Amanda Scopelliti ’20
On Tuesday, April 9, 2019, Godfrey Pearlson, PhD, MD from the Olin Neuropsychiatric Research Center, part of Hartford’s Institute of Living, came to Trinity’s campus to talk about his research on medical and recreational marijuana. This is somewhat of a hot topic in Connecticut since on Mar. 25, the General Law Committee voted to pass a bill that will regulate the production and sale of cannabis for recreational consumption in Connecticut among adults 21 and older. Marijuana has already been decriminalized by the state, and it’s legal for medical use among patients with a valid Medical Marijuana Card. One huge benefit of marijuana legalization in CT is that it’s a multi-billion dollar, heavily-taxed industry that will undoubtedly bring in a large amount of revenue. This is important since according to the Office of Fiscal Analysis, debt service costs now account for 13% of Connecticut’s annual budget, which equates to $2.9 billion in 2019.
Dr. Pearlson supports the legalization of both medical and recreational marijuana but believes in the importance of rules and regulations so that it isn’t marketed and sold to individuals under the age of 21. Dr. Pearlson’s research reveals that consuming marijuana before the age of 21 can have a negative impact on the vulnerable adolescent brain and increase the risk of psychosis in individuals who have a genetic predisposition. He is concerned that just like tobacco and vape companies, marijuana will be marketed to young people that could experience adverse effects as a result of taking the drug. However, Dr. Pearlson was happy to report that research shows that marijuana use among high school students has remained steady, despite several states legalizing marijuana for adult recreational use.
An additional concern of Dr. Pearlson’s is the dangers of driving while under the influence of cannabis. Just like alcohol, marijuana alters a person’s consciousness, and individuals are more likely to get into an accident if they’re driving while high. Fortunately, a company recently developed a breathalyzer that tests for cannabis compounds and has the ability to determine if someone has recently ingested marijuana. This new breathalyzer will likely be implemented by police officers in the near future.
During the talk, Dr. Pearlson presented compelling research that’s contradictory to the stereotype that “stoners” don’t do well in school. In a study he conducted involving students from Trinity in addition to other universities, he found that cannabis does not have an effect on college grades and does not have an effect on brain regions. Alcohol consumption, on the other hand, was positively correlated with a decrease in college grades.
An additional myth that Dr. Pearlson busted during his presentation was the difference between Indica and Sativa strains of cannabis. It is widely believed that Indica strains produce relaxing effects while Savita’s make users feel alert and energized. However, the research shows that the different “strains” are just labels at this point since so many hybrids have been produced. Even though “Indica” and “Sativa” don’t mean much in this day and age, Dr. Pearlson says good dispensaries should be able to tell customers about the effects that different products produce. Some are indeed relaxing, while others make users feel energetic and social.
Dr. Pearlson concluded his presentation on marijuana by talking about how more research needs to be done on the plant, especially in relation to treating psychological disorders such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Unfortunately, this is extremely difficult because marijuana is still classified as a Schedule I drug by the U.S. government, meaning that they have determined cannabis to be a drug that has no medical use and a high potential for abuse. This makes it extremely difficult for researchers to study cannabis, despite the fact that its medical benefits are well-documented.