The Impact of Marijuana on Cognition, Brain Structure, Brain Function and Related Public Policy Implications Critique

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This journal critique serves to analyse Stacy A. Gruber and Kelly A. Sagar’s article. The title of the article reads, “Marijuana on the Mind? The Impact of Marijuana on Cognition, Brain Structure, Brain Function, and Related Public Policy Implications”. The article is found in the journal; Chemical Influences on Brain Health, volume 4, issued in 2017 on pages 104-111. The authors discusses the effects recreational marijuana has on cognition, brain function, brain structure and discourse future directions for marijuana use as it relates to public policy and medical marijuana programs. In an analytical manner, this article was well done. The authors were able to achieve the purpose of the article, there is an argument and they brought new ideas to the table.

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Summary of the article

The article’s key points was to relate marijuana (MJ) use and poorer cognition, to discuss the impact of early MJ use and magnitude of use. It also discusses the impact of medical marijuana (MMJ) on users and suggest considerations to policy makers. The authors identified the effects of MJ on cognition as a damaged executive function which includes processes such as planning, reasoning and problem solving. They further stated that there is an impaired memory, slowed processing speed and decline in IQ. The impact on brain structure was given as a decreased gray matter volume in the medial temporal lobe, including the hippocampus. There is also a reduced white matter integrity on several areas of the brain. Stacy and Kelly mentioned that MJ affected the brain function by inhibiting its processes. They indicated that early onset users were more affected than late users. The effects of MMJ use were alluded to be treating intractractable pediatric epilepsy, pain and multiple sclerosis. It is suggested that the policy makers should consider age restrictions and not to allow MJ products to target youth in advertisements. In addition policy makers should consider the safety of method of administration and to take into account the effects of specific constituents of the plant instead of treating it as all the same.


The weakness of the article is that the authors, Stacy A. Gruber and Kelly A. Sagar did not clearly state the description of their methodology. This leaves the reader to assume that the information was obtained by consulting different sources as citations and references are noted.

The other failing point for this article is that since it is summarized, a lot of vital information is omitted. Major points are not given enough justice in explanation. In contrast with Francesca M. Filbey, Sina Aslan, (2014, p. 16916)’s article on long term effects of MJ on the brain, they have given enough detail on the effects they outlined. For example, they elucidated the impact of MJ on orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) that there is a lower OFC gray matter volumes and further stated the reason behind the lowered OFC which was because of numerous CB1 receptors on the region. As for Stacy and Kelly they just mentioned that MJ alters activation in OFC and did not include any material for elaboration.

Regardless of the errors, this article was well done. Firstly the purpose of the article was achieved. The authors were able to answer the key points. Facts on the impact of MJ on cognition, brain structure and brain function were stated. Other authors who wrote similar articles provided the same effects on MJ impact on the brain. Krista M. Lisdahl, Natasha E. Wright provided similar facts as Stacy and Kelly that adolescence is a stage where neurodevelopment is ongoing and MJ has a great impact on teenagers. They both agree that MJ causes cognitive deficits such as lowered IQ and a reduced gray matter volume in brain structure.

Secondly, there are articles released before Stacy and Kelly’s article on the same matter. Moreover, these articles present the same material for the issue. Impressively, the authors of the article at hand went a step further and made suggestions for policy makers based on their findings. It is novel as it is not cited, which shows that they did not obtain the information from other sources and it will help in decision making.

Also this article is done well as there is an argument. The argument is that MJ is harmful to the brain but it is also beneficial and cannot be discarded as just dangerous and further researches not done. The authors supported that MJ is harmful to the brain by giving facts on its impact. They brought evidence using other sources. On the other hand, they cited sources which showed the benefits of MJ. They concluded that policy makers should not treat MJ as the same as some MJ constituents like cannabidiol are unharmful. They further mentioned that more clinical researches can be done.

With the help of articles like this we see countries changing policies with regard to marijuana. Recently a bill to legalise marijuana in New Hampshire was approved on the 21st of February, (marijuana policy project, 2019). Marijuana policy project quoted Matt Simon,“We applaud the committee for recognizing that marijuana prohibition is an outdate and increasingly unpopular policy that has failed to accomplish its public health and safety objectives. It is time for New Hampshire to adopt a more sensible system in which cannabis is legal for 21 and older and regulated in order to protect consumers and the public.”


The article was well written. It presented facts, its purpose was met and a different idea was brought in for the policy makers. We see countries like New Hampshire legalising cannabis with reseasons same as the article’s suggestion. Also there was an argument with which a conclusion was made that MJ should not be treated as all the same.

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