The most exhaustive study of hemp smoking in its natural setting is probably Ganja in JamaicaA Medical Anthropological Study of Chronic Marijuana Use by Vera Rubin and Lambros Comitas (1975; Mouton & Co., The Hague, Paris/Anchor Books, NY).
The Jamaican study, sponsored by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Center for Studies of Narcotic and Drug Abuse, was the first project in medical anthropology to be undertaken and is the first intensive, multi-disciplinary study of marijuana use and users to be published.
From the Jamaican Study introduction: Despite its illegality, ganja use is pervasive, and duration and frequency are very high; it is smoked over a longer period in heavier quantities with greater THC potency than in the U.S. without deleterious social or psychological consequences. The major difference is that both use and expected behaviours are culturally conditioned and controlled by well established tradition.
No impairment of physiological, sensory and perceptual-motor performance, tests of concept formation, abstracting ability, and cognitive style and test of memory.
The study outlines the positive reinforcement given socially to ganja smokers in Jamaica, the universal praise for the practice among users, who smoke it as a work motivator. Subjects described the effects of smoking making them brainier, lively, merry, more responsible and conscious. They reported it was good for meditation and concentration, and created an general sense of well-being and self-assertiveness.
Vera Rubin and her colleagues found no relation of cannabis to crime (except marijuana busts), no impairment of motor skills, and smokers and non-smokers alike had identical extroversion scores with no difference in work records or adjustment. Heavy use of ganja was not found to curtail the motivation to work.
From the psychological assessment the smokers seemed to be more open in their expressions of feeling, somewhat more carefree, and somewhat more distractable. There was no evidence of organic brain damage or schizophrenia.
Marilyn Bowman, in a battery of psychological tests on chronic cannabis users in Jamaica in 1972, found no impairment of physiological, sensory and perceptual-motor performance, tests of concept formation, abstracting ability and cognitive style and tests of memory. These Jamaicans had smoked anywhere from six to 31 years (16.6 mean average) and the average age at the first puff was at 12 years and six months.
In the 1975 study between users and non-users, no difference was found in plasma testosterone, no difference in total nutrition, slightly higher performance on the intelligence sub-tests (not statistically significant), and a basic measure of cell-mediated immunity was no less vigorous in the users
Finally, Users in our matched pair sample smoked marijuana in addition to as many tobacco cigarettes as did their partners. Yet their airways were, if anything, a bit healthier than their matches.
We must tentatively conclude either that marijuana has no harmful effects on such passages or that it actually offers some slight protection against the harmful effects of tobacco smoke. Only further research will clarify which, if either, is the case.
As to the stepping-stone or gateway drug charges leveled against cannabis: The use of hard drugs is as yet virtually unknown among working class Jamaicansno one in the study (Rubins) had ever taken any narcotics, stimulants, hallucinogens, barbiturates or sleeping pills
In America during the late 1800s cannabis was used in treating addiction. Opiate, chloral hydrate, and alcohol addicts were successfully treated with potent cannabis extracts. Some patients recovered with less than a dozen doses of cannabis extract.1 Likewise, smoking cannabis has been found to be valuable in modern alcohol addiction treatment.2
1. Cannabis Indica as an Anodyne and Hypnotic, J.B. Mattison, M.D., The St. Louis Medical and Surgical Journal, vol. LVI, no. 5, Nov. 1891, pg 265-271, reprinted in Marijuana: The Medical Papers, Tod Mikuriya, M.D.
2. Cannabis Substitution: An Adjunctive Therapeutic Tool in the Treatment of Alcoholism, Tod H. Mikuriya, M.D., Medical Times, vol. 98, no. 4, April, 1970, reprinted in Marijuana Medical Papers, Tod Mikuriya, M.D.)
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