Salvo 04.24.2024 5 minutes

Big Weed

Close up of senior woman using cannabis at home

Rising cannabis consumption is a bad omen for our future.

In the United States, political representatives do not write legislation—that’s a job for lobbyists. This has been the case for decades, ever since Big Tobacco rose to prominence in the fifties and sixties.

In more recent times, however, another significant player has emerged, pumping tens of millions of dollars into the pockets of ethically challenged politicians: Big Cannabis.

Today, over 50 percent of the American population lives in states where recreational cannabis consumption is legal. As I write this, four more states—Florida, Idaho, Nebraska, and South Dakota—are flirting with the idea of legalizing the drug for both recreational and medical purposes. If the lobbyists have their way, all four will embrace the addictive effects of weed.

Of course, it’s not just politicians who are benefiting from Big C’s big bucks. Academics are too.

A recent paper from Canadian academics examined research studies that received funding from Canadian-based cannabis companies or had authors with conflicts of interest related to these companies. Of the 156 studies under review, 82 percent had at least one author with a conflict of interest, and one-third received support from a Canadian cannabis company. Prevalent topics in these studies include the use of cannabis as a treatment for various conditions, particularly chronic pain.

In the United States, meanwhile, Big C is also having a big impact. Several universities, including Harvard, MIT, and UC San Diego, have received substantial donations from cannabis investors and organizations linked to the ever-growing industry. This has sparked concerns regarding the impartiality and independence of scientific research on the medicinal benefits of cannabis—as it should.

As the academics in Canada warned, industry sponsorship of research “is associated with research agendas, outcomes, and conclusions that are favourable to the sponsor.”

This explains why it has become so common to read articles and reports waxing lyrical about the supposed benefits of smoking cannabis. In fact, things are so bad that you can even find articles basically encouraging women to smoke during pregnancy.

If you’re pregnant and considering using cannabis, please don’t. Countless studies clearly show that the use of cannabis during pregnancy is extremely harmful, especially during the first trimester. Infants born to mothers who consume cannabis during their pregnancies tend to exhibit impaired reactions to visual stimuli and heightened trembling, potentially signifying issues related to neurological development. Sadly, though, more and more pregnant women in the U.S. are using cannabis—with an increasing number using it during the first trimester.

We are being inundated with reports painting cannabis in the most positive of lights. 

A brand new study in the Journal of Neuroscience Research links regular cannabis consumption with an elevated capacity to comprehend the emotions of others. This improved ability to empathize, according to the authors, is associated with enhanced connectivity in specific regions of the brain, particularly the anterior cingulate cortex, which plays a crucial role in empathy processing.

In truth, cannabis use—particularly long-term use—has been shown to hinder cognitive abilities across various domains, ranging from fundamental motor coordination to intricate executive function activities. These include tasks like planning, organizing, problem-solving, decision-making, memory retention, and regulating emotions and behavior.

Cannabis doesn’t support the brain—it hijacks it. As for the idea that the drug makes you a nicer person, comprehensive studies suggest otherwise.

“Yes,” some will say, “but it does help treat anxiety and depression.” But contrary to popular belief, marijuana is not good medicine. Dr. Peter Roy-Byrne, a licensed MD, has noted that absolutely “no study suggests cannabis use as a viable therapeutic strategy for anxiety and depression.” In fact, he added, in the long run, cannabis use actually amplifies the effects of anxiety and depression. The drug makes you weaker, physically and mentally, not stronger.

Even the idea that cannabis helps those with glaucoma is a myth, a zombie lie that just won’t die. The American Academy of Ophthalmology does not and has never recommended cannabis or cannabis products for the treatment of glaucoma. Why? Because there is no good scientific evidence showing a strong link between the drug’s use and improved vision in the visually impaired. If anything, cannabis use has been shown to worsen visual acuity.

Cannabis has particularly destructive effects on young people. First, it impacts brain development. Second, it robs them of motivation and drive, the two things every young person needs to get ahead in life.

Cannabis is a sedative and drains people, especially the young, of willpower and neurons. This is not the weed of the Woodstock days. It is far more potent and far more addictive. Some could argue, rather weakly, that the weed of yesteryear opened one’s mind. The weed of today, however, shuts it down.

This is even more worrying when considering that over the past decade, according to a new study, universities located in states where recreational cannabis is legal have experienced a notable increase in applications from high school seniors.

Comprehensive studies clearly demonstrate a strong correlation between regular cannabis use and an increased tendency to skip classes. Cannabis use has also been linked to poorer GPAs. In many majors, especially more technical ones like engineering and computer science, roughly 50 percent of students fail to graduate. As STEM degrees become more important, the last thing the country needs is millions more pot-puffing teens and twenty-somethings.

If Big C has its way, very soon we’ll all be smoking weed and guzzling gummies, comfortably numb and uncomfortably dumb.

The American Mind presents a range of perspectives. Views are writers’ own and do not necessarily represent those of The Claremont Institute.

The American Mind is a publication of the Claremont Institute, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, dedicated to restoring the principles of the American Founding to their rightful, preeminent authority in our national life. Interested in supporting our work? Gifts to the Claremont Institute are tax-deductible.

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