuana, the sheriff’s department says.

    Patrick Jiron, 80, and Barbara Jiron, 83, said they were from northern California and were en route to Boston and Vermont.

    Deputies asked the driver, Patrick Jiron, about the odor, and he admitted to having contraband in the truck and consented to a search of the vehicle.

    With the help of the county’s canine unit, deputies searched the Toyota Tacoma. When they looked under the pickup topper, deputies found 60 pounds of marijuana, as well as multiple containers of concentrated THC.

    “They said the marijuana was for Christmas presents,” Lt. Paul Vrbka told the York News-Times. The department estimated the street value of the pot at over $3oo,000.

    The Jirons now face felony charges of possession of marijuana with the intent to deliver and no drug tax stamp. (Nebraska law requires marijuana dealers to purchase drug tax stamp from its Department of Revenue as evidence that the state’s drug tax has been paid.)

    For the friends and family in New England who expected a bag of weed in their stocking this year, it looks like it won’t be a green Christmas, after all.

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    81-Year-Old Woman’s Single Marijuana Plant Seized in Raid by National Guard and State Police

    repeal prob

    Authorities want to play "War on Pot"—with helicopters and militarized raids—while they still can.

    Anthony L. Fisher|Oct. 6, 2016

    The full legalization of recreational use of marijuana in Massachusetts could very well become a reality—if current polling holds up—when voters go to the polls next month. Medical marijuana is already legal in the Bay State, provided you’ve got one of those officially sanctioned cards from the state government.

    But for the time being, personal cultivation of even a single marijuana plant without state permission is illegal, and Massachusetts state law enforcement put on a display of force last week to make sure nobody, not even an 81-year-old woman with glaucoma and arthritis, forgets it.

    According to the Daily Hampshire Gazette, on September 21, octogenarian grandma Margaret Holcomb found herself the subject of a joint raid by the National Guard and Massachusetts State Police. It started when her son Tim saw "a military-style helicopter circling the property, with two men crouching in an open door and holding a device that he suspects was a thermal imager to detect marijuana plants." A few minutes later, a number of law enforcement vehicles arrived and a state trooper demanded the "illegal contraband," warning that no charges would be filed if they gave up Ms. Holcomb’s single marijuana plant peacefully and without demanding a search warrant.

    Holcomb does not have a medical marijuana card, and told the Gazette if she is unable to procure one, she’ll likely grow another plant.

    The raid was one of at least six that took place on September 21, all without the knowledge or cooperation of local police authorities.

    Attorney Michael Cutler, who works with clients who need legal counsel regarding medical marijuana, suspects the raids are partially motivated by authorities wanting to experience a few more moments of "action" in a specific theatre of the war on drugs that may soon be coming to a close. From the Gazette:

    Cutler said it’s likely that authorities are using budgeted funds, prior to the end of the federal fiscal year Saturday, to gas up helicopters and do flyovers.

    "We’re seeing the last throes of police hostility to the changing laws," Cutler said. "They’re taking the position that if it’s in plain view, it’s somehow illegal."

     

    Anthony L. Fisher is an Associate Editor for Reason.com.

    Follow Anthony L. Fisher on Twitter

    CONTINUE READING…

    Renter finds federal aid, marijuana don’t mix

     

     

    Elderly resident loses subsidized apartment

    By Jim Mimiaga
    Cortez Journal

    Lea Olivier, 87, is being evicted from federal housing based on a claim she was smoking marijuana. “A compliance officer said they smelled pot coming from my residence,” Olivier says. “I don’t think it was even me. I’ve used it before to ease arthritis pain.”

    Lea Olivier, 87, is being evicted from federal housing based on a claim she was smoking marijuana. “A compliance officer said they smelled pot coming from my residence,” Olivier says. “I don’t think it was even me. I’ve used it before to ease arthritis pain.”

    DOLORES – Smoking cannabis? Not a good idea while living in federally subsidized housing, even if the drug has been prescribed by a doctor.

    Some residents are finding out the hard way that there is a glaring discrepancy between Colorado’s liberal marijuana laws and the federal government’s outright ban on the substance.

    Lea Olivier, an 87-year-old low-income resident living in Dolores, is the latest casualty. She has lived there for five years but says she has been ordered to vacate her rent-subsidized apartment on Central Avenue for allegedly violating the illegal-substances policy.

    “A compliance officer said they smelled pot coming from my residence,” she says. “I don’t think it was even me. I’ve used it before to ease arthritis pain.”

    Olivier, who lives alone, is now faced with finding alternative housing but is concerned she cannot afford it on her fixed Social Security income.

    “I’ll live in a tent or my car if I have to,” she said. “I’ve got 10 days to move, but when I get knocked down, I get back up.”

    Terri Wheeler, executive director of Housing Authority of Montezuma County, said conflicting laws on marijuana have become a problem for federal housing operations.

    She could not discuss Olivier’s file because of confidentiality regulations but explained there is a “zero tolerance” policy for use or possession of drugs considered illegal by the federal government.

    “It has become a problem, and is confusing because marijuana is legal in the state,” Wheeler said. “Residents sign an agreement that they know it is not allowed on the property.”

    For Olivier, the rule is too onerous and not practical.

    “I’m tired of their petty demands,” she said. “Now, I have to use pain pills, which I don’t like to do.”

    Olivier worked in the restaurant business all her life in California. She said a concerned friend guided her to marijuana as an alternative to alcohol.

    “It helped me recover from that destructive lifestyle,” Olivier said.

    She has medical marijuana card prescribed to control pain but wonders why. Since Amendment 64 passed in Colorado, adults are allowed to purchase and possess marijuana.

    “Why should I grease a doctor’s palm to have a medical card?” she asks, referring to annual renewal fees.

    Wheeler said since Amendment 64 passed, six residents were required to vacate federal housing for violating the ban on marijuana use. The authority oversees 393 low-income apartments with federal subsidies.

    “It was an issue before as well, but state legalization has not helped,” she said.

    There is an appeal process for residents who are found to be violating drug laws. While regulations are strictly enforced, they are administered with a practical approach based on circumstances.

    “We’re not cold about it; warnings have been given for marijuana. For meth, there is no going back,” Wheeler said. “We know there are valid medical uses for marijuana, but we have to comply with HUD regulations, or we lose our subsidies for people who need housing assistance.”

    More education is needed regarding legal use of marijuana in Colorado. Besides being banned within federal housing, it is also illegal to use or possess at federally owned or regulated facilities, including airports, national forest lands, national parks and national monuments.

    “We’re doing a lot of re-explaining. You cannot grow marijuana, possess it or use it in our housing units even though the state legalized it,” Wheeler said. “Habitual users usually move out because of the rules.”

    Olivier said property managers instruct residents to leave the boundaries of the apartment complex if they want to consume marijuana. Annual inspections of apartments are a part of living in subsidized housing. If illegal drugs turn up, leases are not renewed or notices to vacate are issued.

    “They told us to go beyond a certain gate or leave in our car and go somewhere else, but we cannot keep anything in our car if it is parked on their property,” Olivier said. “It is ridiculous; I don’t want to live here anymore anyway.”

    One jurisdiction’s solution is another one’s problem. Smoking marijuana in public spaces, including in parks or on trails, is also not allowed under Colorado marijuana laws.

    jmimiaga@cortezjournal.com

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