Not So Fast: Nat’l Academy of Sciences Says Marijuana Is Good AND Bad

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Weed News has reported on the release of a new report from the National Academy of Sciences on the medical efficacy of marijuana. The national marijuana organizations are promoting it, too. This is a phenomenal report that counters many of the lies and exaggerations about marijuana that are endlessly parroted by prohibitionists.

However, as Alan Thicke (RIP) once wrote, “You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have the facts of life, the facts of life.” The facts in this report about marijuana are both good and bad.

If we’re going to be promoting the good in this report, we’d better be ready to defend against the bad in it that will be pounced on by our opponents. Then we need to be able to explain to the public why they should believe the good parts and reject the bad parts.

Blair and Jo
Jo, don’t you know that “Smoking cannabis during pregnancy is linked to lower birth weight and greater cancer risk in offspring?” It’s also more likely to lead to “pregnancy complications for the mother” and “admission of the infant to the neonatal intensive care unit!” [Image: Screencap of “The Facts of Life” from YouTube]

Therapeutic Effects – We Lose Dementia and Glaucoma

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Therapeutic effects summary from “The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids:
The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research (2017)” (click for PDF)

While most of this research is summarizing the effects of “cannabinoids”, the authors are broadly including “cannabis or cannabinoids” in their summary page.

With recommendations based on descending levels of conclusive, substantial, moderate, and limited amounts of evidence, we can proudly boast that marijuana is good for chronic pain; nausea and vomiting from chemo; improving sleep for people with chronic pain, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, and sleep apnea; weight gain for HIV/AIDS patients; multiple sclerosis spasticity; Tourette syndrome; social anxiety; post-traumatic stress; and traumatic brain injury / hemorrhage.

But if we accept the report’s conclusion on those, then we have to accept the evidence they found that marijuana doesn’t help dementia, glaucoma, and depression in chronic pain and multiple sclerosis patients.

Cancer – Our Lungs Are Safe; Our Balls Not So Much

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Cancer risk summary from “The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids:
The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research (2017)” (click for PDF)

It’s great that there is official recognition that cannabis does not cause head, neck, and lung cancers. But it seems that comes with the price of accepting a risk of testicular cancer.

Cardio/Respiratory – Less Diabetes, More Strokes & COPD

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Cardiometabolic risk and respiratory disease summary from “The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids:
The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research (2017)” (click for PDF)

We can confidently state that cannabis consumers face less risk of metabolic syndrome and diabetes, and we have better lung strength. But then we have to accept that we have greater risk of heart attack, stroke, pre-diabetes, bronchitis, and COPD. Although, if we stop smoking pot, our cough will go away.

Disease, Injury, And Death – Car Wrecks and Overdosed Kids

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Immunity, injury, and death summary from “The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids:
The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research (2017)” (click for PDF)

Marijuana’s really good for protecting the livers of people with Hepatitis C. But smoking pot makes driving riskier and legalizing it means more kids will accidentally eat it. And we really can’t tell you whether or not smoking too much pot can kill you.

Pregancy – Smaller Babies Sent to Intensive Care

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Prenatal, perinatal, and neonatal exposure summary from “The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids:
The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research (2017)” (click for PDF)

Expectant mothers who smoke pot are likelier to have smaller babies, complications during pregnancy, and babies that have to go to the intensive care unit.

Psychosocial – You’ll Be A Poor, Unemployed Dropout

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Psychosocial summary from “The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids:
The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research (2017)” (click for PDF)

Obviously, when you are currently high, learning, memory, and attention are affected. You’re also more likely to get bad grades, drop-out of school, be unemployed, make less money, and have difficulty acting as a mature adult.

Mental Health – It Ain’t Good, Folks

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Mental health summary from “The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids:
The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research (2017)” (click for PDF)

If you smoke marijuana, you’re likelier to develop schizophrenia and have more hallucinations and blunted affect when you do. You’re likelier to become psychotic, but at least you can think better when you do. You’re likelier to be depressed, anxious, and suicidal, and succeed at suicide if you try. You’re likelier to become bipolar and be more manic when you do. If you have PTSD, your symptoms are likelier to be more severe.

Conclusion – So What? Alcohol And Tobacco Are Far Worse

I could spend another 800 words debunking all of the negative conclusions I’ve listed above. But the point of this article is to demonstrate why doing so is an unnecessary distraction from the real issue: the freedom of adults to do with their bodies and minds what they choose, even if it is destructive.

Crowing about the good in this report’s Therapeutic Effects section only reinforces the frame that “if we can show how awesome marijuana is, then they’ll let us have it!” – a frame that redefines the use of cannabis from an expression of personal sovereignty, as is our natural right, to a privilege that is only extended to those substances the government deems “safe”.

For every category listed in this article, we could cite far more horrible statistically-valid outcomes for regular tobacco and alcohol use. The safety of the substance doesn’t really enter into the discussion, does it?

The facts of life are that this is about cultural bigotry – cannabigotry – plain and simple. Those who consume the culture’s approved substances have a right, regardless of danger, to use them; the rest of us who choose forbidden substances do not have that right, regardless of their safety.

Russ Belville
About Russ Belville 191 Articles
Russ Belville - or "Radical" Russ, as he is known on-air - hosts The Russ Belville Show - The Voice of the Marijuana Nation, a two-hour live news and talk radio program for the cannabis community, weekdays at 3pm Pacific on RadicalRuss.com (learn more on our Podcast page).  The show is based in Portland, Oregon, but "Radical" Russ has traveled over 300,000 air miles in the past five years, bringing his show to report live from hundreds of cannabis conferences, marijuana expos, hemp festivals, and legalization events in over 50 North American cities.