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Brain and Marijuana Use
If you were to peek inside the brain of someone who regularly smoked marijuana, you would find that it didn’t look quite like the brain of someone who didn’t smoke.

First, you might notice that a critical part of the brain that helps us process emotions and make decisions appeared smaller than in the brains of the nonsmoker.

But you would see something else, too: that the connections passing through that region of the brain were stronger and thicker.

Thankfully, you don’t have to go excavating brains anytime soon. A group of researchers has done the hard work for you. In a recent study, scientists used a combination of MRI-based brain scans to get one of the first comprehensive, three-dimensional pictures of the brains of adults who have smoked weed at least four times a week, often multiple times a day, for years.

Compared with people who don’t use, long-term, heavy marijuana smokers tend to have a smaller orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), a brain region critical for processing emotions and making decisions. But they also have more cross-brain connections that scientists think smokers may develop as a means of compensating for the difference in size.

Unlike previous research, which has looked mainly at short-term smokers or simply at young or older users, this study is one of the first to look at pot’s long-term effects on men and women between 20 and 40 years old who had smoked almost daily for between two and 30 years. The researchers looked at the brains of 110 people — 62 who didn’t smoke and 48 who did — using three different types of MRI scans.

In the smokers, these increased brain connections appeared to help them counteract the behavioral problems commonly associated with weed use, like trouble maintaining relationships or staying motivated enough to find or keep a job.

But while new connections blossom throughout the brain during the first few years of regular use, they eventually recede. Researchers saw a significant drop-off in new brain links after about six years of regular use.

So does smoking weed every day for a decade shrink your brain and make you dumber? Not quite.

The regular smokers did have lower IQ scores overall when compared to the people who didn’t smoke, but there’s no way to know yet whether or how that might be linked to smaller orbitofrontal cortices or marijuana use in general.

“We cannot honestly say that that is what’s happening here,” says Francesca Filbey, the lead study author and professor of neuropsychology at the Center for Brain Health at the University of Texas at Dallas.

For starters, this study — the first ever to look at the long-term effects of weed smoking in heavy adult users across a wide age range — did not show that pot smoking caused certain regions of the brain to shrink. In fact, other studies suggest that having smaller orbitofrontal cortices in the first place could make someone more likely to start smoking. One recent study, for example, found that children as young as 12 who had smaller orbitofrontal cortices were significantly more likely to start smoking weed by the time they hit their 16th birthday.

In other words, it could be that people with naturally smaller versions of this region may simply be more likely to smoke, and the weed might not be shrinking that section of the brain at all. There is also no clear evidence linking the brain differences the researchers found with any particular behaviors.

In addition, all three things the researchers studied — drug-use habits, brain development, and IQ scores — are shaped by a variety of factors. Both the environment we grow up in and the specific combination of genes we inherit from our parents affect behavior and intelligence.

The age when someone starts smoking pot can also be a key clue to how the brain will be different from a non-user’s brain and how often someone smokes thereafter. Picking up the habit while young seems to be especially influential.

“The earlier the use — especially during adolescence, when the brain is developing — the greater the effects,” Filbey says. Of her study participants, those who started using the earliest had the most pronounced differences in brain development in terms of the size of the orbitofrontal cortex and the connections between parts of that region of the brain.

Other studies in people have shown similar links between weed and smaller prefrontal cortex regions, but only research in animals has suggested that marijuana may kill brain cells or reduce their size.

Scientists still don’t know whether giving up weed can reverse its changes to the brain (if the noted differences are indeed caused by pot in the first place — still an open question) or whether the alterations are also present in recreational or short-term users. But as legal marijuana becomes a reality in the US, researchers are scrambling to find out.

US-Marijuana-Legalization

Marijuana reform was wildly successful in the 2014 midterm election, with voters in Alaska, Oregon and the District of Columbia marching to the polls to legalize recreational marijuana. Although the new laws are not scheduled to take effect until sometime next year, we at HIGH TIMES felt the stoner community should be made aware of some of the changes to come as a result of snuffing out prohibition in those areas. Here are 10 of our favorite:

First and Foremost, Get Stoned in the Privacy of Your Own Home Without Constantly Looking Out a Window to See If the Cops Are Watching
Some claim that marijuana causes paranoia, while others argue it is actually the fear of prosecution that puts people on edge. Well, for residents of Alaska, Oregon and the District of Columbia, who just voted to legalize recreational marijuana, there should be fewer semi-psychotic episodes taking place behind their living room windows.

Grow Weed on Private Property Without Worrying That the Smell Will Lure the Cops to Your Front Door
As soon as the laws go into effect, resident in Alaska, Oregon and the District of Columbia will be allowed to cultivate their own personal marijuana crop. In Oregon, residents will be allowed to grow up to four plants, while the law in the nation’s capital will permit the cultivation of as many as six plants.

Purchase Weed From a Legal Pot Shop Instead of Waiting for Your Dealer to Call You Back
With the exception of the District of Columbia, which will not include a retail pot market when the law goes into effect, pot connoisseurs and die-hard stoners will soon be able to purchase weed similar to how beer and liquor is sold now. That means no more waiting around for hours – sometimes days – for your dealer to come through. Simply walk down to the local pot shop, hand some cash to a clerk, and it’s party time. The struggle is real, but the hassle is over.

Tell a Cop That You’re Holding Weed and There Isn’t a Damn Thing He Can Do About It
Soon, people in Alaska, Oregon, and the District of Columbia will be allowed to roam freely in the streets with a designated amount of marijuana. Although none of the newly approved laws allow for public pot consumption, you can still mess with the police from time to time by informing officers that you are holding weed, and then reminding them there is nothing they can do about it.

Give the Gift of Weed to Family and Friends During the Holidays Instead of That Lame Shit You Handed Out Last Year
Although the District of Columbia will not allow retail cannabis sales, like Alaska and Oregon, the passing of Initiative 71 will allow adults to give away up to an ounce of marijuana. This means for all of the important celebrations and holidays where a person is socially required to bring a gift, you can now show up with a small stash of weed in the same manner others have done for years with a bottle of wine.

Conserve Your Liver Function By Switching to Marijuana Instead of Drinking Booze
We cannot tell you how many times we’ve heard the excuse, “I’d smoke weed instead of drinking if it was legal.” Well, now all our yellow-eyed booze hound buds residing in Alaska, Oregon and the District Columbia can drop the bottle and pick up a bong, since the pot prohibition philosophies in those areas have since been eliminated.

Post Photos of Your Beautiful Buds to Social Media Sites Without a SWAT Team Kicking Down Your Front Door
It might seem miniscule, but soon residents in Alaska, Oregon and the District of Columbia will have the legal right to post pot porn to their social media sites without riling the local police force and spawning a heavily armed raid. For people living in prohibition states, simply posting a pot pic on Instagram is enough probable cause for police to obtain a search warrant and come in with all guns blazing. Yet, in legal states, they cannot do shit.

Take a Road Trip With a Stash of Weed Without Fearing a Highway Shakedown (Kind of)
As long as they are not driving high, crossing state lines, and not carrying more pot than what is legally permitted, soon there will be no reason folks in Alaska, Oregon and the District of Columbia can’t hop in the car with a fat stash of weed and take a road trip. Not that stoners haven’t been traveling with pot since the dawn of prohibition, but now that recreational marijuana is legal there should be no excuse for cops to pull over law biding motorists and shake them down along the highway in search for marijuana. There is still the possibility police will attempt to pin you with a DUI.

Tell Your Boss to Kiss Your Ass and Open a Legal Marijuana Business
Alaska and Oregon will soon experience the rise of a retail marijuana market, which will undoubtedly provide opportunities for people to start cannabis-related businesses. In addition to retail pot shops, canna-commerce in the form of advertising firms, bakeries, cooking workshops, etc. will all become part of a vital marketplace once the laws goes into effect.

Start Looking for a Job That Does Not Do Random Drug Testing
Although recreational marijuana is now legal, workers can still be fired as a result of testing positive for marijuana. Unfortunately, this will likely be the scenario until the federal government decides to repeal prohibition. In the meantime, we suggest seeking out gainful employment with a company that does not force their employees to submit to drug tests. Otherwise, you will always be at risk of being tossed into the unemployment line.

NY Marijuana

On the heels of speculation swirling Sunday that New York would end the prosecution and arrest of individuals for low-level marijuana possession, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton announced that possession of 25g or less of cannabis would no longer be an arrestable offense. The change to the city’s policy will be issued Tuesday and will come into effect on November 19th — so be cool for a few days people!

As the New York Times reported, the NYPD has been arresting tens of thousands of people each year for low-level marijuana possession. Now, instead of getting thrown in the slammer, you will reportedly be issued a summons and get a ticket for $100. (Though beware, individuals caught “smoking or burning” pot are still subject to immediate arrest under the new policy.)

City officials said they are interested in shifting the time and energy spent currently on low-level marijuana offenses to more serious crimes. This surely has to be the biggest accomplishment of the de Blasio administration to date and falls in line with the efforts of Brooklyn DA Kenneth Thompson who declared in July that he had no intention of prosecuting such marijuana “crimes.”

“This should free up police manpower to pursue cases of greater magnitude while relieving some of the congestion in the courts,” Richmond County District Attorney Daniel Donovan explained.

A clearer picture of the specifics will emerge this week as Mayor de Blasio takes his first meeting with all 5 district attorneys since taking office.

“Let’s be real about this,” Police Commissioner Bratton began before he laid out the change in policy for the media — and surprisingly, for once, he was legitimately, somewhat keeping it real in respect to marijuana.

This historic shift represents a step closer to wider legalization in the state of New York. Stay tuned for more information as it develops.

Marijuana Vote 2014
Marijuana won big last night!

Oregon became the third state in the Union to legalize recreational marijuana on Tuesday, while Washington, DC residents will soon be allowed to grow and possess pot without fear of legal repercussions. As if that wasn’t enough, Alaskan voters approved Measure 2 early this morning, which legalizes the possession, use and sale of recreational marijuana in the state.

It’s 3am in Portland, Oregon, where the lingering excitement of becoming the third state to legalize marijuana is still in the cold, wet November air. It’s clear that the biggest momentum in the midterms isn’t the Republican takeover of the US Senate, but the embrace of marijuana law reform by the American people.

Legalization goes 3-for-3: Washington DC’s Initiative 71 to legalize the personal possession and cultivation of marijuana crushed all expectations, garnering 69.4 percent of the vote.  Oregon’s Measure 91 passed with 54.2 percent of the vote, making the Pacific Northwest the first legal region of the country and the first shared legalization border in the world.  Alaska’s Question 2 also passed with 52.1 percent of the vote and like Oregon, will legalize the personal possession and cultivation of marijuana as well as marijuana markets, taxed at $35/ounce in Oregon and $50/ounce in Alaska.

Medical marijuana gets two clear majorities, but only one win: Our day started out with the good news that the island territory of Guam, where the sun first rises on the United States, passed its medical marijuana Proposal 14A with 56.4 percent of the vote. Florida overwhelmingly voted for its medical marijuana Amendment 2. But Florida’s constitutional threshold of 60 percent was just too high a hurdle for a Southern state to clear, falling just short at 57.6 percent.

California reduces felonies, but really wants to tax medical marijuana: Proposition 47 in California defelonized many low-level crimes, such as possession of personal amounts of any drug. The proposition passed with 58.2 percent of the vote. At the city and county level, however, voters were voting to tax medical marijuana, and keep or enact dispensary bans and medical grow restrictions. Voters in Blythe rejected a tax, in Santa Ana they prohibited dispensary bans, and in Shasta County they repealed medical grow restrictions; otherwise, every other measure on the ballot did not go reformer’s way.

Colorado legalized, but now cities want to ban pot shops: Colorado localities fared no better than California. The towns of Red Cliff and Manitou Springs rejected bans on pot shops; all other cities voting on bans accepted them, including the Denver suburb of Lakewood. The towns of Ramah and Hot Sulphur Springs rejected pot taxes; all other cities voting on taxes approved them. Vexingly, the towns of Palisade and Paonia voted to both ban pot shops and tax them.

Michigan’s unbeaten streak ends. Cities in Michigan had gone 16-0 up until this election in passing charter amendments to decriminalize personal amounts of marijuana. Last night, Clare, Frankfort, Harrison, Lapeer, and Onaway became the first to reject such an amendment, with Lapeer’s rejection decided by six votes. Those cities all had less than 2,000 total votes, while the six larger cities of Berkley, Huntington Woods, Mt. Pleasant, Pleasant Ridge, Port Huron, and Saginaw all supporting decrim.

New Mexico perfect on decrim; Maine splits legalization: The two largest counties in New Mexico voted overwhelmingly to decriminalize marijuana, with Bernalillo (Albuquerque) voting 59.5 percent and Sante Fe voting a whopping 73.1 percent in favor. In Maine, South Portland joined neighboring Portland’s legalization vote from a year ago, approving legalization of 2.5 ounces by a 52.4 percent vote, but smaller Lewiston rejected legalization with only 45.1 percent support.

Massachusetts sweeps fourteen pro-legalization policy questions:  Eight districts in Massachusetts voted on non-binding Public Policy Questions that asked whether their state rep should vote to support tax and regulate policies for marijuana like alcohol.  The results ranged from a low of 69 percent to a high of 74 percent.  Six Massachusetts House districts went further by polling support for tax and regulate policies for marijuana like common fruits, vegetables, and herbs!  Support ranged from a low of 54 percent to a high of 63 percent.  That’s a perfect 14-0 in a midterm election where many of those voters were asked to treat marijuana like tomatoes.

Despite a loss in Florida for medical marijuana, the victories are a cause for celebration!

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Vegas Dispensary

The city of Las Vegas, Nevada has announced the initial number of medical marijuana dispensaries that will be opening. After almost an entire day of hashing out the details, the City Council looked at applications of 50 different dispensary hopefuls and cut it down to 26.

This doesn’t mean that all 26 dispensaries will actually open.  That remains to be decided by Nevada’s health department.  The applicants that have been or will be denied will be permitted to reapply for licenses next year.  Dispensaries were denied for everything ranging from missing paperwork to questions regarding patient security.

The City Council debated for nearly an hour before approving the first dispensary due to opposition from some of the city’s residents.  The neighbors’ apprehension was overtaken by councilmen from the west side of town who granted approval to Las Vegas’s first medical marijuana shop.

One dispensary owner based out of California wasn’t so lucky.  Nuleaf, which is owned and operated out of Las Vegas, had its application denied.  Nuleaf spokesman, Bradley Mayer, said in reference to his company, that they are, “one of the longest-running dispensary operators in the country” and feel that they should have been approved.

Unfortunately for Nuleaf and many other hopefuls, they will just have to wait and try again next year.

A timeline for final approvals on dispensaries has yet to be released.

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Marijuana Schedule 1 Drug

Marijuana has long been classified by congress as a Schedule 1 substance, which is the worst possible classification it could receive.  The Schedule 1 classification means that the U.S. government believes marijuana has no medicinal benefits what so ever and it also carries with it a high potential for abuse.  This decision was made in 1970, and it has not yet been modified, but, hopefully, that’s all about to change.

Testimony is being heard this week in San Francisco that could change the federal classification of marijuana in what is being called the case of United States v. Pickard.  The defense has put together a team of qualified expert witnesses that will testify that marijuana does not meet the guidelines to be classified as a schedule 1 substance.

Dr. Carl Hart, the Associate Professor of Psychology in the Department of Psychiatry and Psychology at Columbia University in New York has said that, “It is my considered opinion that including marijuana in Schedule 1 of the Controlled Substances Act is counter to all the scientific evidence in a society that uses and values empirical evidence.  After two decades of intense scientific inquiry in this area, it has become apparent the current scheduling of cannabis has no footing in the realities of science and neurobiology.”

This will be the first time in a very long time in which a federal judge has allowed a hearing which could potentially change the current classification of marijuana in the United States.  With recreational marijuana now legalized in both Colorado and Washington and medical marijuana legalized in about 23 states, it’s nearly impossible for the general public to truly believe that marijuana is as dangerous as other Schedule 1 substances, such as heroin and LSD.

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Europe Marijuana

The European College of Neuropsychopharmacology recently presented their findings in regards to moderate marijuana use by young people and their IQ level at an event in Berlin, Germany.

Over 2,500 participants had their IQ tested at the age of 8 and again at the age of 15.  The results found by the University College of London showed that there was no correlation between marijuana use and lower IQ in the 15 year old subjects.  The study’s author stated that, “In particular, alcohol use was found to be strongly associated with IQ decline.  No other factors were found to be predictive of IQ change.”

The lead author of the study was even quoted in the Independent Business Times as saying, “Our findings suggest cannabis may not have a detrimental effect on cognition, once we account for other related factors particularly cigarette and alcohol use.  This may suggest that previous research findings showed poorer cognitive performance in cannabis users may have resulted from the lifestyle, behavior and personal history typically associated with cannabis use, rather than cannabis use itself.”

There is also the argument of whether kids begin doing poorly in school as a result of marijuana use or for other reasons.  Regardless, it appears that marijuana use doesn’t have any long term negative impacts on brain development in adolescents.

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Maryland Marijuana Decriminalization
Maryland’s new marijuana decriminalization law has begun. The new bill will allow for citizens in possession of up to 10 grams of marijuana to receive a simple fine.

The law originally stated that anyone found in possession of any amount of marijuana can be arrested and serve up to a 90 day prison sentence. But as of October 1, violators will instead be issued a ticket. The first ticket will be for $100, the second for $250 and then $500 for any tickets thereafter.

A strange amendment to the law has made it still illegal to possess any and all marijuana paraphernalia. This includes everything from a 3 foot glass bong to a rolling paper. So someone caught smoking a joint could technically be arrested for the rolling paper, but not the marijuana itself.

However, as a result from public outcry by marijuana activists in Maryland, lawmakers have said that they will look into the idea of doing away with this law in the next year.

Medical marijuana has been legal in Maryland since June 1, 2014, and patients are allowed to carry paraphernalia worry free.

Marijuana Jamaica
The Justice Minster of Jamaica recently announced that legislation is under way to decriminalize marijuana.

The majority of the world views Jamaica as a place where marijuana is widely used and accepted, but that is far from the case. Jamaica has prohibited the use of marijuana for the last 100 years.

Justice Minister, Mark Golding, has suggested to lawmakers that they should make possession of 2 ounces or less a simple ticket before year’s end. He also hopes that marijuana use for religious purposes will be legalized as well. The Rastafarian religion, which views marijuana as a “holy herb,” smokes marijuana in a ceremonial fashion on a regular basis. Golding believes that they should be permitted to partake as they please.

Golding also believes that Jamaican scientists may hold the key to unlocking some of the vast therapeutic benefits of marijuana. Jamaican researchers even came up with a medication made from marijuana to help treat glaucoma over 20 years ago that has received little to no attention from the medical world.

In the midst of the legalization movement, Golding stresses that the government will continue to battle drug trafficking, organized crime, and keeping marijuana out of the hands of the youth.

Golding mentioned that while they do not plan on setting a maximum plant number on marijuana growing operations, the government wants to make sure that all small scale farmers “are not excluded and it does not just become something exclusively for major capital-intensive investors.”

The leader of the Drug Policy Alliance said of Golding’s legislation that it is “both noteworthy in that Jamaica is reforming policies on possession, religious use and medical use at more or less the same time, and politically important to providing leadership in the Caribbean.”

New York Times Marijuana
The New York Times has endorsed the legalization of recreational marijuana in Alaska, Oregon, and Washington D.C. in their editorial released on October 5.

This is the second time this year that The New York Times has publicly stated their support for marijuana reform in the United States.

In an excerpt from the Times’ recent editorial, “Yes to Marijuana Ballot Measures: Alaska, Oregon, and the District of Columbia Should Legalize Pot,” they repeatedly touch on the argument that marijuana is still “far less dangerous than alcohol” and that medical marijuana is now available in nearly half the states in the US.

The editorial said in regards to the legalization in Colorado: “Opponents of legalization warn that states are embarking on a risky experiment. But the sky over Colorado has not fallen, and prohibition has proved to be a complete failure. It’s time to bring the marijuana market out into the open and end the injustice of arrests and convictions that have devastated communities.”

In closing, the editorial stated, “Ideally, the federal government would repeal the ban on marijuana, so states could set their own policies without worrying about the possibility of a crackdown on citizens violating federal law. Even though a majority of Americans favor legalization, Congress shows no sign of budging. So it’s better for the states to take the lead than to wait for an epiphany on Capitol Hill that may never come.”

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