A staple of American comedy cinema is the dumb stoner stereotype: the guys who can’t find their cars, the idiots driving a burning weed van, and the guy trying to explain who Killer the dog was, man. .
But does cannabis really make you stupid? Anecdotally speaking, there are plenty of undeniably brilliant people documented lovers of the ganja.
Legendary cosmologist and award-winning science explainer Carl Sagan was a “frequent” marijuana smoker, according to a 2014 interview with his “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey” collaborator and lifelong partner, Ann Druyan.
“We smoked like other American families would drink wine with dinner. For us it was our sacrament,” she said. “It was something that sweetened a great life in every way.”
But while a hefty dose of wax might inspire you to get rhapsodic about the Pale Blue Dot, there aren’t billions upon billions of stoners like Sagan out there.
So what about the rest of us? Does Weed Affect Our IQ?
The answer, according to widely published research published in the Proceedings of the United States National Academy of Sciences, is technically yes.
“Persistent cannabis use was broadly associated with neuropsychological decline in all domains of functioning, even after years of training,” said the study, led by Arizona State University assistant professor Madeline Meier.
However, a response article published in the same journal argues that the Meier study was too quick to dismiss interpretations of the data that didn’t fit the “weed makes you dumb” story.
“While it would be too strong to say that the results have been discredited, the methodology is flawed and the causal conclusion drawn from the results is premature,” wrote Ole Rogeberg, Senior Research Fellow at the Frisch Center.
Another study, led by Peter Fried, research professor at Carleton University and published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, found little impact on cognition outside the domain of short-term memory, where cannabis undeniably, er… What was I writing about?
“We conclude that marijuana does not negatively affect global intelligence in the long term,” says the study summary. “It is also important to emphasize that broad intellectual functioning may be less vulnerable to the effects of marijuana use than more specific cognitive domains, such as attention and memory.”
After Sagan died in 1996, Lester Grinspoon, editor of the legendary 1971 volume “Marijuana Reconsidered,” revealed that an essay by “Mr. X”—describing the fantastic positive impact of marijuana on his life and scientific research—was in actually written by Sagan when he was in his mid-thirties.
In the essay, Sagan gives his own theory: Cannabis actually increases critical thinking.
“There is a myth about such highs: the user has the illusion of great insight, but it does not survive the check in the morning. I’m convinced this is a mistake,” he wrote. “The hardest work I’ve ever done is to get such insights on tape or in writing.”
Photo by AP