The Effects of Marijuana

posted by Dr. James G. Hood
Sunday, June 14, 2009

Now that I-1068, an initiative to legalize marijuana in the state of Washington, will be on the ballot in November, it is important to take a look at the effects of marijuana on a person’s health so that you can choose wisely when you cast your vote. Here is a brief list of side effects.

Moods and Depression

  • A number of studies have shown an association between chronic marijuana use and increased rates of anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, and schizophrenia (NIDA, 2009).

Memory, perception and problem solving

  • Heavy marijuana use impairs a person’s ability to form memories, recall events, and shift attention from one thing to another. It also disrupts coordination and balance by binding to receptors in the cerebellum and basal ganglia (NIDA, 2005).


  • With marijuana in the blood stream, the ability of the blood to carry oxygen is restricted. This means that vital oxygen is not flowing to the heart properly. This can lead to elevated heart rate and higher blood pressure. Continued use of marijuana can ultimately increase the chances of heart attack.
  • Marijuana contains 50-70% more carcinogenic hydrocarbons than tobacco smoke (NIDA, 2005).


  • Studies have shown that marijuana smokers have increased absences, accidents, higher worker compensation claims, and job turnovers (NIDA, 2009).
  • Students who smoke marijuana get lower grades and are less likely to graduate from high school, compared with their non-smoking peers, (NIDA, 2009)


  • The majority of youth admitted to DASA-funded treatment list marijuana as their primary drug of choice. (DSHS Trends Report, 2008).
  • “Cannabis withdrawal is caused by cessation of cannabis use that has been heavy and prolonged.  It results in clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning… (DSM-V draft, 2010)
  • Street Marijuana that is readily available in the 2000’s is 5-14 times stronger than the marijuana of the ‘60s and ‘70s. (Inaba and Cohen, 2004).

Compiled by staff of Spokane County Community Services, Housing and Community Development Department.

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