Scientists from The University of Western Australia have identified how using cannabis can alter a person’s DNA structure, causing mutations which can expose them to serious illnesses, and be passed on to their children and several future generations.
Although the association between cannabis use and severe illnesses such as cancer has previously been documented, how this occurs and the implications for future generations was not previously understood.
Associate Professor Stuart Reece and Professor Gary Hulse from UWA’s School of Psychiatry and Clinical Sciences completed an extensive analysis of literary and research material to understand the likely causes and uncovered alarming information.
“Through our research we found that cancers and illnesses were likely caused by cell mutations resulting from cannabis properties having a chemical interaction with a person’s DNA,” Associate Professor Reece said.
“With cannabis use increasing globally in recent years, this has a concerning impact for the population.”
Although a person may appear to be healthy and lead a normal life, the unseen damage to their DNA could also be passed on to their children and cause illnesses for several generations to come.
“Even if a mother has never used cannabis in her life, the mutations passed on by a father’s sperm can cause serious and fatal illnesses in their children,” he said.
“The parents may not realise that they are carrying these mutations, which can lie dormant and may only affect generations down the track, which is the most alarming aspect.”
Associate Professor Reece said that when the chemicals in cannabis changed a person’s DNA structure it could lead to slow cell growth and have serious implications for the foetal development of babies that may cause limbs or vital organs not to develop properly or cause cancers.
“The worst cancers are reported in the first few years of life in children exposed in utero to cannabis effects,” he said.
Associate Professor Stuart Reece said that the finding was of major importance with cannabis use increasing in many nations around the world, and many countries legalising its use.
“Some people may say that previous data collected doesn’t show there are serious effects from using cannabis, but many authorities acknowledge that there is now a much larger consumption of cannabis use compared to previous years,” he said.
The study carries implications for researchers, medical health professionals and governments in regulating drug use and protecting those who are most vulnerable.
A research study that followed children from birth up to age 38 has found that people who smoked cannabis four or more days of the week over many years ended up in a lower social class than their parents, with lower-paying, less skilled and less prestigious jobs than those who were not regular cannabis smokers. These regular and persistent users also experienced more financial, work-related and relationship difficulties, which worsened as the number of years of regular cannabis use progressed.
The study, conducted by an international team of researchers led byMagdalena Cerdá at the University of California, Davis, Health System, and Avshalom Caspi and Terrie Moffitt at Duke University, appears online on March 23 in the journal Clinical Psychological Science .
“Our research does not support arguments for or against cannabis legalization,” said Cerdá, first author of the study and an epidemiologist at the UC Davis Violence Prevention Research Program. “But it does show that cannabis was not safe for the long-term users tracked in our study.”
“Our study found that regular cannabis users experienced downward social mobility and more financial problems such as troubles with debt and cash flow than those who did not report such persistent use,” she said. “Regular long-term users also had more antisocial behaviors at work, such as stealing money or lying to get a job, and experienced more relationship problems, such as intimate partner violence and controlling abuse.”
The comprehensive study is important because it addresses an array of potentially confounding factors not included in past studies assessing cannabis’ long-term effects on users, and it raises awareness of the consequences that persistent cannabis use poses to families, communities and national social welfare systems.
Economic and social problems persisted in long-term, regular users of pot even after the authors accounted for other potential differences between regular cannabis users and other study participants, including socioeconomic problems in childhood, lower IQ, antisocial behavior and depression in adolescence, higher levels of impulsivity, lower motivation to achieve, criminal conviction of cannabis users, and abuse of alcohol and hard drugs.
“These findings did not arise because cannabis users were prosecuted and had a criminal record,” said Caspi, a psychologist with dual appointments at Duke University and the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London who is senior author of the study. “Even among cannabis users who were never convicted for a cannabis offense, we found that persistent and regular cannabis use was linked to economic and social problems.”
Heavy alcohol vs. cannabis use
While both heavy alcohol and cannabis use were similarly associated with declines in social class, antisocial behaviors in the work place and relationship problems, the authors found that those dependent on cannabis experienced more financial difficulties, such as paying for basic living expenses and food, than those who were alcohol dependent.
“Cannabis may be safer than alcohol for your health, but not for your finances,” said Moffitt, a psychologist with dual appointments at Duke University and the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London.
The study only addressed the economic and social consequences of cannabis use. In this domain, they found that cannabis did not appear to be safe and may be just as harmful as alcohol.
“Alcohol is still a bigger problem than cannabis because alcohol use is more prevalent than cannabis use,” Cerdá said. “But, as the legalization of cannabis increases around the world, the economic and social burden posed by regular cannabis use could increase as well.”
The authors assessed the frequency and duration of cannabis use among participants in the long-term Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study — a four-decade project maintained by the University of Otago that has been following the development of a group of 1,037 children born in 1972-1973 in Dunedin, New Zealand from birth to age 38. The Dunedin study includes participants who represent the full range of socioeconomic status and health in the general population and have had follow-up examinations at ages 3, 5, 9, 11, 13, 15, 18, 21, 26, 32 and, most recently, at 38.
For the current study, the authors included 947 participants who had completed at least three of the five adult cannabis assessments from ages 18 through 38. They measured both persistence of cannabis dependence, as defined by the total number of study periods out of five that the participant met criteria for cannabis dependence, and persistence of regular cannabis use as the total number of study periods out of five that a participant used cannabis for four or more days per week.
Eighteen percent, or 173 participants, were considered marijuana dependent in at least one wave of the study, and 15 percent (140 participants) fell into the regular cannabis use categories, in at least one wave of the study. Results were similar for persistent cannabis dependence and persistent regular cannabis use. (See summary of research methodology or the paper for more details.)
Other universities involved in the research study include the University of Otago, Dunedin, NZ; Institute of Psychiatry, Kings College London, UK; Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ.
The research was supported by the New Zealand Health Research Council, the New Zealand Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment, the US National Institute on Aging (NIH AG032282), the US National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH DA030449), the UK Medical Research Council (MRC MR/K00381X), and the Jacobs Foundation.
Citation: “Persistent cannabis dependence and alcohol dependence represent risks for midlife economic and social problems: A longitudinal cohort study,” Magdalena Cerdá, et al. Clinical Psychological Science, online, March 23.
File – In this Feb. 19, 2015 file photo, David Thompson, lawyer for the anti-pot group Safe Streets… Read more
DENVER (AP) — A federal law crafted to fight the mob is giving marijuana opponents a new strategy in their battle to stop the expanding industry: racketeering lawsuits.
A Colorado pot shop recently closed after a Washington-based group opposed to legal marijuana sued not just the pot shop but a laundry list of firms doing business with it — from its landlord and accountant to the Iowa bonding company guaranteeing its tax payments. One by one, many of the defendants agreed to stop doing business with Medical Marijuana of the Rockies, until the mountain shop closed its doors and had to sell off its pot at fire-sale prices.
With another lawsuit pending in southern Colorado, the cases represent a new approach to fighting marijuana. If the federal government won’t stop its expansion, pot opponents say, federal racketeering lawsuits could. Marijuana may be legal under state law, but federal drug law still considers any marijuana business organized crime.
“It is still illegal to cultivate, sell or possess marijuana under federal law,” said Brian Barnes, lawyer for Safe Streets Alliance, a Washington-based anti-crime group that brought the lawsuits on behalf of neighbors of the two Colorado pot businesses.
Lawyers on both sides say the Colorado racketeering approach is novel.
“If our legal theory works, basically what it will mean is that folks who are participating in the marijuana industry in any capacity are exposing themselves to pretty significant liability,” Barnes said.
The 1970 Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act sets up federal criminal penalties for activity that benefits a criminal enterprise. The RICO Act also provides for civil lawsuits by people hurt by such racketeering — in this case, neighbors of the two businesses who claim the pot businesses could hurt their property values. If successful, civil lawsuits under the RICO Act trigger triple penalties.
Filed in February, the Colorado lawsuits have yet to go before a judge. But one has already had the intended effect.
In April, three months after the RICO lawsuit was filed, Medical Marijuana of the Rockies closed. Owner Jerry Olson liquidated his inventory by selling marijuana for $120 an ounce, far below average retail prices.
“I am being buried in legal procedure,” Olson wrote on a fundraising Web page he created to fight the lawsuit. The effort so far has brought in just $674.
The closure came after the pot shop’s bank, Bank of the West, closed the shop’s account and was dismissed as a plaintiff.
“Its policy is never to offer accounts to recreational marijuana businesses,” the court order said.
And just last week, a bonding company in Des Moines, Iowa, paid $50,000 to get out of the lawsuit.
“We are out of the business of bonding marijuana businesses in Colorado and elsewhere until this is settled politically,” said Therese Wielage, spokeswoman for Merchants Bonding Company Mutual.
The case of the mountain pot shop shows that racketeering lawsuits can affect the marijuana industry even if the lawsuits never make it to a hearing.
“This lawsuit is meant more to have a chilling effect on others than it is to benefit the plaintiffs,” said Adam Wolf, Olson’s lawyer.
In the other Colorado lawsuit, against a dispensary called Alternative Holistic Healing, the pot shop isn’t going down so easily.
The shop owners are building a 5,000-square-foot warehouse in southern Colorado for growing pot, despite being sued by neighboring property owners for affecting their mountain views. A construction company and insurance company working with Alternative Holistic Healing haven’t abandoned the job.
“It’s a frivolous lawsuit,” said the pot shop’s lawyer, Matthew Buck. “It has not affected (the pot shop owners) whatsoever.”
But the marijuana opponents funding the lawsuit say they’re ready to expand the test lawsuits to more marijuana businesses. The end goal, they say, is clear: to stop the whole pot industry in its tracks.
“We’re putting a bounty on the heads of anyone doing business with the marijuana industry,” Barnes said. “Just because you see what appears to be this unstoppable growth of marijuana, we disagree. We’re starting to change the economics of the marijuana industry.”