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From: carlolsen@dsmnet.com (Carl E. Olsen)
Newsgroups: alt.drugs,alt.hemp,talk.politics.drugs
Subject: Reefer Madness
Date: Tue, 4 Oct 1994 21:49:45
Message-ID: 

The Arkansas Times, September 16, 1993 
REEFER MADNESS 
While courts send users to prison, scientists at NCTR find little 
to support dangers of pot. 
 
POT'S TAB IN THE  
WAR ON DRUGS  
 
The investment:  
	* Federal matching funds for the "war on drugs" in Arkansas 
totaled $4.6 million in 1992. 
	* State and local agencies kicked in another $1.8 million. 
	* The Arkansas National Guard received $1.3 million to 
assist in marijuana eradication. 
	* An unknown additional amount of money was generated for 
drug investigations by the sale of confiscated property. 
	* No figures are available for the cost of prosecuting drug 
cases and incarcerating offenders.   
 
The return:  
	* 42 percent of all arrests for the sale and manufacture of 
drugs in 1992 were for selling or growing marijuana. 
	* And 62 percent of all arrests for possession of drugs were 
for possession of marijuana. 
 
By Mara Leveritt  
	The monkeys smoked a joint a day.  
	Actually, they didn't recline in their cages, puffing a 
hand-rolled reefer.  This being a scientific experiment, funded 
by the powerful National Institute on Drug Abuse, the process was 
more carefully controlled.  The monkeys were fitted with masks 
through which marijuana smoke, machine-puffed in carefully 
measured doses, was passed into their nostrils. 
	The experiment, performed at the National Center for 
Toxicological Research near Pine Bluff, was designed to test 
whether chronic marijuana use caused brain damage.  It lasted for 
several years, with the most intensive phase, during which 
monkeys were exposed to heavy doses of marijuana smoke, occurring 
from 1984 to 1985. 
	Reports on the study's findings continue to be published in 
pharmacology and toxicology journals.  But beyond those tight 
scientific circles, the results of the NCTR experiment, the most 
extensive of its kind yet conducted, have gone almost entirely 
unnoticed. 
	That's not surprising, perhaps.  In a world where the 
political majority has shown little tolerance for marijuana, the 
test results are explosive. 
	The experiment discovered no adverse impact from marijuana 
on monkeys' general health, no sign that heavy exposure to 
marijuana smoke caused lung cancer, and, with one exception, no 
long-term effects on the animals' behavior from exposure to 
marijuana. 
	Before the NCTR study, the largest experiment examining the 
effects of marijuana on primates was one conducted at the 
Stanford Research Institute.  That experiment, focusing on the 
brain's electrical activity under the influence of marijuana, 
involved 16 monkeys. 
	By contrast, the experiment at NCTR used 62 monkeys, all 
rhesus males.  In 1983, the animals were all approximately two to 
three years old, the monkey equivalent of teen-agers. 
	For one year before the start of the experiment, the monkeys 
were trained to play "games" designed to test their perception of 
the passage of time and their ability to discern left from right.  
Only after they were proficient did the exposure to marijuana 
begin. 
	Toxicologists divided the monkeys into four groups.  Every 
day for a year, 16 monkeys each received what Dr. Merle Paule, 
head of NCTR's Behavioral Toxicology Laboratory and Primate 
Research Facility, called "a pretty heavy exposure" to marijuana, 
the human equivalent, Paule said, of "four or five joints a day." 
	Another group of 16 smoked the same amount of marijuana, but 
only two days per week.  Staffers called them the "weekend 
smokers." 
	A third group was administered smoke from cigarettes 
identical to the others, except that the psychoactive component 
of THC had been removed.  And a fourth group received no smoke 
exposure at all. 
	The monkeys smoked for a year, then they were monitored and 
tested for another year. 
	Dr. William Slikker, acting director of NCTR's Division of 
Neurotoxicology, explained that the study generated so much data, 
it has taken time to compile it and the results have been 
released gradually, in several reports since the experiment was 
ended. 
	In 1991, the journal Fundamental and Applied Toxicology 
published a report on the effects of marijuana on the monkeys' 
general health.  Slikker was the lead writer, with Paule 
(pronounced Paul) and other NCTR researchers listed as 
collaborators. 
	That report concluded, "The general health of the monkeys 
was not compromised by a year of marijuana smoke exposure as 
indicated by weight gain, carboxyhemoglobin and clinical 
chemistry/hematology values. 
	"Most clinical parameters ... did not show any treatment-
related changes, and those few that did were of small magnitude, 
transient in nature, and were not different at the end of the 
five-month postdosing period." 
	Last week, in his office at NCTR, Paule explained the health 
study's results in more casual terms.  "There's just nothing 
there," he said.  "They were all fine." 
	Last year, the journal Toxicology Letters published a report 
by another group of NCTR researchers on the effects of marijuana 
on the lungs of the monkeys who smoked.  Seven months after the 
last exposure to marijuana smoke, some of the monkeys were killed 
and their bodies autopsied.  Scientists examined the lungs for 
signs of disturbances called "carcinogen-DNA adducts," considered 
to be one of the early indications of cancer. 
	The writers of that study reported that although their 
findings were not conclusive, they were "at variance with earlier 
work suggesting that fractions of marijuana smoke are highly 
genotoxic." 
	The seven authors noted that, "It has been suggested that 
marijuana smoking is a proximal cause of respiratory cancer.  
However, these intimations have not been borne out by 
epidemiological investigations, which is surprising considering 
the widespread use of marijuana." 
	Moreover, the journal article noted: "The data presented 
here suggest that seven months after the last smoke exposure, 
there is not evidence of increased marijuana smoke-induced 
carcinogen-DNA adducts in the lungs of exposed monkeys." 
	Paule's informal interpretation: "If it's not there, it's 
probably not too terrible." 
	(The researchers discount the claim that as marijuana has 
become increasingly potent, due to refined horticultural 
techniques, it has also become more dangerous.  Other studies, 
they say, have demonstrated that smokers inhale only to the point 
of inebriation, so that persons smoking stronger marijuana smoke 
considerably less of it.) 
	Late last year, Paule himself was the lead author of a 
report published in The Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental 
Therapeutics.  It dealt with marijuana's effect on behavior. 
	This report's findings were more complex.  
	Before the monkeys were started on their year-long smoke 
exposure, Slikker, Paule and other scientists, conducted a short-
term study to determine the immediate effect of THC on the 
animals; in other words, how they reacted when they were "high." 
	They found two areas of apparent impact.  One was the 
monkey's short-term memory.  "That's a function that's very 
sensitive," Paule explained, "but only on an acute basis.  If you 
test them the next day, you see no residual effect on those 
behaviors." 
	The monkeys sense of time also appeared disrupted.  Monkeys, 
it turns out, are as good as humans at estimating the passage of 
time.  Members of both species to equally well at a test that 
requires them, for instance, to press down on a lever for more 
than 10 seconds but not longer than 14 seconds. 
	Marijuana has been shown to affect human's ability to 
perform the test at normal levels, and the monkeys were no 
different.  "That time-estimation behavior is exquisitely 
sensitive to marijuana," Paule said, "even at very low doses." 
	The NCTR study corroborated human studies showing that time 
seems to stretch out for many subjects under the influence of 
marijuana.  In the monkeys' response to the time-perception test, 
Paule explained, "what they said was that eight seconds feels 
like ten." 
	That phenomenon too, however, quickly dissipated.  Testing 
the next day showed the monkeys' time perception restored to its 
normal acuity. 
	The main thrust of the study, however, concerned the long-
term effects of exposure to marijuana.  To study that, the 
animals were tested for cognitive function and motivation 23 
hours after each marijuana exposure. 
	The cognitive test involved four lights and two levers.  The 
monkeys were taught that when they saw a red or a yellow light, 
they were to hit a lever on their left in order to receive a food 
pellet.  If a blue or a green light came on, they would get the 
pellet by hitting a lever on their right. 
	The researchers wanted to see if the animals scored any 
differently 23 hours after exposure to marijuana than they had 
before receiving the drug.  "On that test," Paule said, "their 
performance was unaffected." 
	The test of motivation, however, showed a definite pattern 
of change.  This test required the monkeys to put forth an 
increasing amount of effort to get food.  Since a decrease in 
motivation or "work ethic" has been described as one of the 
effects of smoking marijuana, the researchers wanted to see "how 
much effort the monkeys were willing to put out," as compared to 
the nonsmoking control group. 
	Their paychecks were banana-flavored food pellets.  For the 
first pellet, the monkeys had only to depress a lever once.  They 
had to hit it twice to get the second pellet.  And for a third 
pellet, they had to pump the lever three times. 
	Here, the group exposed to THC showed a clear unwillingness 
to get worked up about work.  Paule pointed out that during the 
year the test was being conducted, the monkeys were passing from 
adolescence into adulthood, a time for them, as for humans, he 
said, when "the work ethic normally goes way up." 
	But that improvement didn't show up in the marijuana-
smokers.  While the nonsmoking monkeys showed a willingness to 
work harder and harder as the year progressed, the marijuana 
groups stayed at adolescent levels. 
	"Our interpretation of this is that marijuana smoking in 
monkeys does produce something akin to an amotivational 
syndrome," Paule said.  He added, however, that the phenomenon 
may have occurred precisely because the monkeys were at the 
critical and deliberately chosen stage of adolescence when the 
NCTR test was conducted. 
	Because marijuana use is high among teenagers, depressed 
motivation at that stage in life can have serious effects.  But 
marijuana may not have the same effect on adults. 
	"We did a search of the literature," Paule said, "and we 
found that those studies that tried to find amotivational 
syndrome in adults could not find one.  It only appears in 
adolescence.  Chances are, if we'd done these studies in adults, 
we wouldn't have seen this effect.  And the good news is that, 
even among adolescents, when the exposure to marijuana was 
stopped, their motivation jumped right back up to normal levels." 
	"It took two to three months for them to recover to full 
values, but they did recover and they recovered fully." 
	Paule noted two other findings related to the motivational 
test.  One was that the willingness to work appeared to be 
equally affected in both the daily and weekend smokers.  "That 
totally surprised us," he said. 
	Another finding worthy of note was that, as in most areas of 
life, one monkey proved to be an exception.  As Paule put it, he 
seemed to go "blooey" under the influence of marijuana. 
	"Unlike the others, we found that this one particular animal 
was severely disrupted by chronic marijuana exposure on the 
discrimination task.  And he never recovered full from the 
amotivational syndrome.  We have no understanding of why.  
Everything else about him tested normal." 
	That one monkey represents a warning.  As Paule cautioned, 
"There appears to be tremendous individual variation in 
susceptibility to marijuana." 
	Also of interest in the NCTR study, in light of U.S. 
criminal sanctions against marijuana, is the researchers' 
observation that the animals exposed to marijuana never posed a 
threat to their handlers. 
	"I've never seen anything that suggests marijuana is 
responsible for an increase in any violent behavior," Paule said, 
adding, "I would say that the perceived risk to marijuana is 
probably overstated." 
	That's the scientist speaking.  Here's the father.  Asked 
what he would tell his 9-year-old son about the risks of smoking 
marijuana, this was Paule's answer: "I'd tell him he probably 
shouldn't smoke dope before he becomes an adult." 
 
POT RESEARCH LID ABOUT TO BLOW OPEN 
	Dr. Don McMillan, chairman of the Department of Pharmacology 
at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, is also the 
school's Wilbur D. Mills professor of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse 
Prevention.  He led a major study into human tolerance of 
marijuana in the early part of his career, and more recently 
served as an advisor to the researchers at NCTR in planning of 
their study of marijuana's effects on monkeys. 
	After years during which he said marijuana research was 
"stalled," McMillan is once again excited about developments in 
the field. 
	"It looks like the whole lid on marijuana research is about 
to blow wide open," he said in a recent interview.  "I think 
we're going to know a tremendous amount more about the mechanism 
of action and how it works on the brain in the next two years." 
	As marijuana is studied further, its effects, especially 
relative to other, legal drugs, will also become better 
understood.  For example, marijuana is ranked with heroin and LSD 
as a Schedule I drug.  The federal government rates its potential 
for abuse higher than the risk of abusing cocaine, morphine, PCP, 
or methadone. 
	Asked about that, McMillan said, "The thing you have to 
remember is that that schedule is a legal classification, not a 
medical one." 
	He said the medical understanding of marijuana is that it 
poses a lower risk to society and individual health than that of 
two legal drugs -- alcohol and tobacco. 
	"Marijuana is probably less harmful than either of those -- 
but of course, there's still a lot we don't know about it." 
	The Arkansas Times, September 16, 1993, pp. 11-12

From The Iowa NORML News Letter, Fall 1994, pages 2-4 (reprinted 
with permission from The Arkansas Times).