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ANOTHER PROBLEM COMES TO LIGHT AS GOVERNMENTS LOOK TO LEGALISE CANNABIS

July 2016

If you can remember the 60s…you weren’t there! That and other popular jokey sayings give a good idea of the fun of the Sergeant Pepper era when the mantra was life was for living and drugs were cheap and available.

While cannabis wasn’t new in the UK, it became very much the "in" drug of the late 1960s onwards, and generations in the decades after have turned to the drug for relaxation, fun and sometimes for medicinal purposes.

The debate on its dangers and side effects continue, but new research has come out that has indicated cannabis could damage a person’s DNA, causing mutations which not only can expose the user to various illnesses, but also mutations will then be passed down to future generations.

This of course was picked up by media in quite a frightening way, linking the mutations to vulnerability of next generations to various types of cancer, birth defects and other problems.

It is already known that cannabis contains certain carcinogens (cancer causing chemicals) and has been linked to lung cancer, psychosis and schizophrenia. However, the idea that damage from cannabis can be passed onto future generations is new.

The research for this was undertaken by two scientists at the University of Western Australia and published in the Mutation Research: Fundamental and Molecular Mechanisms of Mutagenesis.
In their research, the scientists looked at mainly at the effect of one of the active ingredients in cannabis – tetrahydrocannabinol and the role it has in triggering various illnesses. One result they found was chromothripsis…in a literal Greek translation this means chromosomes shattering into pieces which gives a good idea of what is going on.

Generally the medical opinion on the research is that it was useful, but lightweight and needs further long term study to check if cannabis really can have an intergenerational effect. The review authors admit this and know the research has only just scratched the surface; but they say it is an exciting time for continuing research in this area.

It is also important because more and more countries are looking at legalizing the use of cannabis. Here in the UK, this spring the Liberal Democrats became the first mainstream political party to call for the legalisation of cannabis, allowing shops to sell cannabis in plain packaging with health warnings and also allowing householders to legally cultivate marijuana for personal consumption.

Cannabis use is already allowed in a growing number of countries such as Canada, Austria, Spain and Holland.

So it is becoming more vital than ever that full research is undertaken so the public have a good idea of the benefits and the dangers.

 

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