Welp, the word is out and the jokes have been flying: If you smoke weed regularly as an adolescent, you’re going to be dumber later in life. Probably, anyway—as much as eight IQ points dumber, or so says a recent report from Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Since its debut, that report has garnered quite a bit of controversy, with some prohibitionists calling points in their favor and even more stoners calling shenanigans in its wake. Shenanigans or no, the outrage from the latter camp has been particularly notable, especially given that the study’s results can really only help one group’s efforts. And it ain’t the squares.
Madeline Meiser, the study’s lead author and Duke University postdoctoral researcher, perhaps sums up the good news best in a statement to Time: “The effect of cannabis on IQ is really confined to adolescent users.” That is to say, teenagers that start toking at least weekly before they hit legal adulthood suffer an IQ free-fall in their early adult years. But those who begin to partake regularly after the age of 18 show no such detriment, even at heavy levels of regular usage. This includes adjustments for other drug use, mental illness and education level, which failed to eliminate the IQ drop-to-pot-use relationship. The research is peer reviewed, remarkably free of propagandist language for the most part, and thorough in its testing.
But is it true? Does marijuana actually cause an IQ drop for young stoners? One thing is for sure: A single study isn’t going to prove a thing, but it does make sense that the regular ingestion of a mind-altering chemical would have an effect on the growing brain somewhere down the line. The bottom line is that it’s time for the stoner camp to actually start playing politics and embrace this study’s results for their own ends. Please, stoners, dial the outrage back a bit and embrace that this study is the best thing to happen to your camp since Prop 215. All you’ve got to do is accept that it’s OK to for cannabis to have bad points in addition to the good. Everything in moderation, you know.
Frankly, I don’t care if cannabis has no long-term effect on the adolescent brain whatsoever: Children should not use psychoactive substances. Marijuana is a powerful psychoactive substance with the ability to help a vast number of ills given the right application, and this is not a concept that children can understand. Therefore, it follows that they should have no access to the drug. Unfortunately, however, living under a system where powerful psychoactive substances are forced into a completely unregulated black market doesn’t leave a lot of room for policies and inspections conducive to that end. After all, when’s the last time you heard of a pot dealer with an ID scanner or the morality to use it?
Once again, legalization is the only sensible option here. If marijuana really is a drug that can harm the developing brains of our youth, then the responsible thing to do is to do our best to keep it out of their hands. As evidenced by the billion-dollar industry surrounding it, our love of cannabis is at least on par with our love of ethanol, so let’s treat it as such. Keep it in a special store, check people’s IDs before than can buy it, limit the amount any one person can purchase—whatever we’ve got to do to keep those eight IQ points intact for the next generation. Let’s just consider preventing adults from being thrown into cages for inhaling the combustion product of a plant a happy side effect to protecting our youth’s IQ levels. Whatever helps.