These College Students Lost Access to Legal Pot – And Started Getting Better Grades

The most rigorous study to date shows that college students in the Netherlands who are denied access to “cannabis cafes,” do better academically than their peers who are allowed to frequent them.

The Dutch have permitted marijuana to be sold and consumed in cafes that are strictly regulated, may not sell other drugs or advertise, and are swiftly shut down if they fail to comply with regulations.

The Dutch town of Maastricht, which is close to the borders of Germany, Belgium, France, and Luxembourg, experienced a problem with drug tourism. People from those countries came to Maastrict to buy marijuana legally; those from Luxembourg and France created most of the problems. So Maastrict authorities denied citizens from Luxembourg and France access to the cafes.

But students from all five nations attend Maastrict University. The town’s policy change gave researchers a natural experiment to determine whether legalization vs. prohibition in the same student body makes a difference in their academic performance.

In fact, it does. Students banned from the cafes, who were less likely to use marijuana and suffer cognitive deficits from its use, experienced a 5 percent increase in their odds of passing their courses. The beneficial effect was even more pronounced for students at risk of dropping out.

The authors conclude:

We have investigated how restricting cannabis access affects student achievements, finding that the performance of students who lose legal access to cannabis substantially improves. Our analysis of underlying channels suggests that the effects are specifically driven by an improvement in numerical skills, which existing literature has found to be particularly impaired by cannabis consumption. This article provides the first causal evidence that restricting legal access to cannabis affects college students’ short-term study performance. We believe that our findings also imply that individuals change their consumption behavior when the legal status of a drug changes.

Read Washington Post article here. Read research paper here.

American Society of Addiction Medicine Faults Study Purporting to Show Marijuana is an Effective Substitute for Pain-Relieving Opioids

As the assertion continues that marijuana is a safe and effective alternate to opioids for pain relief, the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) takes issue with the scientific validity of a new study that intensifies the claim.

“Cannabis as a Substitute for Opioid-Based Pain Relief,” a new study, “demonstrates several distortions that can and do arise with the current enthusiasm for cannabis as a panacea,” says William Haning, MD, editor-in-chief of ASAM Weekly.

Dr. Haning notes that Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research “is an online open access periodical published by an enterprise that captures specialty niches.”

He continues, “The article and the accompanying polemical editorial which asserts ‘that cannabis is a safe, non-addictive product,’ suffer from the illusion of balanced scientific inquiry.”

He goes on from there. Read his ASAM Weekly editorial here. Read Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research study here.

Economy Needs Workers, but Drug Tests Take a Toll

In an oddly titled article, which appears to blame drug testing rather than drug use, the New York Times reports that the middle-class factory jobs President Trump promised to bring back from overseas are going begging because applicants can’t pass drug tests.

“Indeed, the opioid epidemic and, to some extent, wider marijuana use are hitting businesses and the economy in ways that are beginning to be acknowledged by policy makers and other experts,” notes the article.

One expert says the drug issue keeps workers who are trapped in low-paying jobs from securing better-paying, blue-collar positions and a toehold in the middle class.

The Times, whose editorial board called for full marijuana legalization a few years ago, observes that “workplace considerations – not social conservatism or imposition of traditional mores – make employee drug use an issue.”

The owner of a boiler-making factory in Youngstown, Ohio, explains why. “The lightest product we make is 1,500 pounds, and they go up to 250,000 pounds. If something goes wrong, it won’t hurt our workers. It’ll kill them.”

Maybe traditional mores like safety concerns have value after all.

Read New York Times article here.

How the Legalization of Marijuana Affects Employee Drug Testing

Medical marijuana laws vary greatly from state to state. A few require employers to accommodate workers’ medical marijuana use when possible. Most don’t.

This map demonstrates the current status of the differing requirements of state marijuana laws.

Read blog entry here (second story).

Pattern of Marijuana Use During Adolescence May Impact Psychosocial Outcomes in Adulthood

Escalating marijuana use in adolescence may lead to higher rates of depression and lower educational achievement in adulthood, a new study published in Addictionfinds.

Researchers interviewed 159 boys and young men who were part of a longitudinal study of males at high risk for antisocial behaviors and other problems based on low income, family size, and gender.

At age 20, each participant reported whether and how much marijuana they used each year since they started. Their brains were also scanned.

The “boys who started occasionally using marijuana around 15 or 16 years old and had a dramatic increase in use by the time they were 19 had the greatest dysfunction in brain reward circuitry, the highest rates of depression, and the lowest educational achievements,” say the researchers.

“Though the results do not show a direct causal link,” they say, “it’s important to note that even though most people think marijuana isn’t harmful, it may have severe consequences for some people’s functioning, education, and mood.”

Read Science Daily article here. Read Addiction abstract here.

Marijuana and Vulnerability to Psychosis

Researchers at the University of Montreal, pictured above, find that going from occasional to weekly or daily marijuana use increases an adolescent’s risk of having recurrent, psychotic-like experiences by 159 percent.

Although marijuana causes many kinds of cognitive problems, “the development of inhibitory control was the only cognitive function negatively affected by an increase in marijuana use,” say the researchers.

“Our results show that while marijuana use is associated with a number of cognitive and mental health symptoms, only an increase in symptoms of depression — such as negative thoughts and low mood — could explain the relationship between marijuana use and increasing psychotic-like experiences in youth,” the lead researcher said.

Read Science Daily article here. Read Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatryabstract here.

Depression Among Young Teens Linked to Cannabis Use at 18

Young people (ages 12-15) with chronic or severe depression are at elevated risk of developing a marijuana-use disorder in later adolescence.

Researchers at the University of Washington, pictured above, collected data from 521 students recruited from four Seattle middle schools and conducted annual assessments of the students at ages 12-15 and then again at age 18.

The scientists found that a “one standard deviation increase” in cumulative depression during early adolescence produced a 50 percent higher likelihood of marijuana-use disorder at age 18.

They were surprised to see that the prevalence of both alcohol-use disorder and marijuana-use disorder were higher among their students than national averages. What effect marijuana legalization in Washington may have had on these outcomes is not clear.

They point out that a similar study in another state that has not legalized the drug would clarify the issue.

Read Science Daily article here. Read Addiction abstract here.

Note:

After publishing our story about Georgia Representative Allen Peake last week, we came across a video on Haleigh’s Hope Facebook page in which Rep. Peake explains how he is violating federal law by distributing a Schedule I drug throughout the state. We posted the video on The Marijuana Report’s Facebook page. You can see it here.

The Marijuana Report is a weekly e-newsletter published by National Families in Action in partnership with SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana). Visit our website, The Marijuana Report.Org, to learn more about the marijuana story unfolding across the nation.

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