Today I happened across this article featuring an interview with Harvard psychiatry professor Staci Gruber, who issues some warnings about the legalization of marijuana:
There is an awful lot that we don’t know. What we do know primarily comes from studies of chronic, recreational marijuana users. There is still a lot left to learn about the effects of less frequent, casual use. Also, there are a number of differences between recreational and medical marijuana use. Recreational and medical users very often differ quite strikingly with regard to what they use, how they use, etc. Some of the products may overlap but the indications for use and what they expect to get out of using marijuana are usually very, very different…
When we think about legalization we always like to have science inform policy. In this particular case, it seems to me that policy has outpaced science. These products are widely available but to date, we have no studies on the direct impact of concentrates versus flower products on our recreational or medical users — which is important, especially given concerns for our youngest users.
That seems both reasonable and of concern. Gruber has also been instrumental in doing some of the previous research that indicates regular marijuana use by teens can be damaging in the cognitive sense:
“Our data suggest that the earlier you begin smoking, the more marijuana you smoke and the more frequently you smoke,” she said. “That’s an important finding.”
Gruber said the findings are particularly critical today when legalization of marijuana is being considered in a number of states.
“We have to be clear about getting the message out that marijuana isn’t really a benign substance,” she said. “It has a direct effect on executive function. The earlier you begin using it, and the more you use of it, the more significant that effect.”
The study included 33 chronic marijuana smokers and 26 control subjects who did not smoke marijuana. They were given a battery of neurocognitive tests assessing executive function, including the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test, which involves sorting different cards based on a set of rules given. During the test, the rules are changed without warning and subjects must adjust their responses to the new rules.
The findings showed habitual marijuana users made repeated errors even when told that they were wrong. Users also had more trouble maintaining a set of rules, suggesting an inability to maintain focus. Early-onset users and those who used the most marijuana had the most trouble with the test, making more than twice as many errors and fewer correct responses than later-onset smokers.
Of course, there might have been something different about that early-user population even before they began their drug use. But still, very worrisome.
I also noticed the name “Gruber,” which of course made me think of Jonathan Gruber, ye olde architect of Obamacare, and I wondered whether he might be a husband or a brother of Staci’s. I have no idea about the “brother” part (can’t find a thing about it). But he’s certainly not her husband. And therein lies another tale, one totally unrelated but quite fascinating in its own right.
Staci Gruber is actually the spouse of crime/thriller novelist Patricia Cornwell, who is mega successful in her field and a byzantine story herself:
Patricia Cornwell has sold over 100 million books, owns an upscale apartment in Boston, a private helicopter, and has a personal fortune somewhere north of $75 million. So, naturally, she is telling me about her money worries.
‘There will always be a financial incentive to write because, honestly, the way I grew up, a part of me is always afraid I’m going to wake up poor,’ says the author, who won $50 million in damages last year after suing her former finance company for mismanagement.
I won’t even bother to summarize her life story, but let’s just say it features many ups and downs, including political change (in her case, right to somewhat left, with pockets of right remaining).
You never know where the internet and Google will lead you. One other thing I discovered is that Staci Gruber got a BS in psychology in 1991 from Tufts, which is not the least bit surprising considering her later career trajectory. But she was awfully busy at the time, because in 1991 she also received a BMus in Jazz Studies/Vocal Performance from New England Conservatory of Music.