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LIVING: Does cannabis improve cognitive ability, by Claire Bluth

By Claire Bluth
Independent researcher, Special to Cannabis Daily Record

Even with all the problems this world is facing, like famine, global warming and religious intolerance everywhere, the legality of cannabis remains one of the most controversial topics.


Its critics often try to equate it with the most harmful of synthetic substances or call it a gateway drug. This, however, couldn’t be further from the truth. If anything, there are some serious surveys and researches proving that marijuana may in fact have a positive effect on cognitive abilities of its users.

Troubles with Oversimplification

First of all, marijuana is an extremely broad term, seeing how there are over 779 different strains that all belong to this category.

Still, even though this number may sound impressive, almost all of them are just different variations of the crossover between two major strains: indica and sativa.

The two varieties have completely different traits. Indica plants have the stereotyped calming effect and they are most commonly used in medical purposes.

On the other hand, sativa plants are strains that make people feel energetic and are a huge hit amongst the partygoers. Unfortunately, if overused, it may cause a crippling panic attack. From this, it is easy to anticipate that different strains may have different effect on one’s cognitive abilities.

Another issue that needs to be addressed is the frequency and the quantity of marijuana consumed by its users. The University of Texas made a mistake during their neurological study on the long-term effects of cannabis, by classifying marijuana users as a singular group.

The results that stemmed from this kind of research were unreliable at very best. This error was later rectified by a survey of the Carleton University, which made delineation between non-smokers, moderate smokers and heavy smokers.

Of course, there is a huge difference between people enjoying 3-4 joints a week and those consuming more than 33 in this period.

The end results were the following: While with non-smokers there was no change, moderate users of cannabis experienced an increase of around 5 points on their IQ scores.

Still, heavy users suffered a severe decline. If anything, this proved that the substance on its own doesn’t harm one’s intelligence. On contrary, when consumed within reasonable boundaries, it has a chance of giving a positive effect.

Increased Connectivity

Sina Aslan of the University of Texas was one of the leaders of the research, with an impressive technological and medical arsenal.

Namely, three different MRI techniques were used so that the researchers could observe the brains of test subjects from every aspect. What the majority of these studies conclude was that, while smoking cannabis every day does shrink the brain, it also increases the connectivity within.

In this way, the loss in volume is greatly compensated by the improved complexity of wiring. What gets most affected in this process is orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), which plays a crucial role in decision making.

Furthermore, this particular center is closely tied to one’s ability to empathize with others.

All of this comes as no surprise since it is widely known that cannabis may have physiological effect on our body. Numerous researchers like Rick Simpson went out with public statements that cannabis oil can cure cancer, and it is a widely known fact that it also helps with cataract.


Unfortunately, this all brings us back at the beginning. As we already stated in the introduction, the effect of cannabis on our intelligence is an extremely controversial topic, which means that every research (no matter how serious) will still maintain a slight dosage of bias.

There is a long tradition of sweeping any unfavorable results under the rug. Seeing how in most parts of the world this substance is still illegal, this comes as surprise. Still, in the light of some of these latest results, things might soon gain a brighter note.

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