Studies Link Psychosis, Teenage Marijuana Use

Studies Link Psychosis, Teenage Marijuana Use
Posted by CN Staff on January 26, 2006 at 12:37:41 PT
By Carey Goldberg, Globe Staff 
Source: Boston Globe 
USA -- Researchers are offering new ammunition to worried parents trying to dissuade their teens from smoking marijuana: Evidence is mounting that for some adolescents whose genes put them at added risk, heavy marijuana use could increase the chances of developing severe mental illness -- psychosis or schizophrenia.This week, the marijuana-psychosis link gained ground when two major medical journals reviewed the research to date and concluded that it was persuasive.
In PLOS Medicine, an Australian public health policy specialist wrote that genetically vulnerable teens who smoke marijuana more than once a week ''appear at greater risk of psychosis," while the British medical journal BMJ cited estimates that marijuana use could contribute to about 10 percent of cases of psychosis.The new research has little hint of ''Reefer Madness" alarmism. Rather, a half-dozen long, careful studies published in the last several years have tried to determine whether marijuana-smoking is a cause rather than an effect of mental illness. And groundbreaking research has begun to try to pinpoint which genes and brain chemicals could do the damage.The conclusions remain controversial, in part because it would be unethical to randomly assign teens to smoke or not smoke marijuana -- which would be necessary to perform a gold-standard study to definitively show that adolescent marijuana use causes mental illness. It could be the other way around, or some other factor could put teens at risk of both.But the recent research has attempted to get around these hurdles by controlling for factors such as the presence of psychosis before the use of marijuana, family income, education, other drug use, and childhood traumas.''No single study is perfect," Wayne Hall, author of the PLOS Medicine essay and a professor at the University of Queensland, said in an e-mail interview. ''But the fact that so many individually imperfect studies so consistently find this relationship adds confidence to the conclusion that the relationship is causal."The recent research points to adolescence as a particularly risky time to smoke marijuana heavily for those genetically predisposed to mental illness. Brain scientists theorize that marijuana may induce temporary changes in brain chemistry that, when reinforced over time, become permanent.Among the research cited by both papers appearing this week was an intriguing study published last year that followed a group of more than 800 New Zealanders from birth until age 26. The study looked at people with a gene variant that apparently predisposes them to developing psychosis, and people without it. The variant was carried by 25 percent of the study's participants.The study found that among those with this variant, smoking marijuana as teens increased their risk of psychosis in young adulthood nearly tenfold compared with those who did not smoke as teens. Those who smoked marijuana but did not have the gene variant incurred little or no added risk.No test of such gene variants is widely available. Dr. Robin Murray, a psychiatry professor at Kings College London and an author of the New Zealand paper, said he and other researchers like to joke that they should set up a DNA-test tent at rock concerts and tell customers whether it is safe to get stoned. In reality, however, the gene research is at too early and tentative a stage to justify offering a test, he said.Other studies cited in the BMJ article found that teens and young adults who smoked marijuana had roughly double the risk of later developing psychotic symptoms, but these studies did not distinguish between carriers and noncarriers of the gene variant.Still, even among marijuana smokers, the absolute risk of developing schizophrenia was low, Murray said -- about 2 percent. And the added risk from smoking marijuana was small compared to, say, cigarette smoking, which multiplies a person's chances of lung cancer by 15, he noted.Overall, schizophrenia affects about one in every 100 people, and two more in every 100 experience a lesser form of psychosis.This week's PLOS Medicine essay suggests that teens should be considered vulnerable if they have psychosis in the family, an indication their genes may predispose them to it, or have had ''unusual psychological experiences after using cannabis."In recent months, the White House has emphasized a causal link between marijuana and schizophrenia as part of an antimarijuana campaign, but the National Institute on Drug Abuse does not list psychosis as a marijuana risk on its informational website.The evidence for a link is becoming more convincing, said Dr. Wilson Compton, who directs the institute's public health research program. But he said the agency wants ''to make sure we don't overblow" the risk, because that would make teenagers likelier to discount the warnings.The controversy stems in part from the challenges of the research. Consider a boy who has shown early signs of schizophrenia since childhood, lacking friends and seeking isolation. In his early teens, he starts hanging out with marijuana-smokers, gets increasingly withdrawn, and is finally diagnosed with schizophrenia at 19.In a case like that, it is likely that the early symptoms of the disease led to the marijuana-smoking rather than vice versa, said Dr. Harrison Pope, director of the Biological Psychiatry Laboratory at Harvard's McLean Hospital.''I'm not saying the studies are wrong," he said. ''I'm saying this is a caveat you have to bear in mind even when you see six studies all in agreement -- it's very, very difficult in retrospect to tease apart the chain of causality."But even marijuana advocates allow that there could be a link, at least for a small minority of marijuana smokers.Marijuana has an excellent safety record when used in moderation by adults, emphasized Paul Armentano, senior policy analyst for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. But ''I would not rule out that heavy use of marijuana at a young age, particularly combined with other drugs, could precede onset of some symptoms of mental illness."The New Zealand study, published last year in the journal Biological Psychiatry, looked at a gene called COMT, which is involved in the breakdown of dopamine, a chemical known to play a role in psychosis.Though the researchers found a dramatically higher risk when teenagers with the wrong variant of the gene regularly smoked marijuana, they cautioned that even so, that combination accounted for only one-fifth of the people in the study who became psychotic.''People who smoke pot don't [automatically] go on to become schizophrenic -- boom boom boom," said Alan Budney, a professor and federally funded addiction researcher at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. ''There's an intricate level of risk factors that don't apply to Tom, Dick, and Harry -- it just applies to, say, Jim."At least, said Murray of London, he now has better answers for schizophrenic patients who ask, ''Why is it you're telling me that cannabis contributed to my going psychotic when all my mates smoked more than me and nothing ever happened to them?"Note: Some adolescents carry genetic risk.Source: Boston Globe (MA)Author:  Carey Goldberg, Globe Staff Published: January 26, 2006Copyright: 2006 Globe Newspaper CompanyContact: letter globe.comWebsite: -- Cannabis Archives
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Comment #28 posted by BGreen on January 28, 2006 at 14:09:56 PT
Hey runruff
I was reading the comments on, and although I don't go around bragging about it, I also have tested at a genius level IQ, plus I was under the influence of cannabis when I was tested.They call us stupid dopers, but maybe we're as Yogi Bear says, "smarter than the average bear, Booboo?"Just remember that the cops reject applicants who score too high on their entrance exam, for fear of them leaving the force for a better job after going through the expensive training.I think jealousy is why we're so hated. I'll bet the cops were also the bullies who beat up the smart kids in school.The Reverend Bud Green
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Comment #27 posted by Toker00 on January 28, 2006 at 03:36:09 PT
Amen, brother runruff.
Tell it like it is. This would be a great one page ad right next to World Can't Wait. Center spread.Wage peace on war. END CANNABIS PROHIBITION NOW!
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Comment #26 posted by john wayne on January 27, 2006 at 19:41:23 PT
runruff on Huffpo
worth a look. You go runruff! close am I?
How close am I to the DEA [Neo-Gestopo Americanish]? I live in small community. I used to practice yoga in my wife's yoga class with the Medford DEA Team leader and his best friend who was also my wife's good friend for five years before we married and untill Kevin Quinn and his band of thugs raided our house on day. I got to know much about these guys up close and personal. Here is what I know about your average DEA agent. He or she will be a reject from another job or agency. Former Leos who have been fired for, drunkeness, brutality, theft, drug dealing, incompetance. All of which they are still but it seems no self respecting citizen wants to rob and terrorize their fellow countrymen. These guys fit the exact same peofile as Hitler's Brownshirts and Gestopo. Stalin had a simular federal police force whom he called useful idiots and expendable. He and Hitler proved their feelings about these people by exterminating thousands of them when they proved no longer useful. There is nothing more useful to a facist than a well paid troglodyte. Give one a fancy uniform. a shinny new gun, and more money than he/she could earn doing anything honest and you will have a trained attack dog for life. Many of them like Kevin set lucritive drug dealing orginizations. They are golden in these endevors. Who is going to catch them? Who will investigate them? Their buddies? Have you not heard of honor among theives? These guys are more crooked than any drug dealer. I know from 40 years in the underground herb culture that a dishonest neighborhood herb vendor will not stay in buisness very long. A gun totting NGA would not be worthy to clean the resin off of an honest herb vendors tribeam. Well also, I happen to know, around here the Narcs love to make raids two weeks before Christmas to pick up extra Xmas money and presents from the honest hard working folks they were legally robbing. This is now all very American. The America we live in. The America we must change.
Heres a by the way, The DEA was created by Nixon because he had no law enforcement authority in the verious states. He went against all recomdations to create the CSA, created by the most part by Reinquist then a young lawyer in Nixon's administration. He was rewarded for his efforts and betrayal to America by being appointed as the supreme court justice. The CSA is a very clumbsy assertion into the commerce clause of the constitution. It survives because it serves so many. This one "act" has nearly demolished our rights and the constitution. Yet it still survives! A stake needs to be driven throu the heart of this evil document that allows an agency like the DEA to exist.Peace and freedom.Posted by: runruff on January 27, 2006 at 03:22pm
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Comment #25 posted by goneposthole on January 27, 2006 at 18:20:55 PT
Teenagers should really wait to use cannabis
Not to add an imprimatur, however, teenagers need to pay attention to much more than smoking cannabis. They shouldn't smoke it until age seventeen or eighteen. Cannabis is a substance for adults.'mankind's existence'
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Comment #24 posted by john wayne on January 27, 2006 at 18:12:54 PT
cat shit makes you crazy
uh oh.  better start prohibiting those cats.
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Comment #23 posted by goneposthole on January 27, 2006 at 18:05:46 PT
Cannabis prohibition causes all sorts of problems
"Kaiser-Permanente is a large US health-care provider. This study into the effects of long-term smoking of cannabis took 10 years and involved 65,000 people who had received check-ups between 1979 and 1985. The patients were divided into those who had, and those who had not, used cannabis regularly or currently. It was reported that risks associated with cannabis smoking were lower than for tobacco smoking. It also noted that smokers with AIDS had no higher death-rate than non-smokers with AIDS.The report stated
"Relatively few adverse clinical effects from the chronic use of marijuana have been documented in humans. However, the criminalization of marijuana use may itself be a health hazard, since it may expose the users to violence and criminal activity.""'I almost cut my hair. It was gettin' kind of long.' Still flyin' my freak flag.Prozac will drive you nuts, but I doubt very much if cannabis will.Smoke cannabis, it won't kill you like those 'prescribed drugs' do. Cannabis has been around for eight thousand years. I'm not going to argue with the proven history of its presence in mankinds existence. Everybody would be a 21st century schizoid man if it had any ill effects on one's mental health. Fire it up.
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Comment #22 posted by b4daylight on January 27, 2006 at 15:00:33 PT
"recent research points to adolescence as a particularly risky time..."that was all I got out of the whole article.
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Comment #21 posted by museman on January 27, 2006 at 12:47:04 PT:
Twist their heads for twelve years around platonic shallow left-brain 'academics.' Teach them morality at home, and watch their schools destroy it. Treat them like they are ignorant fools by filling up the commercial spaces on TV with absolutely stupid anti-drug propaganda. Now the local gestapo can use them to generate income by busting them for M.I.P. Tell them to join the military and 'be all that (they) can be.' Feed them tall tales of hopeful fruitful lives all their childhood, then shove 'em out into the actual reality which bears no resemblance to any of those wonderful fairy tales.I didn't smoke until I was 21, but hey if I knew then what I know now, I would've started when I was 16, dropped out of school, and begun my life a couple of years earlier.Immature bodies should get all the safe natural nurturing they can get, and smoking anything could be harmful to a growing body, but the picayune BS represented here is just another weak ploy by the stupid (rich though) few to convince the ignorant many to remain ignorant.
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Comment #20 posted by museman on January 27, 2006 at 12:30:19 PT:
No wonder they are out to get you. You got to watch those 'songs that don't rhyme' though, the music police are gonna get ya!
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Comment #19 posted by museman on January 27, 2006 at 12:27:53 PT:
teen smoking, and FED agents
You can bet those CIA trained pilots who crashed into the WTC didn't smoke marijuanna as teens. Or as adults either.
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Comment #18 posted by FoM on January 27, 2006 at 11:04:06 PT
I wish the world was full of people like you. 
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Comment #17 posted by runruff on January 27, 2006 at 10:49:16 PT:
I'm crazy as loon.
Yes it's true. I started smoking cannabis as a teen now
at 59 I still watch my dvd copy of "A Hard Days Night".
Sometime I eat Fruit Loops with out milk. I stare at the night sky for extended periods of time. I can be found strolling aimlessly through the woods around my house.
I handmake valentines for my sweetheart, in July! I wear clothes that don't match. I have convesations with my animals including my California Desert Tourtise. I make up songs that don't rhyme. I grow food in my garden and give it away. I have 16 fish in my pond I haven't named yet.
I consider the wild life that lives in and around our property as part of our family. Birds, squirrils, racoons,
opossums, deer, bear. I feel sorry for the underdog.
I prefer peace over adversity. I love sunshine as well as the rain. I believe in a higher being and the rights of others. And last but not least, I believe in love.
Teenage use of the herb obviously makes you crazy. 41 years of using the herb will turn you brain into jelly. Take it from me I should know.
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Comment #16 posted by unkat27 on January 27, 2006 at 09:26:47 PT
Scapegoating BS
Blaming these dysfunctions on marijuana is just a way for social authorities to escape responsibility for their own faults and the faults of the past. Hell, the original Mothers Against Marijuana in Reagan's 80s blamed it for adolescence because they were too stupid to understand the sexual problems their kids were facing.Personally, I was psychologically screwed up long before I used marijuana by an alcoholic step-father that beat my mother every weekend after polluting himself with whisky and gin, like clockwork, for years! By the age of 13 I suffered from severe insomnia caused by anxiety and by the age of 16 I had the beginnings of a schizoid personality disorder. If anything, marijuna helped settle my anxieties not make them worse.Gad, I am so sick of this BS scapegoating. Marijuana is a convenient device that these hypocritical dung-bugs use to shirk real responsibilities for their own sins.
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Comment #15 posted by john wayne on January 26, 2006 at 22:32:37 PT
devil weed makes you craaaaazy!!!
Thanks for the laugh, Boston Globe.I sure am glad I gave up newspapers. Talk about something that can make you crazy...
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Comment #14 posted by ekim on January 26, 2006 at 20:01:08 PT
Jonny Pee breeds Genee Pee
the gene research is at too early and tentative a stage to justify offering a test, he said. The study looked at people with a gene variant that apparently predisposes them to developing psychosis, and people without it. The variant was carried by 25 percent of the study's a gene called COMT, which is involved in the breakdown of dopamine, a chemical known to play a role in psychosis
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Comment #13 posted by FoM on January 26, 2006 at 19:23:50 PT
I think I understand what you're saying. 
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Comment #12 posted by b4daylight on January 26, 2006 at 19:09:50 PT
Comment #3 posted by FoM 
cheers.Here is one FOM...These people worry about all these kids and save the children, and then go -n- drive all our non-renewable resources in the air those children breath with out any responsiblities might I add, (I just bought anew bicycle) Yet I am never going to have kids so why bother me with your crap. Besides I am not sure we want kids living in the centre of a huge city sucking all your gas. PeaceKids are great if they are far away. 
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Comment #11 posted by lombar on January 26, 2006 at 17:48:48 PT
I sometimes wonder...
If they are so concerned about peoples health, why do they sell alcohol? It is addictive, used for recreational pleasure, kills your liver and is directly responisible for much violence? Should a young person grow up and get 'schizophrenia', no matter what other environmental factors, it must have been the cannabis. This is just propaganda, making people scared of the non-existent boogeyman. They are even starting to use the frequency of these bogus stories and reports to support their failed arguments.Smoking cannabis may be harmful to your health. Believing the Governmnent(s) when it comes to drugs leads to delusions.As one poster said, if there was a causal link between using cannabis and schizophrenia, then the upswing in cannabis use would have a corresponding upswing in numbers of diagnosed cases of schizophrenia.
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Comment #10 posted by Sam Adams on January 26, 2006 at 17:42:28 PT
Oil? You mean the stuff inside the hemp seeds? You're absolutely right, there might as well be little barrels of oil on the American flag instead of stars. I think people don't realize the die was cast for the USA way back in the early 1900's - the Standard Oil monopoly took over the country and never looked back. Everything flowed from that. For 3 or 4 decades, the rich elite of the USA boomed with petro-driven products - like everything made of plastic, for instance. Plant fertilizer. Asphalt. Chemicals. The number of everyday items we use made from oil is staggering. The rich families in this country crushed the hemp plant like they crushed their already-weakened Axis enemies in WWII.It's really interesting - I grew up my whole life in the US, and yet I only noticed last year that every gas station and car dealer I see is flying multiple, huge American flags. I saw one gas station who bordered their entire lot with about 400 little American flags. It's like our religion - be an American, burn oil, God bless us! God bless the combustion engine! NEVER ride the train or a bicycle, you pinko hippie!We can't even go into the woods without burning gas. Snowmobiles, ATV's, dirt bikes, jet skis, powerboats, SUV's, our culture revolves around burning gas. Demonization of "drug" users is just the wedge issue they use to turn us against each other while they plunder the Earth for all its worth. They'll leave us (and their own kids) with a ruined planet. Sorry polar bears, hope you can swim.
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Comment #9 posted by mayan on January 26, 2006 at 17:27:55 PT
Notice how these sudies come from the pro-war countries that are interested in stealing other countries' oil?
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Comment #8 posted by runderwo on January 26, 2006 at 16:57:39 PT
"Brain scientists theorize that marijuana may induce temporary changes in brain chemistry that, when reinforced over time, become permanent."No, it couldn't be learned behavior from being high that becomes permanent. It has to be a permanent change in brain chemistry, insidiously effected by that evil poison the cannabis plant.BTW, Dr. Murray is co-author of "Marijuana and Madness". He's staking his career on this turning out to be true.At least they acknowledge that mental illness onset and mental illness diagnosis rarely if ever happen at the same time. And since the diagnosis always comes after the onset, this allows any marijuana smoked in between to be blamed for the mental illness. If those are the rules, then the longer the time between the onset and the diagnosis, the more likely marijuana is going to be to blame, since the person will have more opportunity to use it. Gee, you think? But what prediction does this make regarding marijuana? Absolutely none.Finally, psychotic symptoms include not only hallucinations (which most people associate with the word psychotic) but delusions as well. What is a delusion? Dictionary says: "false, strongly held beliefs not influenced by logical reasoning or explained by a person's usual cultural concepts". Anyone else see about a mile of wiggle room there in the diagnosis of "psychotic symptoms"? Basically, anyone who thinks outside the box is psychotic by that definition, as long as their thinking is considered by the examiner to be wrong. So if you happen to use cannabis, and you happen to reach a conclusion that disagrees with the consensus, you are psychotic and thus a statistic. Congratulations.So 25% of New Zealanders in that study of 800 happen to carry this gene. Great. Now how about a random sample from the billions of people in the world? Who cares about New Zealand when we are developing policy for the other side of the world? One clue that this is a biased sample is that while the per capita rate of reported cannabis use worldwide is growing, the rate of diagnosed schizophrenia cases is not. Maybe in New Zealand there is a correlation, but certainly not worldwide.
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Comment #7 posted by Sam Adams on January 26, 2006 at 16:11:51 PT
1 comment
If the government had spent all that money over the years trying to prove that schizophrenia causes people to use cannabis, they'd be claiming victory also, because these studies could just as easily be interpreted that way.Why does it seem that every study that proves cannabis to be bad has caveats up the wazoo? How good can your study be if you have to repeatedly state "no study is perfect" over and over again when you present your conclusions? I would say that if I was in high school and started hearing voices & otherwise going crazy, smoking as much herb as possible would seem like an awfully good idea, especially if it helped make me feel better. And we know that over 50% of high school kids try herb; of course the ones who get relief from mental illness are going to be the ones who continue to use it. That's common sense.But I guess that's too simple to be true. Truth doesn't exist unless a coterie of government-funded scientists says so.What is the point of these studies, anyway? Aren't we already doing everything we possibly can to keep kids from using cannabis? 
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Comment #6 posted by WolfgangWylde on January 26, 2006 at 16:07:42 PT
So a B-I-G pile of horsesh#t adds up?
"But the fact that so many individually imperfect studies so consistently find this relationship adds confidence to the conclusion that the relationship is causal."Man, that's some twisted thinking.
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Comment #5 posted by siege on January 26, 2006 at 15:17:24 PT
Being cannabis was taken out of the diet by the government and they know what they where doing to make the people sick 
for medical reasons, and after 60 years with out cannabis in the system. some people have been reprogrammed, so the network of Endogenous Cannabinoids in children has not been fully developed sufficiently to handle Cannabis use and become ill condition of body and mind form cannabis so they have something to say, and say it is Bad for you. give the people back there cannabis so there not sick all the time government. I like my Spinage, edible dark green leaves...
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Comment #4 posted by Richard Zuckerman on January 26, 2006 at 14:29:13 PT:
Some young people may not be able to handle Cannabis, whether it be because of inexperience or environment.Whenever you read about this or that causing "severe mental illness" or "Schizophrenia", think about whether these bureaucratically created medical maladies can be clearly documented by such diagnostic tests such as MRI, Sonography, or X-Rays? If these "diseases" can be shown by any of these concrete diagnostics, then perhaps they have a neurological or brain disorder. Otherwise, all you have are the subjective determination by a Psychiatrist based on "bad" behaviors. Read the books and articles by Dr. Thomas S. Szasz, M.D.; the book entitled THE POWERS OF PSYCHIATRY, by the late Jonas Robitscher, J.D., M.D., Professor of Psychiatry, Emory University; and QUESTIONING AUTHORITY, the chapter entitled The Soviet Parallel, by the late David L. Bazelon, Washington D.C. Circuit Judge, circa 1990, New York University Press.Of course, the TIME when Cannabis is used may be relevent to whether it caused mental disturbance. If young people use Cannabis moments before walking into a classroom or on a job requiring deep thought, this should be considered whether the Herb caused a problem. The body makes Cannabinoid-like substances, known as Endogenous Cannabinoids. Perhaps the network of Endogenous Cannabinoids in children has not been fully developed sufficiently to handle Cannabis use?NORML advocates responsible use by adults, what High Times refers to as "smart stoners."
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Comment #3 posted by FoM on January 26, 2006 at 14:15:41 PT
I don't even know why they keep talking about kids. Children can't drink alcohol or buy cigarettes. What about adults rights? 
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Comment #2 posted by dongenero on January 26, 2006 at 14:04:15 PT
what about antidepressants?
Some antidepressants make teenagers commit suicide.I guess the sensible and safe approach would be for physicians to screen teenage candidates before medical marijuana recommendation.As for general legalization, it should be adults only.Staing the obvious I would think.
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Comment #1 posted by cloud7 on January 26, 2006 at 13:10:46 PT
For anti's to use this study when arguing against legalization is wrong. No advocate for the reform of marijuana laws suggests that teenagers should be allowed to use or purchase marijuana. We want marijuana to be treated like alcohol with id checks and laws against providing it to minors. If I'm old enough to be able to make informed decisions about smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol, and buying guns, then I am responsible enough to make the decision to smoke marijuana.
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