Have you ever wondered if you smoke too much weed? A marijuana study published today in the Journal of Neuroscience asserts that smoking six joints in one week classifies as "casual marijuana use".
Six joints in one week sounds like a lot of marijuana smoking, so it is not surprising that “casual” marijuana smoking reshapes key areas of the brain concerned with emotion, motivation and certain types of mental illness (The Boston Globe).
Marijuana has long been associated with an increase in mental illness, but mental illness is frequent. For many, mental illness is genetic and occurs regularly in people who do not and have never smoked marijuana.
What is surprising, however, is that as long as marijuana and research institutes have been around, researchers still can't say how harmful or beneficial marijuana is to its users. Scientists can’t even prove that smoking weed causes cancer.
And the study emphatically states that people under 40 still have pliable brains that are not "hard-wired". This is counter-intuitive or prejudiced to say the least. A good percentage of the nation's college students are over 40, many are PhDs, and if their brains were incapable of rerouting, then they'd not learn or graduate.
Unlike average 40-year-olds, traditional college students and graduates are making serious financial and social decisions that will route their futures.
Still, people make bad decisions and good decisions whether they smoke marijuana or not. So far, the latest research proves that casual marijuana use in young adults is associated with "differences in brain structure and cognitive abilities" (USA Today).
But are those differences harmful? No one knows yet. Colorado and Washington will lead future studies as subjects can participate without fear of legal repercussion.
Newer research may be better served by studies of “casual” marijuana users who lead successful lives paired against casual smokers who do not which contrasts current studies on brains of those who smoke and those who do not.
One salient point on marijuana research was made by Gregory Gerdeman, a biologist and neuropharmacologist at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Gerdeman suggested that studies like the one published in the Journal of Neuroscience and funded in part by the National Institutes of Health and the Office of National Drug Control Policy may not be the best sources of information on marijuana's benefits and risks because these federal government agencies have invested interests in maintaining a status quo that deems marijuana and other drug use unsafe and harmful.
Attorney General Eric Holder told the Huffington Post that he thinks the nation is not quite ready for legalization across the board. Currently 20 states have legalized medicinal marijuana. Chicago, New York, and Maryland have decriminalized marijuana.
Decriminalization in urban areas (Chicago, New York, and the state of Maryland) is motivated not by a belief that marijuana is harmless, but the desire to eradicate the high number of arrests, convictions and prison sentences suffered by nonwhite people for marijuana possession.
And it's no coincidence that just about every college campus in the nation counters the injustice of high rates of African American male imprisonment with higher education programs and courses geared specifically to ensure academic success of Latino and African American male college students.