Does This Harvard Study Show Marijuana Smokers were Born Stupid?
“Wer out of weed” proclaimed this newly painted addition to a Humboldt Co. Freeway sign yesterday afternoon. The misspelling and the arrow pointing right to where the graffiti artists’ backpacks sat indicates a certain lack of awareness in the illegality of their behavior (these folk don’t seem to be the sharpest knives in the drawer) and yet…
And yet…the latest in Marijuana science shows that…pot doesn’t make you stupid. The August issue of Wired magazine states emphatically,
The adverse impacts of cannabis use on cognitive functions either appear to be related to pre-existing factors or are reversible in this community cohort even after potentially extended periods of use.
See. Marijuana doesn’t make smokers stupid. Just stupid people smoke marij….Wait a minute…Are those researchers saying that marijuana smokers are already stupid before they begin smoking? Hey!
This study builds on previous work by Harvard researchers demonstrating that the learning and memory impairments of heavy marijuana users typically vanish within 28 days of “smoking cessation.” (The slight impairments still existed, however, one week after smoking.) While several days might sound like a long hippocampal hangover, heavy alcohol users typically experience deficits that persist for several months, if not years. In other words, heavy marijuana use appears to be a lot less damaging than alcoholism.
…Furthermore, there’s some intriguing evidence that marijuana can actually improve performance on some mental tests. A recent paper by scientists at University College, London looked at a phenomenon called semantic priming. This occurs when the activation of one word allows us to react more quickly to related words. For instance, the word “dog” might lead to decreased reaction times for “cat,” “pet” and “Lassie,” but won’t alter how quickly we react to “chair.”
Interestingly, the scientists found that marijuana seems to induce a state of hyper-priming, in which the reach of semantic priming extends to distantly related concepts. As a result, we hear “dog” and think of nouns that, in more sober circumstances, would seem rather disconnected, such as “leash” or “hair.” This state of hyper-priming helps explain why cannabis has been so often used as a creative fuel, as it seems to make the brain better at detecting those remote associations that lead to radically new ideas.
I can’t look at that sign without picturing somebody saying, “Hey, dude, we’re out of weed.” And his friend in a creative burst fueled by his last deep inhale from the crumbs in the bottom of his can replying, “No prob, we’re in Humboldt, man. We’ll paint a little sign asking for some and, next thing we know, we’ll be rolling a killer smoke.” And you know, Humboldt being Humboldt, the dude is probably right….