CU Boulder Cannabis Symposium health panel discusses effects of marijuana on intelligence, driving

Michael Elliot, executive director of the Medical Marijuana Industry Group, discusses the many issues with the new cannabis industry during the CU-Boulder Cannabis Symposium Wednesday April 2, 2014, at the University Memorial Center. (Elizabeth Rodriguez/CU Independent)
Michael Elliot, executive director of the Medical Marijuana Industry Group, spoke about issues with the new legal marijuana industry during the Cannabis Symposium on Wednesday April 2, 2014 at the University Memorial Center. (Elizabeth Rodriguez/CU Independent)

A panel of marijuana industry insiders on Wednesday discussed the effects of marijuana on intelligence and driving as part of the first annual CU Cannabis Symposium.

“I think it’s just like any other substance,” said panelist Luke Ramirez, co-owner of the Walking Raven Medical Marijuana Center. “You have to use caution. If you have a big test in the morning, I’m not gonna drink a lot of whiskey the night before. I’m also not gonna take 12 bong hits.”

Dr. Donald Misch, CU’s associate vice chancellor for health and wellness and the director of Wardenburg Health Center, put it a little more bluntly.

“If you go to class high, you’re just not getting your money’s worth,” he said.

At issue during the panel were studies revealing marijuana consumption at an early age can lead to a significant drop in IQ, and other findings rejecting that theory. While Ramirez called both “highly debatable,” Misch said the drop in IQ caused by marijuana use at an early age is greater than that caused by lead poisoning, and the study at issue was one of the most well-done of its type up to this point, albeit not perfect.

“The earlier you use and the more you use, the greater the risk,” Misch said.

In addition to the long-term effects of marijuana use, the panel also discussed the problems with driving under the influence of marijuana.

Panelist Jason Lauve, a hemp specialist and medical marijuana patient, was not concerned. “We’re not impaired to the point where I can’t make a decision,” he said.

Lauve said marijuana affects people differently depending on how often they use the drug, which would make it difficult to tell whether people were actually driving under the influence of marijuana based on conventional methods like blood tests.

Misch, meanwhile, disagreed. He referenced a 1985 study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry in which airplane pilots performed maneuvers in a flight simulator before smoking marijuana, followed by similar tests one, four and 24 hours after.

The study found that even 24 hours after smoking, the pilots still had difficulty performing the simulated maneuvers. In addition, the pilots reported feeling no effects of marijuana during the 24-hour trial.

“What I found interesting was not that they were impaired but that they thought they were unimpaired,” Misch said.

Ramirez agreed: “It’s not safe to be impaired and drive no matter what the drug is.”

The CUSG 4/20 task force conceived the symposium as a way to help reform 4/20.

Senior ethnic studies major Neelah Ali, the leader of the 4/20 task force, said his team wanted to “create something we could be proud of.”

The symposium, conceived by the CU student government’s 4/20 task force, is part of a larger effort to understand the effects of the legalization of marijuana in Colorado and where the new industry is headed. Panelist Michael Elliot defined the need for these discussions in simple terms.

“You’re living in the best place in the world for marijuana.”

Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Sam Klomhaus at

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