Pubdate: Fri, 28 Feb 2014
Source: News Leader, The (VA)
Copyright: 2014 News Leader


WASHINGTON - One of the nation's top scientists raised concerns about 
the nationwide move to legalize marijuana, saying regular use of the 
drug by adolescents had been tied to a drop in IQ and that a possible 
link to lung cancer hasn't been seriously studied.

"I'm afraid I'm sounding like this is an evil drug that's going to 
ruin our civilization and I don't really think that," Francis 
Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, said 
Thursday. "But there are aspects of this that probably should be 
looked at more closely than some of the legalization experts are 
willing to admit."

Collins, 63, is a geneticist who led the project to map the human 
genome. Since 2009, he has headed the NIH, the nation's leading 
agency for biomedical research. He's originally from Staunton, and 
still has family here.

He said the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which he oversees, was 
interested in pursuing such studies now that legalization has made 
them more feasible to do. But the process will take time, he cautioned.

"We don't know a lot about the things we wish we did," he said at a 
small dinner with journalists hosted by USA TODAY and National 
Geographic. "I've been asked repeatedly, does regular marijuana 
smoking, because you inhale deeply, increase your risk of lung 
cancer? We don't know. Nobody's done that study."

Last year, Colorado and Washington state legalized marijuana, and a 
majority of states across the country are considering legalizing the 
drug or decriminalizing it for medical or recreational use.

In the past, research was complicated because marijuana was outlawed.

"There's a lot we don't know because it's been an illegal drug, so 
how do you run a research project asking people to sign up who by 
their signing up are admitting they are breaking a law and might get 
into trouble?" he said. "I think one of the things we'll need to do 
is take advantage of legalization now to try to mount studies that 
were impossible before, if people are willing to participate."

That said, he said it already had been documented that regular 
marijuana use by adolescents, particularly early adolescents, had a 
significant and lifelong impact on the brain, leading to an average 
loss of about 10 IQ points.

"Perhaps it would be better if, before we plunged into this, there 
was a little bit more recognition of that particular consequence," he said.

USA Today
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