Much ado has been made recently about whether cannabis causes a decline in IQ among the population that started using it in adolescence. Cannabis use among the underage population is the same as any other drug for underage users; it is a substance subject to abuse, like cigarettes and alcohol. As Christopher Ingraham said in the Washington Post, like those other substances, there are behavioral and environmental factors that correlate with their abuse by young people.
Cannabis is targeted by the disaffected youth, rather than the other way around, where cannabis targets young people and turns them into monsters. Furthermore, while people point and make generalizations about cannabis’ impact on IQ, they neglect to consider the other side, where some folks turn out just fine and contribute to society.
A 2012 Duke University study with the aim of proving to adolescents that cannabis use is not a safe pastime is often cited by anti-cannabis activists. The study looked at people from a small town in New Zealand over the course of 20 years and cross-examined their IQ over time with their cannabis habits. The study found that adolescent-onset cannabis use lead to a statistically lower IQ in adulthood than in childhood among both frequent and infrequent users.
According to the study, if people waited until adulthood to experiment with cannabis, infrequent cannabis users had a statistical rise in adult IQ compared to their child IQ. Frequent cannabis users still saw a statistical decline in their adult IQ, though it was somewhat less pronounced than among groups that began using cannabis in their adolescent years.
One reason this sort of news shouldn’t matter when it comes to investing in cannabis is that it is relating IQ scores to cannabis use. As Carl Hart, an associate professor of psychology at Columbia told Time, the issue of IQ does not address how cannabis users function in the workplace, or at home with their families, i.e., studies like these highlight something meaningless in a practical sense. Hart also pointed out that the Duke study used too small of a sample of heavy cannabis users to come to any generalization about the effect of cannabis on IQ.
As if that was not enough, a study published later in 2012 by Oxford University suggested that the conclusions found in the Duke study about cannabis use affecting IQ are likely to be based on overestimates, and “the true effect could be zero.” The Oxford study stops short of discrediting the Duke study, but said that Duke used a flawed methodology.
Basically what happened was a study took place for 20 years to prove cannabis makes people dumber, and then right after it was released, its methodology was questioned and its findings refuted. At best, anti-cannabis activists can say that the Duke study may or may not prove some negligible effect of cannabis on IQ, but even then they can’t say what that means to society.
Plus, it’s not like the only notable people associated with cannabis use are Cheech and Chong. There are many success stories of leaders and business people that include a chapter on cannabis. In the realm of politics, there’s Barack Obama, for instance. Love him or hate him, the man is a two-term president who hung out with his “Choom Gang” in high school, where he “intercepted” joints, practiced “total absorption” of cannabis smoke in the Choomwagon, and smoked sticky Hawaiian weed beneath a waterfall protected by a keep out sign. Stories of presidential success have been tied to cannabis ever since George Washington.
In academia, we highlighted the astronomer Carl Sagan‘s respect for the plant. Dr. Sagan’s widow, Ann Druyan, a writer and activist, as well as Dr. Sagan’s writing partner, sits on the NORML advisory board.
In business and media, it is hard to top a name like Oprah Winfrey, who admitted to smoking cannabis way back in 1982. It doesn’t sound like Winfrey was a heavy user, but nobody would be hard-pressed to find countless other success stories that include cannabis use in their narratives.
The long-term effects on society of a legal and thriving cannabis industry are yet to be seen, because there has been no long-term legalization. In the short term, however there has been some evidence that cannabis may have some positive societal benefits as a safer and less self-destructive medicine or way to get high. Fewer traffic accidents and less opioid-related deaths are just a couple of examples.
These are the reasons people should consider cannabis investments; they shouldn’t worry about putting their money in cannabis because it is rumored to make people dumber. After a 20-year study there is nothing definitive suggesting cannabis lowers IQ scores, so let the prohibitionists grasp at those straws while the case for cannabis is made stronger elsewhere.