Marijuana, is it safe?

Some surprising facts about about the drug.

With the recent legalization of Marijuana in Colorado and Washington you might be wondering about some of the health risks regarding the drug and whether smokers may become a problem for non-smokers in these states. Unfortunately little evidence regarding the hazards, or lack thereof, from smoking exists. Little, in this case, does not mean none. This article will cover some of the basic observable health effects that have been incurred by frequent and long term smokers of marijuana. 

Smoking marijuana is bad for your lungs

In case this wasn't totally clear in the first place, inhaling any sort of smoke into your body is terrible for your lungs. You'll often hear from smokers that it's much healthier than smoking  regular cigarettes however this is only because marijuana is not addictive! Due to no regulation on the filters used in your average joint, it's been found to produce more than five times more carbon monoxide, and you're likely to retain 33% more tar after smoking a joint. It's also important to note that all of the carcinogens present in cigarettes are also present in a joint. These are openly observed facts that are often ignored because marijuana is less destructive than cigarettes. What's forgotten is that less destructive does not equal not destructive.

Marijuana is addictive, but not as addictive as cigarettes

In the most unbiased study regarding marijuana, The Science of Marijuana (2008), only 10-30% of people tended to develop some sort of dependency and of those only 9% developed a serious, problematic dependency. This is huge, because Marijuana can become an addiction for many, however it's a lot less common than cigarettes. It's important to note that when smoked in equivalent amounts, research tends to show that Marijuana is more dangerous due to poor filtering. The aforementioned increase in carbon monoxide will drastically increase your chances of heart disease. When stacked against other addictive substances pot doesn't quite pose the same problem.

A graph depicting recorded addicts in the US

Marijuana will have lasting effects on your brain

In a 2012 study on rats and in a 2011 study on long-term weed smokers (Those who smoked 4 times a week for more than 10 years) There was significant change in the brains physiology. In particular the part of the brain responsible for short-term memory had grown in an attempt to compensate and a lot of the white matter surrounding the hippocampus had been shrunken or disappeared. This basically equates to a long-term smoker having a weakened short-term memory and slower functioning brain overall. another 2011 study also showed that smokers who lit up 4 times a week for over 10 years saw an overall IQ decrease of 8 points on average. Though that may not sound significant, that can be the difference between 100, the 50th percentile, and 92, the 29th percentile. This could drastically change a persons quality of life, and really affect them on a day-to-day basis.

Infrequent use will typically not affect you enough to notice

The good news for many of the smokers out in Washington and Colorado is that if you're not smoking more than once a week you probably won't see a huge change in your physiology. That's to say, moderation is everything! Most people who smoke even once a week will eventually see some form of lung damage, oftentimes leading to a bit of a cough later on in life, or in worst case scenarios, cancer.

There are social repercussions to smoking weed

Although in moderation the damage accrued from modest smoking of marijuana is minimal, it is a very stigmatized substance and becoming a "stoner" will probably not help you achieve success in the modern world, nor will it help raise a child since marijuana is still often associated with crime and rebellion. Smoking is also still a federal crime and having an arrest on record is typically ill-advised.

There is still a lot of research happening

It's not unusual to find multiple studies that are all at odds with each other. The studying of marijuana to this point has been very difficult because of it's illegality, but it's also important to note that testing with the drug would usually be considered unethical so the information that will soon be pouring in will mostly be circumstantial, or time-lapse studies. Even the research presented in this article is subject to scrutiny and really only correlative rather than causal.

Everything you needed  to know

That's a lot of the current information out regarding the health risks associated with marijuana use. There are plenty of "facts" about marijuana, but few of them are substantiated by research. 

Works Cited

"Drugs and Smoking « Princeton University Health Services." Princeton University - Welcome. The Trustees of Princeton University, 18 Apr. 2012. Web. 2 Dec. 2012. <>.

Lamarine, Rolan. "Marijuana: Modern Medical Chimaera.." Journal of Drug Education 42.1 (2012): 1-11. Academic Search Complete. Web. 2 Dec. 2012.

Lorenzetti, Valentina, Dan Lubman, Sarah Whittle, Nadia Solowij, and Murat Yucel. "Structural MRI FIndings in Long-Term Cannabis Users: What do we know?." Substance Use & Misuse 45.11 (2010): 1787-1808. Academic Search Complete. Web. 2 Dec. 2012.

Meier, Madeline, Avshalom Caspi, Antony Ambler, HonaLee Harrington, Renate Houts, Richard Keefe, Kay McDonald, Aimee Ward, Richie Pulton, and Terrie Moffitt. PNAS Plus: Persistent cannabis users show neuropsychological decline from childhood to midlife. Eugene, OR: Highwire Press, 2012. Print.

Solowij, Nadia, Katy Jones, Megan Rozman, Sasha Davis, Ciarrochi Joseph, Patrick Heaven, Dan Lubman, and Murat Yucel. "Verbal learning and memory in adolescent cannabis users, alcohol users and non-users." Psychopharmacology 216.1 (2011): 131-144. Academic Search Complete. Web. 2 Dec. 2012.

Zalesky, Andrew, Nadia Solowij, Marc Seal, Murat Yucel, Dan Lubman, Michael Takagi, Ian Harding, Valentina Lorenzetti, Ruopeng Wang, Karissa Searle, and Christos Pantelis. "Effect of long-term cannabis use on axonal fibre connectivity.." Brain: a Journal Of Neurology 135.7 (2012): 2245-2255. Academic Search Complete. Web. 2 Dec. 2012.