The Science and Policy of Marijuana

Science and policy are often in tension with one another, but in the case of cannabis, as medicinal or recreational marijuana, science seems to be playing catch-up.

“Cannabis was scheduled [made illegal] in the absence of science,” and now is being legalized in some areas, still in the near-absence of science, said J. Michael Bostwick, a practicing psychiatrist and a senior associate dean at Mayo Medical School. In 1970, when Congress classified cannabis as Schedule 1 (“drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse”), scientists did not know which neuronal receptors it activated or what exactly in the substance was causing which effects.

aaas nida

NIDA’s Nora Volkow and DC council member David Grosso listen to psychiatrist J. Michael Bostwick answer a question from the audience at AAAS.

More than four decades later (and 5,000 years since people first started using it as pain reliever), we still don’t know much more of the botanical substance’s potential as a medicine, because its Schedule 1 status means US researchers have to jump through hoops at several different agencies to get access to the legal federal supply. That’s just the start, science-wise: As with any plant, cannabis varies widely in quality, strength, and in what other compounds are bound within the plant, so research—and comparing previous studies in the US and elsewhere—can be tricky.

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March 30: The Science and Policy of Marijuana

AAAS logoThe American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Dana Foundation are pleased to invite you to the first event of the 2016 series on Neuroscience & Society:

The Science and Policy of Marijuana

5:30 p.m.
March 30, 2016
Reception to Follow

AAAS Headquarters
1200 New York Ave NW
Washington, DC
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Neuroscience and Society: Creativity, Genius and the Brain

Photo: spiral galaxy (08/14/13). Credit: NASA/ESO/VLT

Photo: spiral galaxy (08/14/13). Credit: NASA/ESO/VLT

From William Morgan’s sudden insight while staring at the stars that our galaxy must have a spiral shape to Leonardo da Vinci’s deep reimagining of the subject of “The Last Supper,”  stories describing “Aha!” moments and acts of genius can awe and inspire. What do scientists know about the minds of geniuses? Can they tell us anything about creativity, perhaps offer some sort of practice to help the rest of us extend our own creative wings?

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Mental Illness Across the Ages

Despite some recent improvements, the chance that children or adults in America will get care for their mental illnesses is still critically low.

nelsonfreimer

Nelson Freimer

While around 42 million adults in the US have a mental illness each year, “less than 40 percent of all adults who have mental illness got any treatment at all last year,” said psychiatrist Nelson Freimer during a panel discussion on mental illness across the lifespan at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Washington, DC, on Wednesday. Freimer, director of the UCLA Center for Neurobehavioral Genetics, also warns of “an epidemic of depression” among people just entering adulthood now, more than in previous generations.

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From Birth to Two: the Neuroscience of Infant Development

Photo courtesy of AAAS

Photo courtesy of AAAS

“There are many misconceptions about child development,” said Pat Levitt, Provost Professor at the Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California at the latest Neuroscience and Society lecture convened by the Dana Foundation and American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Some of the most prevalent myths include that humans are born with a blank slate; children are sponges; 80% of development takes place by 3 years old; and that a child’s outcome is predominantly self-determined. Moreover, many consider the mixture of fate, free will, parenting, genes, and environment a mysterious “black box” that ultimately decides a child’s success.

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