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Marijuana’s mind games

Marijuana cafe in Holland photo:cristiano gatti/Flickr

Cannabis cafe in Holland Photo:cristiano gatti/Flickr

[by Dean Smith] Dutch University Professor Olivier Marie and Ulf Zolitz of IZA recently released a study on the impact of marijuana usage at Holland’s Maastricht University. They discovered that students with easy access to marijuana had lower grades than those that didn’t.

Holland legalized marijuana in 1976. Since people are only allowed to possess small quantities of the drug, this led to the rise of Cannabis cafes, where people could buy and partake. Holland has a 5 ounce possession limit compared to Colorado which allows over five times that amount.

In 2011, Maastricht University introduced a curious law on campus where it only allowed Dutch, Belgian and German nationals to buy cannabis at the campus’ 13 cafes that sell the drug. It put the provision in place due to growing concerns about drug tourism.

This gave Marie and Zolitz a unique opportunity to see how cannabis usage affected students as most international students, aside from the two countries listed, would not have easy access to the drug.

They studied the grades of 54,000 students separating them into two groups — those with easy access to Marijuana and those without.

In their report released to the Royal Economic Society held in Manchester, England at the end of March, Marie and Zolitz said:

“The effects we find are large, consistent and statistically very significant.”

Overall students who didn’t have easy access to the cannabis were “5% more likely to pass their courses” and those who with lower average marks were 7.6% more likely to pass.

The most significant change occurred when they studied those taking math classes. In those instance, they found the impact was five times larger. This result falls in line with several other studies showing Marijuana use impacts intelligence.

With activists around the world pushing for the drug’s legalization, concern is growing because of increasing concentrations of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) in marijuana — the drug’s active ingredient — which can have a profound effect on a person’s brain.

According to reports, Uruguay is on the brink of full legalization of all aspects of marijuana sale and usage, Berlin will soon allow Cannabis’ shops and four US states have already legalized the recreational use of the drug — Colorado, Oregon, Alaska and Washington.

Report author Marie said:

“Considering the massive impact on cognitive performance high levels of THC have, I think it is reasonable to at least inform young users much more on consuming such products…”

Meanwhile Marijuana activists pushing for legalization persist in branding it as a safe drug.

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