I can already hear the mild outrage from Mary Jane devotees. Anytime we bring up a “Hey, marijuana may not be all that great for you, stop pretending otherwise” we get plenty of comments from weed-smokers trying to shame us. Sorry, but it won’t work.
Smoking hash in college used to be reserved for parties and hardcore tweakers. Nowadays, herb is a fun thing to do before exams (see Surprise! Traffic Fatalities Involving Marijuana Skyrocket in Weed Legal States. The Numbers… and Nevada Declares State of Emergency for Running Low on Weed). But it turns out weed-usage has some effects on grades. Weird, right?
The most rigorous study yet of the effects of marijuana legalization has identified a disturbing result: College students with access to recreational cannabis on average earn worse grades and fail classes at a higher rate.
Economists Olivier Marie and Ulf Zölitz took advantage of a decision by Maastricht, a city in the Netherlands, to change the rules for “cannabis cafes,” which legally sell recreational marijuana. Because Maastricht is very close to the border of multiple European countries (Belgium, France and Germany), drug tourism was posing difficulties for the city. Hoping to address this, the city barred noncitizens of the Netherlands from buying from the cafes.
This policy change created an intriguing natural experiment at Maastricht University, because students there from neighboring countries suddenly were unable to access legal pot, while students from the Netherlands continued.
We’re gonna pause here and let you play psychic by predicting what happened to the student’s grades. Go ahead.
The research on more than 4,000 students, published in the Review of Economic Studies, found that those who lost access to legal marijuana showed substantial improvement in their grades. Specifically, those banned from cannabis cafes had a more than 5 percent increase in their odds of passing their courses. Low performing students benefited even more, which the researchers noted is particularly important because these students are at high-risk of dropping out. The researchers attribute their results to the students who were denied legal access to marijuana being less likely to use it and to suffer cognitive impairments (e.g., in concentration and memory) as a result.
These findings line up with past findings. Mainly that weed has an effect on the brain. Which, as far as I know, is one reason people smoke it. For the effects it has. On the brain.
Ergo it makes sense that people who use marijuana for its effects, would have their brains affected by its usage. You may think that sentence was just a repeat of the sentences which came before it. Yes. Because, as stated at the outset, whenever a study or report is released documenting the effects of marijuana (especially if they’re in any way negative), pot-fans rage. Well, they rage as best they can.
So lemme jump ahead of some tried and true objections people have about these sorts of reports: yes, alcohol consumption also has negative effects on the body. Cigarettes have negative effects on the body. As does a lot sugar. Refined carbs. A vegan diet. Many substances and foods have effects on the body. And marijuana, as a substance, also has effects. On the body.
Look, people are free to do what they want so long as it doesn’t affect others negatively (don’t take that as a license to be a douche). If you want to smoke pot, I don’t care. If you want to drink alcohol in ways that would put James Bond to shame, do it. I don’t care. Just be responsible. If you want a diet of mostly pizza, donuts and soda, do it. I don’t care. But don’t be surprised or triggered when someone reveals a study which finds your choice of substance (be that marijuana, alcohol, cigarettes, heroin, meth, sugar, carbs, raw kale, coffee, or all night Netflix binging) isn’t a magical elixir and has temporary or lasting consequences on your body and mind. Okay? Okay.
So if you want better grades, maybe lay off the hash. That’s what we can learn from this study. Of course there will be someone out there who’ll say “WELL I DID POT ALL THROUGH SCHOOL. AND I WAS FINE!”
We’re just passing on what we know with a little commentary. Chill.