'Scary' New Marijuana Research Just Shows It's No Different Than Booze

woman smoking a joint

Stop the presses, people. Just when you thought we were thisclose to the federal government legalizing marijuana (come on, already two of our 50 great states have done it!), here comes a study that seems to aim to shut all of that noise down STAT.

A researcher named Professor Wayne Hall, who is the drugs advisor to the World Health Organization, conducted a 20-year study on marijuana use, and came to what some are calling quite damning conclusions.

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Among them: One in six teens who regularly smoke the drug become dependent on it, cannabis doubles the risk of developing psychotic disorders (including schizophrenia), cannabis users do worse at school, heavy use in adolescence appears to impair intellectual development, one in ten adults who regularly smoke the drug become dependent on it (and those who use it are more likely to go on to use harder drugs), driving after smoking doubles the risk of a car crash, and smoking it while pregnant reduces the baby's birth weight.

One of the biggest takeaways Hall is touting is that he believes "if cannabis is not addictive, then neither is heroin or alcohol."

More from The Stir: Medical Marijuana for Kids -- Not as Crazy as It Sounds (VIDEO)

Ookay. Let's all just take the shock and dismay down a notch, shall we?

Twenty years of research is commendable, and Hall deserves to be heard, if only for that. But at the same time, nowhere in his research does it sound like he took a look at the benefits more and more experts, policymakers, and Americans are embracing every day.

CNN chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta, MD, famously wrote an essay last year entitled, "Why I changed my mind on weed." He points out how sometimes, marijuana is the only treatment that helps children who have seizures. That sure, about 1 in 10 people who use marijuana end up dependent (like Hall found), but guess what? Twenty-five percent of heroin users get hooked. So let's not pretend that on any planet those two drugs are on par.

Research has shown marijuana can help treat a veritable laundry list of conditions and diseases. The problem is that most of our studies -- only about 6 percent in the US -- investigate the benefits. The rest, like Hall's, look into harm. Just a bit unbalanced, wouldn't you say?

That said, no one -- neither advocates of medical nor recreational use -- is saying teens should be using it recreationally, people should be smoking and driving (same as they shouldn't be under the influence of alcohol and get behind the wheel), or that pregnant women should be smoking up, etc.

Hall's research is just about as helpful as very similar findings on alcohol. In other words, it's not damning enough that it ought to prevent adults who benefit from using it from smoking responsibly. 

What do you think about these findings?

 

Image via Roy Morsch/Corbis

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