A new documentary coming out, The Purple Brain, is hoping to scare the shit out of viewers about the potential brain damage caused by marijuana use. And of course, it’s littered with more factual errors and unfounded claims than an episode of Bill O’Reilly:
The plot is as follows: Sure, the pot you and your 40-something peers once enjoyed may have been innocuous, but that’s only because it bears no resemblance to the super-potent weed of today– strains with such foreboding names as “Train wreck,” “AK-47,” and “The Purple.” As proclaimed by Drug Czar John Walters recently, “[W]e are no longer talking about the drug of the 1960s and 1970s — this is [in computer parlance] Pot 2.0.”
But…well…it’s wrong. And he’s wrong:
Growers in the business of selling marijuana have always attached pet names to selected strains of pot. In the 1970s, popular varieties included “Acapulco Gold” and “Maui Wowie.” Today, as in the past, most of these labels are little more than clever marketing gimmicks devised by producers and sellers to distinguish their particular product in a highly competitive marketplace.
While a handful of potent strains may be available in limited quantities today, these varieties compose only a minute percentage of the overall marketplace — at a price tag that is cost-prohibitive to anyone but the most wealthy of aficionados. For others, marijuana remains essentially the same plant it has always been, with its relatively mild rise in average potency akin to the difference between beer and wine.
Unlike alcohol — or even aspirin, — today’s marijuana still poses no risk of fatal overdose, regardless of the strength of its primary psychoactive ingredient, THC. Moreover, cannabis consumers readily distinguish between low and high potency marijuana and moderate their use accordingly.
Finally, despite claims that marijuana alters the brain, it is important to note that THC — regardless of its potency — is surprisingly non-toxic to the adult as well as the teenage brain. Recently scientists at the Nathan S. Kline Institute for Psychiatric Research reported that they could find “no … evidence of cerebral atrophy or loss of white matter integrity” attributable to cannabis use in the brains of frequent adolescent marijuana users (compared to non-using controls) after performing MRI scans and other advanced imaging technology. Separate studies assessing the cognitive skills of long-term marijuana smokers have also reported no demonstrable deficits.
Also hilarious, in my opinion, is that for all this complaining about “brain damage,” actual scientists have been studying THC for years arguing that it might be able to prevent Alzheimer’s and has shown potential for shrinking brain tumors in mice.