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Best Of 2014 - The Science Of Marijuana: What We Do & Don't Know


This week, The Exchange will play the five best shows of 2014, as voted by you. Here's a November program on the science of marijuana. With legalization in two states now, and a growing number of others allowing medical use of marijuana, advocates and opponents alike are looking for answers to back up their positions. We’ll talk to two research doctors about what we know about the effects of the drug, what we don’t know, and whether the claims are correct. This show is produced in partnership with Science Cafe NH - Nashua, which held a conversation about the science of marijuana earlier this year.

This program was originally broadcast on October 6, 2014.



  • Dr. Staci Gruber's research on the effects of marijuana on younger brains: “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.”
  • Legalizing of marijuanaraises health concerns: While marijuana can be addictive, scientists generally agree that fewer than 10 percent of marijuana smokers become dependent on the drug, compared with 15 percent for alcohol, 23 percent for heroin and 32 percent for tobacco. Marijuana does contain carcinogens, including tar and other toxins similar to those found in tobacco, but people generally do not smoke marijuana in the same amounts as cigarettes.
  • Policy advances getting ahead of science on medical marijuana?: Though more than one million people are thought to use the drug to treat ailments ranging from cancer to seizures to hepatitis C and chronic pain, there are few rigorous studies showing whether the drug is a fruitful treatment for those or any other conditions.
  • Why PTSD isn't included in N.H.'s medical marijuana bill: “The mainstay of treatment for people with PTSD is psychotherapy and we know that that works very well. Often times if people are using marijuana, it may inhibit them from engaging meaningfully in a therapeutic relationship.”

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