The Office of National Drug Control Policy released an email invitation this past Friday for the first White House Drug Policy Reform Conference in history. The email contained a graphic with a quote from U.S. Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske that read, Drug policy reform should be rooted in NEUROSCIENCE – NOT POLITICAL SCIENCE. Now, MPP is asking the office to explain the meaning behind their contradictory statement, since actual neuroscience has shown that marijuana harms the human brain far less than alcohol does.
For example, in 2005, Researchers at Harvard University reported in the American Journal on Addictions that marijuana use was not associated with structural changes within the brain.
When compared to control subjects, [marijuana] smokers displayed no significant adjusted differences in volumes of gray matter, white matter, cerebrospinal fluid, or left and right hippocampus. … These findings are consistent with recent literature suggesting that cannabis use is not associated with structural changes within the brain as a whole or the hippocampus in particular.
Furthermore, according to a 2004 report from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism:
Heavy drinking may have extensive and far-reaching effects on the brain, ranging from simple ‘slips’ in memory to permanent and debilitating conditions that require lifetime custodial care.
Studies that compare the effects of marijuana and alcohol side by side also find that alcohol is more damaging than marijuana. A 2009 study published in the journal Clinical EEG and Neuroscience found:
Abnormalities have been seen in brain structure volume, white matter quality, and activation to cognitive tasks, even in youth with as little as 1-2 years of heavy drinking and consumption levels of 20 drinks per month, especially if >4-5 drinks are consumed on a single occasion. Heavy marijuana users show some subtle anomalies too, but generally not the same degree of divergence from demographically similar non-using adolescents.
Mason Tvert, MPP’s Communications Director and coauthor of Marijuana is Safer: So why are we driving people to drink? outlines the Drug Czar’s hypocrisy:
Every objective study on marijuana has concluded that it poses far less harm to the brain than alcohol, The ONDCP has long championed laws that steer adults toward using alcohol and away from making the safer choice to use marijuana. If the drug czar is truly committed to prioritizing neuroscience over political science, he should support efforts to make marijuana a legal alternative to alcohol for adults.
To read more about scientific studies of marijuana and its effects on the human body, visit our Science, Studies, and Research page.