We’ve all seen those old Public Service Announcements on the dangers of marijuana: poor decision making, laziness, stupidity general uselessness. Further stoking this ideology, stoner stereotypes in film and television show us drooling teens and college students laughing over nothing, stringing together incoherent lines of thought and binge eating very, uhm, interesting food choices.
However, not one but two new studies have further smoked the notion that smoking pot makes you dumb. One Journal of Psychopharmacology study focused on a large group of British teenagers while the other, perhaps more interesting, focused on the cognitive function in sets of identical twins – one using marijuana, and one drug-free. Twin studies tend to be more reliable as they focus on subjects with identical genetic makeup, offering up more conclusive results.
While methods differed, results in both studies were the same: Marijuana use has no impact on overall levels of intelligence.
While marijuana fans can use these findings as an excuse for a celebratory toke, it’s important to note that this has been an ongoing discussion, and that these findings are not ground-breaking.
A study published in 2011 led by Robert Tait at the Australian National University looked at the long-term cognitive effects of marijuana use in 2,000 subjects between the ages of 20 and 24. The scientists followed participants for 8 years, at the end of which they concluded weed consumption had no concrete measurable impact on cognitive performance.
A similar 2014 University College of London study showed that marijuana use does not impact your IQ. However, while the London study showed no ill impact on overall smarts, it concluded that marijuana use can affect your ability to actively learn; Scientists in that study found a 3 percent drop in test scores on school exams taken at the age of 16 among the test group. (Interestingly enough, the study also noted that alcohol use—not marijuana—will indeed impact your overall levels of intelligence.) However, way back in 2001 Harvard researchers noted that learning impairments among marijuana users diminish within 28 days of “smoking cessation.”
So if it doesn’t make you dumb, what does it do? Aside from medical treatment for ailments like glaucoma, epilepsy, anxiety and more, the plant has been shown to improve creativity, relieve stress and promote alternative ways of thinking – you can thank weed for that “aha!” moment.
It’s important to note that weed isn’t merely for teenaged “stoners.” The age range of cannabis users is as vast as the reason they use, and the country-wide consumption of the plant impacts everything from politics to the housing industry.
While you don’t necessarily need to smoke the plant to feel its benefits (apparently you can juice it, too), news of cannabis’ non-effect on intelligence has many fans lighting up.