Source:   Washington Times
Contact:    September 30, 1997

Parents' job is made more difficult when even authorities can't agree

By Cheryl Wetzstein

Parental ambivalence about marijuana stems, in part, from a lack of
definitive answers for these three questions:

Is today's marijuana more potent than that of the 1960s and '70s?

Yes, say federal officials. The potency level of marijuana rose around
1985 and has remained relatively constant since then, Medical College of
Virginia professor Billy R. Martin says. No, say professors Lynn Zimmer
and John P. Morgan in their book "Marijuana Myths, Marijuana Facts." A
federal study of marijuana potency at the University of Mississippi
shows that potency levels have changed only slightly from the 1970s,
they say.

Is marijuana addictive?

Federal officials say yes, although they concede that not every user
becomes addicted and only a small percentage of users suffer overt
withdrawal symptoms such as restlessness or shaky hands. Miss Zimmer and
Dr. Morgan say that marijuana doesn't cause physical dependence, and
that in rare cases when withdrawal symptoms appear, they are mild.
Pharmacologists say marijuana is less addictive than caffeine.

Does marijuana damage one's health?

Federal officials say marijuana use stunts emotional growth, instills
apathy and impairs mental acuity and shortterm memory. Heavy use can
lead to chronic bronchitis and hormonal problems affecting reproduction.
Babies born to marijuanasmoking mothers are at risk for problems with
thinking clearly and short attention spans. Research also suggests that
longterm marijuana use can lead to lung cancer, schizophrenia,
personality disturbances, depression and immune system problems.

Miss Zimmer and Dr. Morgan say that mental impairments and hormonal
changes are temporary, and that marijuana smoking doesn't cause serious
lung damage unless the user also smokes cigarettes. Babies born to
marijuana users do not "consistently" show mental deficits, nor has
marijuana been shown to lead to longterm immune impairment,
psychological damage or mental illness.

Copyright (c) 1997 News World Communications, Inc.