The State of Colorado has just released a massive big boy of a report on the health effects of marijuana, and … let's just say it doesn't do marijuana any favors. 

The State of Colorado has just released a massive big boy of a report on the health effects of marijuana, and … let's just say it doesn't do marijuana any favors.

The comprehensive, 188-page report summarized most of the medical findings to date related to cannabis consumption. Looking at nearly every aspect of its effects on the human body, it left no stone unturned in the hunt for possible public health threats. 

In the majority of cases, research findings couldn’t prove causality, only association. That part can't be understated here; the summary's not saying that weed causes anything, just that smoking it is correlated with certain things. That being said, take the findings with a grain of salt: no one's saying weed does any of this shitty things, just that weed can be related to them.

Still, the research is actually pretty apocalyptic and shows weed in very negative light, which is interesting given both the amount of research coming out that supports marijuana's health benefits and the fact that it could endanger Colorado's current pot policies.

Here's what they found:

Exposure During Pregnancy, with Children and Adolescents

Smoking weed during pregnancy is associated with decreased academic ability, cognitive function and attention in the offspring as well as decreased physical growth.

Moderate evidence that states with legal weed have higher rates of unintentional exposure to children … but child-resistant packaging helps reduce exposure.

Adolescents and young adults who smoke weed have an increased chance of developing psychotic disorders and addictions. This in no way proves the “gateway” effect, because future addictions can’t be pinned on cannabis use.

Weed is related to short-term impairment of cognitive and academic abilities, and users were less likely to graduate high school.

Dose Response

Consuming 10 mg of THC or more impaired a person’s ability to drive.

Waiting at least six hours after smoking cannabis with an equivalent of 35 mg of THC was enough for impairment to go away in occasional users. A person had to wait longer if they consumed it orally. An occasional user had to wait eight hours for impairment to go away after consuming 18 mg of THC.

Regarding edibles, it can take up to four hours or sometimes longer for peak effects to kick in. Consuming alcohol and cannabis likely caused more impairment then using just one alone.

Secondhand cannabis smoke was unlikely to make someone fail a drug test.

Neurological, Cognitive and Mental Health

"Substantial" evidence for associations between marijuana use and memory impairments lasting at least seven days after last use, as well as the potential for acute psychotic symptoms immediately after use."

Moderate evidence that adults who use marijuana regularly are more likely than non-users to have symptoms or diagnosis of depression.” Once again, these are only associations, not proof that weed is responsible for these effects. It may be that depressed people smoke weed more because it helps them feel better.

Respiratory Effect

"Substantial" evidence that weed smoke contains many of the same carcinogens found in tobacco smoke.

Heavy marijuana use is associated with mild airflow obstruction.

"Substantial" evidence that heavy pot smoking is associated with pre-malignant lesions in the airway … but inconclusive evidence as to whether or not these lesions were cancerous. 

Effects Beyond the Lungs

A small amount of evidence suggest increased risk for heart attack, stroke, testicular cancer, and prostate cancer. Cancer's causes are notoriously hard to track down though, and these conditions are so common in the population that it's likey that a percentage of people who have them also smoke weed.

Cannabis Use and Injury

The risk of motor vehicle crash doubles among drivers with recent marijuana use. Also, the more you consumed, the higher risk of crash you had.

… So yeah. Not a pretty picture. And all this brings up an interesting question: who in Colorado would be investing both time and money to publish study results that framed weed in a negative light?

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, that's who.

But, their vaguely negative framing of weed is kind of a good thing. See, the fact that it's being studied in this very comprehensive way hints at the increasingly pedestrian way researchers are treating it. State government agencies like the CDPHE (usually) don't pay to fund research narcotics in such in depth ways, but they do pay for studies on larger public health threats like alcohol and tobacco. So, to treat marijuana as a somewhat lesser evil than it used to be and subject it to the same rigorous testing as booze and nicotine, the scientific community is basically saying that it can be harmful it some cases, but not harmful enough to be taken out of people's reach. If you think about it, that's the safest opinion for Colorado's public health department to have at the current state of marijuana acceptance amongst policymakers.

It's also worth noting that the point of this summary was not to uncover the benefits of weed per se; it was to " monitor changes in drug use patterns, broken down by county and race and ethnicity, and the emerging science and medical information relevant to the health effects associated with marijuana use," as the report's introduction states. If, at any point in the summary the research pointed to marijuana's benefits, it was phrases as having no correlation with a negative outcome, not that it was good for certain conditions.

State funded studies try not to be political, but they kind of are. If the state came out with results that heralded weed as a the cure all to everything, they might not be taken seriously; the tide of anti-marijuana conservativism still hasn't entirely shifted. And a lot of important and influential people with beneficial capital don't want to align themselves politically with extremes; it's better to publish results that support marijuana cautiously than to publish results that support it wholeheartedly. This doesn't mean that weed is inherently good or bad for your health, just that there are a lot of different ways of looking at its effects which are moderated by many conflicting agendas.

Plus, we both know that people's reactions to weed and THC are immensely different. For some people, it can absolutely cause attention defects. For others, it makes them sharper than a tack kissed with the tears of Albert Einstein. It might make some people's babies short. It might make other people's babies little supermodel Gerber infants who are so perfect you want to gouge your eyes out and just sit on them.  It's so hard to generalize the health effects of marijuana, that no study can be considered definitive until years of research and experience is under the belts of scientists. So don't get pissed at Colorado's study … just get high instead.