Holding a joint or two? Smoke ‘em if ya got ‘em: It won’t do you much harm.
Researchers working on the longest- and largest-ever study of marijuana users and effects found that smoking a joint once a day for seven years, or once a week for 49 years, does not harm lung function and does not do the same damage that tobacco smoke does.
The findings, released in the Journal of the American Medical Association on Tuesday, tested the lung function of 5,115 young adults (aged 18-30 in 1985) over the course of 20 years. In some instances, researchers at the University of California, San Francisco and the University of Alabama at Birmingham found that marijuana smoke even had positive effects on lung function, actually increasing lung capacity.
Dr. Stefan Kertesz, senior author of the research, said: “At levels of marijuana exposure commonly seen in Americans, occasional marijuana use was associated with increases in lung air flow rates and increases in lung capacity.” Although, it’s not likely you’d notice a difference. “It’s not enough of an increase that would make you feel better,” he said.
The study, federally funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, enrolled “average” smokers of both cigarettes and marijuana (about 8-9 cigarettes a day, about 2-3 joints per month). The researchers found that cigarette smokers test scores’ worsened steadily, but marijuana in moderation did not have the same negative effects. The effects are more unknown on heavy marijuana users.
Marijuana remains illegal, though it’s likely the most used illicit drug — more than 16 million Americans aged 12 and older had reported smoking marijuana once in the past month prior to being surveyed. But medical marijuana is now legal in 16 states and counting.
In October, Gallup reported that more Americans favor the legalization of marijuana than ever before — 50 percent say go for it, 46 percent remain opposed to the idea.
Marijuana is really only illegal for one reason: It’s classified as a Schedule I drug, the only category of controlled substances that may not be prescribed by a physician. Under Title 21 U.S.C. § 812b, drugs must meet three criteria in order to be classified as a Schedule I narcotic: The drug or other substance has a high potential for abuse (nope); The drug or other substance has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States (nope); There is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision (nope).
Does marijuana meet these criteria? Not even close. And maybe not that science and research has dispelled certain myths, the next Gallup poll will show an even bigger jump.
PUFF, PUFF, CHECK OUT THESE OTHER STORIES:
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• The War on Drugs: It’s Time to Roll Out the Portuguese Model