No matter how much marijuana you did in your rebellious youth – or how little because you were a good lad – it will not come back to haunt you as an adult much at all.
That is the surprise finding of US researchers in one of the only studies to have tracked teen users of marijuana over two decades.
First surveyed at 14 years old, the 408 young men were followed until their 36th birthdays by the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, a leading American healthcare provider, and Rutgers University in the US.
Even though 22% of the participants were chronic users of marijuana – smoking the drug regularly every week – they were no more likely than their old schoolmates to experience depression, anxiety, psychosis or asthma by their mid-30s, said the report.
Where cannabis is and isn't legal
Where cannabis is and isn't legal
Having been reclassified in 2009 from a Class C to a Class B drug, cannabis is now the most used illegal drug within the United Kingdom. The UK is also, however, the only country where Sativex – a prescribed drug that helps to combat muscle spasms in multiple sclerosis and contains some ingredients that are also found in cannabis - is licensed as a treatment
2/12 North Korea
Although many people believe the consumption of cannabis in North Korea to be legal, the official law regarding the drug has never been made entirely clear whilst under Kim Jong Un’s regime. However, it is said that the North Korean leader himself has openly said that he does not consider cannabis to be a drug and his regime doesn’t take any issue with the consumption or sale of the drug
MARCEL VAN HOORN/AFP/Getty Images
In the Netherlands smoking cannabis is legal, given that it is smoked within the designated ‘smoking areas’ and you don’t possess more than 5 grams for personal use. It is also legal to sell the substance, but only in specified coffee shops
Although in some states of America cannabis has now been legalised, prior to the legalisation, police in the U.S. could make a marijuana-related arrest every 42 seconds, according to US News and World Report. The country also used to spend around $3.6 billion a year enforcing marijuana law, the American Civil Liberties Union notes
AP Photo/Ted S. Warren
Despite cannabis being officially illegal in Spain, the European hotspot has recently started to be branded, ‘the new Amsterdam’. This is because across Spain there are over 700 ‘Cannabis Clubs’ – these are considered legal venues to consume cannabis in because the consumption of the drug is in private, and not in public. These figures have risen dramatically in the last three years – in 2010 there were just 40 Cannabis Clubs in the whole of Spain. Recent figures also show that in Catalonia alone there are 165,000 registered members of cannabis clubs – this amounts to over 5 million euros (£4 million) in revenue each month
In December 2013, the House of Representatives and Senate passed a bill legalizing and regulating the production and sale of the drug. But the president has since postponed the legalization of cannabis until to 2015 and when it is made legal, it will be the authorities who will grow the cannabis that can be sold legally. Buyers must be 18 or older, residents of Uruguay, and must register with the authorities
Despite the fact that laws prohibiting the sale and misuse of cannabis exist and is considered a habit only entertained by lower-income groups, it is very rarely enforced. The occasional use of cannabis in community gatherings is broadly tolerated as a centuries old custom. The open use of cannabis by Sufis and Hindus as a means to induce euphoria has never been challenged by the state. Further, large tracts of cannabis grow unchecked in the wild
In 2001, Portugal became the first country in the world to decriminalize the use of all drugs, and started treating drug users as sick people, instead of criminals. However, you can still be arrested or assigned mandatory rehab if you are caught several times in possession of drugs
9/12 Puerto Rico
Although the use of cannabis is currently illegal, it is said that Puerto Rico are in the process of decriminalising it
RAUL ARBOLEDA/AFP/Getty Images
The US state became the first in the country to legalise marijuana in January 2014. In February 2015, President Obama recently said he expects to see more states "looking into" legalisation. However, it is illegally to grow more than six cannabis plants and to possess more than 28 grams of the drug
Oaksterdam in Oakland, California, is the world's only university dedicated to the study and cultivation of cannabis. If you are court in California with anything up to an ounce of cannabis, you will be fine $100, but you will not get a criminal record, nor will you have to appear in court
Cannabis is grown in the wild and has been used to treat conditions such as gout and malaria. But, officially the substance is illegal to consume, possess and sell
The drug is already legal in four US states, with Oregon following Alaska, Colorado, Washington and the District of Columbia this month in making it no longer criminal to buy or sell the recreational plant.
"What we found was a little surprising," Jordan Bechtold, the lead researcher of the study, said. "There were no differences in any of the mental or physical health outcomes that we measured, regardless of the amount or frequency of marijuana used during adolescence."
But the researchers stressed that the research should not be taken as gospel truth, and warned the study only went up to the mid-30s age range and did not include women.
"We wanted to help inform the debate about legalisation of marijuana, but it's a very complicated issue and one study should not be taken in isolation," said Dr Bechtold.
The UK petition for legalisation, which was posted on the government's e-petition site on Tuesday 21 July, called for parliament to “make the production, sale and use of cannabis legal” and has well over the 100,000 signatures needed to make it to the Commons.
Begun by James Richard Owen, an economics student at Aberystwyth University, it also has the backing of campaigners such as CLEAR Cannabis Law Reform, one of the largest pressure groups in the UK.
Peter Reynolds, president of CLEAR, said government and the media repeatedly ignored evidence showing cannabis was not nearly as harmful to health as alcohol.
“This is a remarkable study. It has followed real people in real time,” he said. “But there’s this dreadful stigma surrounding anything to do with cannabis. It’s also about vested interests – the alcohol industry are terrified of a safer alternative to alcohol coming out.”
Campaigners have long pointed out that legalisation of the drug would bring it off the black market and make it safer, increase tax revenue through sales and stop small-time pot smokers filling up the country's courts.
But health advice on the NHS help page continued to warn: “Your risk of developing a psychotic illness is higher if you start using cannabis in your teens.”