News Release
1001 Connecticut Ave, NW - Ste 710 - Washington, DC 20036
Tel. 202.483.8751 - Fax 202.483.0057 - E-mail - Internet

November 8, 2001

Cognitive Performance Unaffected After Marijuana Smoking

Pot "Has No Effect on Accuracy," Study Reveals

New York, NY: Marijuana smoking has virtually no effect on complex cognitive task performance - including reaction time, memory and mental calculation - in experienced users, according to the findings of a Columbia University study published in this month's issue of Neuropsychopharmacology.

"Although marijuana significantly increased the number of premature responses and the time participants required to complete several tasks, it had no effect on accuracy on measures of cognitive flexibility, mental calculation, and reasoning," researchers concluded. "The relatively few accuracy impairments observed is congruent with several other studies investigating acute marijuana effects on psychomotor and simple cognitive performance. Moreover, the present data expands these findings by showing that more complex cognitive performance is only minimally affected following acute marijuana smoking."

Eighteen subjects participated in the three-session outpatient study. During each session, participants completed a battery of baseline computerized cognitive tasks in various domains, including reaction time, attention, memory, visuospatial processing, reasoning, flexibility and mental calculation. Subjects were then administered marijuana cigarettes ranging from zero to 3.9 percent THC in a double-blind fashion before completing another series of cognitive tests 20 minutes later.

Researchers found subjects' accuracy on the tests was unaltered following their use of marijuana. "In summary, ... the finding that accuracy was unaffected by smoked marijuana indicates that heavy, daily marijuana smokers will not fulfill the DSM-IV [Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edition] criterion for marijuana intoxication that requires impairment of complex cognitive functioning," authors concluded.

The study's findings follow those of a Harvard study published last month in the Archives of General Psychiatry determining that long-term marijuana smokers who abstain from the drug for one week or more perform identically on cognition tests as nonusers. A previous study on marijuana and cognition by researchers at John Hopkins University in Baltimore found "no significant differences in cognitive decline between heavy users, light users, and nonusers of cannabis" over a 15-year period in a cohort of 1,318 subjects.

For more information, please contact Paul Armentano or Allen St. Pierre of The NORML Foundation at (202) 483-8751.

Canadian Parliament Ponders Decriminalizing Marijuana

MP Says Majority of Politicians Favor Bill to Stop Arresting Pot Smokers

Ottawa, Ontario: The sponsor of a federal bill to decriminalize cannabis announced Wednesday that a majority of MPs back the plan, which received its first debate by the House of Commons yesterday.

"For far too long, police and court resources have been wasted arresting and prosecuting people possessing small amounts of pot," said MP Keith Martin (Alliance Party), sponsor of bill C-344, which seeks to replace criminal pot penalties with a civil fine. "While our resources are squandered in this futile effort, the House of Commons has been quiet and has refused to untie the hands of police so they can go after the real criminals."

Martin, a former corrections officer and emergency room physician, said that two-thirds of MPs have expressed support for C-344. He told House members that under his proposal: "A person found in possession of marijuana would receive a fine of $200, $500 or $1,000 [Canadian] depending on whether it was their first, second or third offense. They would not go into the court system. They would not receive a criminal conviction and therefore they would not have a criminal record."

Several Canadian police and health organizations, including the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Canadian Medical Association and the Council of Churches, support relaxing the country's marijuana laws. In addition, 76 percent of Canadians agree that marijuana possession should not be a criminal offense.

The House of Commons could vote on Martin's proposal as early as next year.

For more information, please contact Keith Stroup or Paul Armentano of NORML at (202) 483-5500.

Half of Senate Judiciary Democrats Rejects Walters as Drug Czar

Washington, DC: Five Senate Judiciary Democrats - including Senate Judiciary Chair Patrick Leahy (VT) and Joe Biden (DE), who chairs the Subcommittee on Drugs and Crime - voted today against the confirmation of John P. Walters as US Drug Czar. Nevertheless, The Judiciary Committee approved Walters' nomination by a vote of 14 to 5.

The Senate is expected to decide on Walters' nomination next week.

Despite the Judiciary's approval of Walters, NORML's Keith Stroup called the Democrats' resistance heartening. "We are encouraged by the fact that five prominent Democratic senators voted to reject Walters' nomination," he said. "While we expect the Senate will eventually confirm him, it appears the long overdue debate on drug policy is finally underway in Congress. Further, this vote puts Walters and other drug war hawks on notice that such views will no longer go unchallenged in Congress."

Democrats Richard Durbin (IL), Edward Kennedy (MA) and Charles Schumer (NY) also opposed Walters, who has been the subject of resounding criticism from human rights and civil liberties groups, including the NAACP, for his support of mandatory minimum sentencing and failure to acknowledge the role of race in drug enforcement and sentencing.

For more information, please contact Keith Stroup or Paul Armentano of NORML at (202) 483-5500.

- End -