A Quick Guide to Pre-1997 Scientific Knowledge About Marijuana

by Jon Gettman

Cannabinoids are the active ingredients in marijuana, and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the only psychoactive cannabinoid. Excerpts from frequently cited journal articles follow the brief statements below. Because these excerpts are taken out of context, the reader is encouraged to read the original journal articles.

1) The primary marker of a drug with a severe dependence liability is compulsive self-administration produces in an animal model. Animals will not self-administer marijuana. Documentation.

2) Cannabinoids are non-toxic, lethal effects are non existent. Documentation.

3) The pharmacology of cannabinoids was well-characterized by the mid 1980's, and indicates that marijuana does not pose greater risks than alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine. Documentation.

4) The discovery of the neural mechanism, the cannabinoid receptor system, which accounts for the characteristic effects of marijuana began in 1989. Documentation.

5) Tolerance to marijuana has also been explained by way of a natural process and not cell toxification, and has been shown not to be a characteristic of a dependence liability. Documentation.

6) There is little evidence that marijuana harms the immune system. Documentation.

7) The discovery of the neural cannabinoid receptor system provides evidence of the physiological basis for the medical use of marijuana and cannabinoids. Documentation.

8) Before 1989, because no one knew how marijuana's effects were produced, scientists were allowed great breadth to speculate about the substance. Documentation.

9) Much of the harmful speculation about marijuana prior to the receptor discovery has based in studies with severe methodological problems. Documentation.

10) Prior to 1989, many of these speculative hypotheses were presented to the public as likely facts which supported various public policies; but no one really knew what they were talking about. Documentation.

11) Despite 1997 research findings indicating that marijuana has a slight effect on the brain reward system the scientific record still indicates that marijuana has a much lower potential for abuse than heroin, cocaine, or amphetamines. Documentation.


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