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Description: This next Wednesday the use of cannabis or marijuana will become legal in Canada. If you live in Canada you cannot have missed the torrent of media on things like the formation and marketing of companies to produce, market and sell marijuana or the public service ads pointing out that toking/ingesting and driving are illegal and dangerous (we are even seeing some of the old style drink-driving tv adds showing people having fun and then having a collision as a result of toking/ingesting and driving.  As a way of marking this large-scale change in legal restrictions I thought I would post this week on research and media articles talking about research relating to the effects of marijuana on human psychology and behaviour. One big change in moving marijuana into the “legal but with limitations” category along with alcohol is the imposition of an age restriction. Prior to legalization, as long as people were prepared to ignore the illegality of using marijuana there were no hard and fast age restrictions on its use. Now that you need to be 19 or over in every province in Canada except Quebec and Alberta where, like alcohol the age will be 18, to legally use marijuana the question of the impacts of marijuana use on “minors” become a more defined concern. So, what do you think? Are there negative effects on teenagers who use marijuana compared to its use by older individuals? Think about it and then read the article linked below that talks about a recently published study looking at this precise question.

Source: Cannabis ‘more harmful than alcohol’ for teen brains, Health, BBC News.

Date: October 3, 2018

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Article Link: https://www.bbc.com/news/health-45732911

The Canadian study discussed in the article linked above indicated that their results suggest that marijuana use in the teenage years may negatively impact cognitive or thinking skills, memory and behavior and may do so to greater extent than drinking alcohol. The researchers point to a larger amount of work that has clearly shown that the frontal lobes of the brain are still developing throughout AND beyond the teenage years and are involved in important executive functions like working memory, impulse control, risk management, and general planning. One of the most important aspects of this study is that it takes a developmental perspective. This means that it will contribute to our ability to understand how cannabis use might have particularly important impacts on the still growing and developing brains of teenagers and, if so, would provide strong support for maintaining and perhaps even considering adjustment to the age at which the use of marijuana becomes legal in Canada.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. How was it that 18 or 19 was picked as the age at which substances like alcohol and, now marijuana become legal?
  2. What sorts of research should, and perhaps now with legalization, can we do that looks at the impacts of marijuana use on human brains, minds and bodies?
  3. Why is it important, in designing research to look at these sorts of questions, to make sure to include some work from a developmental perspective?

References (Read Further):

Morin, J. F. G., Afzali, M. H., Bourque, J., Stewart, S. H., Séguin, J. R., O’Leary-Barrett, M., & Conrod, P. J. (2018). A Population-Based Analysis of the Relationship Between Substance Use and Adolescent Cognitive Development. American Journal of Psychiatry, appi-ajp. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/10/181003090325.htm

Mark Anderson, D., Hansen, B., & Rees, D. I. (2015). Medical marijuana laws and teen marijuana use. American Law and Economics Review, 17(2), 495-528. https://www.econstor.eu/bitstream/10419/88139/1/77263050X.pdf

Weir, K. (2015). Marijuana and the developing brain. Monitor on Psychology, 46, 48-52. https://www.krsd.org/cms/lib/NJ01912751/Centricity/Domain/388/Marijuana%20and%20the%20developing%20brain%20APA%20Feater%20Nov.2015.docx

Reardon, S. (2014). Teen drug use gets supersize study. Nature News, 512(7513), 123.

Rabin, R. C. (2013). Legalizing of marijuana raises health concerns. NY Times. http://www.venturacountylimits.org/media_documents/http___well.blogs.nytimes.pdf

Facts, F. What Parents Need to Know About Marijuana Use and Teens 2017. https://www.cdc.gov/marijuana/pdf/Marijuana-Teens-508.pdf

Trafficking, R. M. H. I. D. (2015). The Legalization of Marijuana in Colorado: The Impact. https://jpo.wrlc.org/bitstream/handle/11204/4237/The%20Legalization%20of%20Marijuana%20in%20Colorado_The%20Impact.pdf?sequence=1

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