Every so often, someone will witness me continuously push on a door when it say “pull” or spend hours looking for my ATM card while it’s in my pocket, and they will refer to me as the stupidest smart person they’ve ever met. Inevitably, they’ll attribute it to the fact that I am a medical marijuana patient and I enjoy smoking marijuana. This sucks. The thought of destroying my mind doesn’t exactly appeal to me, especially since I happen to like my brain — and like everyone else on the planet, I think I’m pretty smart. But according to popular belief, weed makes you forgetful, lazy, apathetic, and, of course, it kills your brain cells. As a lover of marijuana, memory games, classic literature, and quantum physics, I beg to differ. I’m pretty sure that President Barack Obama, Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York, Sir Richard Branson, millionaire Ted Turner, novelist Stephen King and thousands of other smart, wildly successful potheads will back me up.
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In 1974, the idea that marijuana damaged you physiologically came to public attention when Robert G. Heath conducted an experiment at Tulane University in New Orleans, claiming that he had sufficient proof that weed killed brain cells. Heath attested that monkeys who were given the equivalent of 30 joints per day began to wither away and die after only 90 days. Yes — they get monkeys to smoke weed and get high. Autopsies done on the monkeys after the experiment confirmed severe loss of brain cells in comparison to the control group that were not exposed to marijuana.
I know what you are thinking — how in the blazes do you get a monkey to smoke 30 joints in a row? Playboy Magazine had the same question, but it took them nearly 7 years of requesting and eventually suing under the Freedom of Information Act to get a straight answer about Heath’s procedures. When they finally found out what he was doing, things started to make a little more sense.
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The monkeys weren’t allowed to leisurely puff on 30 joints during the span of one day, but were strapped down to chairs with transparent, air-tight boxes attached to their heads, while smoke equivalent to 63 joints was pumped into the boxes for 5 minutes. No smoke left the boxes, and neither did any carbon monoxide. The monkeys were suffocating and dying from carbon monoxide poisoning, which accounted for all the dead brain cells found in the autopsies. Talk about twisting the facts to fit one’s own evil agenda — I guess Heath, the mad scientist, wasn’t a huge proponent of legalizing marijuana.
In 1991, Morgan and Zimmer conducted their own experiment to dispel the myth that marijuana causes the death of brain cells. They found that in order to achieve any damaging results from THC or cannabinoids, patients would have to be given 200 times the psychoactive dose. In 1992, a study by William Slikker observed that monkeys who were given 4-5 joints per day over the course of a year also failed to show any sign of brain damage. A study done in 1991 by Dr. Robert Block found that frequent marijuana use does not cause any abnormalities in brain tissue or volume of gray or white matter.
Despite the good news that weed isn’t killing our brain cells, it is clear in all of these studies that marijuana in high doses interferes with the user’s ability to transfer new information in to long-term memory. Still, there is no evidence anywhere that marijuana users suffer any brain damage or permanent structural damage. So while you may be able to smoke weed and build a nuclear warhead, you may waste some time searching for the safety goggles, which are precariously balanced on top of your head.