Opinions about cannabis are like ... well ... opinions. Everybody has one, and you almost certainly think at least a couple of mine suck. But some people, myself included and hopefully you, try to base their opinions on facts, when they can get them.
Fortunately, this being the 21st century and all, facts are actually pretty easy to come by, so I looked up some recent ones. To wit:
Fact 1 - Cannabis helps old people
Over in Israel, where researchers have been the vanguard of cannabis research at least since they discovered THC back in 1964, there is recent new evidence—aka facts—showing that marijuana actually helps people. Duh.
Documentarian Zach Klein teamed up with doctors from the Tel Aviv University medical school, school of education and hydrochemistry lab. The researchers followed 19 nursing home patients suffering from a variety of ailments, including post-traumatic stress disorder, cancer and chronic pain, for a year. Participants got cannabis three times daily, delivered either via smoke, vaporizer, powder or oil. The researchers and nursing home staff both provided patient observations. A couple of weeks ago the team released its findings. Guess what?
Virtually every patient in the small, non-peer-reviewed study saw dramatic improvement. Seventeen of the participants gained weight and reported noticeable improvement in pain, muscle spasms, joint stiffness and tremors. Almost all of the patients slept better and had fewer PTSD nightmares and flashbacks. They also noticed immediate and marked improvement in mood and communication skills. Hmmm. That last fact seems to fly in the face of stoner stereotypes.
Toward the end of the study, researchers took a tally of the patients' medications. The patients were averaging 1.7 fewer drugs with the cannabis. Critics sometimes claim we don't need cannabis because we already have drugs for the ailments it relieves. OK, I'll concede that we have drugs for all of these ailments, but using cannabis allows people to take fewer of them.
How is that a bad thing, exactly?
So there you have it—facts showing that cannabis is viable medicine that can get people off the pills that bring a host of harmful side effects.
Tov, toda, Yisra'el.
Fact 2 - Cannabis hurts teens
Another recent science tidbit offers a dim view of cannabis use among teens.
This finding of facts comes from New Zealand, where a group of mental health researchers has been following just over 1,000 people for 38 years. The long-term look at a generation is a product of the Dunedin Multidisciplinary and Development Research Unit at the Dunedin School of Medicine. Madeleine Meier, a post-doc researcher at Duke University, pulled cannabis and IQ statistics from the study. She concluded that when kids are concerned, drugs are bad, mmmkay?
Dunedin gave participants IQ tests at various ages through the past four decades. The tests include memory, reasoning and visual processing. Friends and relatives were also interviewed. Among participants who started using cannabis before age 18, Meier found a decline of an average 8 IQ points from age 13 to 38. Eight points might seem like a slight decline, but that's 8 percent for the average Joe. That sucks. Some people claim IQ is a faulty indicator of intelligence. Maybe. But Meier didn't compare the scores to the populace. She compared them to themselves. Friends and relatives of participants reported the regular teen cannabis users also showed memory and focus deficits in daily life.
Though the study hints that drugs can dull some of the tools in the shed, some are left sharp and shiny. People who started using cannabis after age 18 showed no similar decline. None.
So there are a couple of cannabis facts for you. They're small ones, and they aren't in themselves Earth-shattering, but they are facts. Feel free to use them to build some opinions for yourself, then go out and spread your opinions around. Shout them from a rooftop somewhere. Send them out in an email. Or share them with a guy next to you at the doctor's office. But know this: Someone is sure to think your opinions suck.