by Rob Roper
Two politicians on the primary ballot today have come out strongly in favor of marijuana decriminalization: Democrats Peter Shumlin and Attorney General candidate TJ Donovan. It’s worth looking at this social policy position in the light of a new joint study (no pun intended) by King’s College London and Duke University that reveals pot smoking “permanently lowers IQ” by an average of 8 points, particularly when practiced persistently by young people. Young pot smokers were also shown to have a greater likelihood of attention and memory problems later in life.
According to the study’s abstract,
Participants were members of the Dunedin Study, a prospective study of a birth cohort of 1,037 individuals followed from birth (1972/1973) to age 38 y. Cannabis use was ascertained in interviews at ages 18, 21, 26, 32, and 38 y. Neuropsychological testing was conducted at age 13 y, before initiation of cannabis use, and again at age 38 y, after a pattern of persistent cannabis use had developed. Persistent cannabis use was associated with neuropsychological decline broadly across domains of functioning, even after controlling for years of education. Informants also reported noticing more cognitive problems for persistent cannabis users. Impairment was concentrated among adolescent-onset cannabis users, with more persistent use associated with greater decline. Further, cessation of cannabis use did not fully restore neuropsychological functioning among adolescent-onset cannabis users. Findings are suggestive of a neurotoxic effect of cannabis on the adolescent brain and highlight the importance of prevention and policy efforts targeting adolescents.
“Marijuana is not harmless, particularly for adolescents,” said lead researcher Madeline Meier, a post-doctoral researcher at Duke University, in an interview with Duke Today. “Somebody who loses 8 IQ points as an adolescent may be disadvantaged compared to their same-age peers for years to come,”
This should be particularly concerning to Vermonters given that another study done in 2011 by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services branded Vermont as the number two state in the country for marijuana abuse by kids aged 12-20. What message does it send to Vermont young people when the would be top law enforcement officer in the state and the incumbent governor take such staunch position on decriminalization of marijuana?
Shumlin’s position is particularly cynical. As reported by the Burlington Free Press earlier this month, Shumlin literally pimped himself out to an out of state pro-pot organization, NORML (formerly the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws), for a maximum contribution to his reelection campaign.
What Shumlin wanted was money, of course. This was a fundraising call. [Allen] St. Pierre [of NORML] said Shumlin asked him for as much of the $6,000 that NORML’s political action committee is allowed to give. St. Pierre said he’s got to run it by the PAC board, but he hopes the PAC will give the full $6,000…. For Shumlin, though, this could pay off. His single phone call to St. Pierre could yield $10,000 to $20,000 from NORML supporters, estimated St. Pierre, whose blog post on the NORML website encourages supporters to give to Shumlin’s re-election campaign.
What’s that, about $2500 bucks per lost IQ point? Vermont kids need every advantage growing up, and that starts with adults — particularly elected officials — setting a good example.