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Scientists claim regular cannabis users are still stoned weeks after giving up smoking dope.

Researchers found that those who have a joint three or more times a week store up the drug in their fat cells.

The constant use does not give the body time to get rid of the last dope session before users put more of it into their system.

The result is that, when they do stop, the body slowly releases the cannabis back into the system.

They then suffer classic symptoms like memory loss, confusion, slow-wittedness, easy distraction and a lack of focus - even though they have not had a smoke for weeks.

The researchers in Australia, where marijuana can easily be grown in the back yard and abuse is rife, have warned that this is a possible consequence if the drug is ever legalised.

But the research author, New South Wales University psychologist Nadia Solowij, still backs decriminalising cannabis.

Her research tested 300 regular users over 10 years in a series of studies to log their mental abilities.

It ruled out cannabis causing brain damage but said it could cause a temporary senile-like condition.

Solowij warned: "This may affect learning in the classroom or performance in jobs that require a high level of mental proficiency."

Eventually these symptoms do disappear, however, after the body has cleansed itself of the last of the drug residue.

Solowij told Melbourne's ScienceNow! Conference: "The drug affects a person's retention of memory and the way the brain processes and organises information.

"If people keep topping up with the drug, they don't give the body a chance to get rid of it."

But she insisted it was still wrong for cannabis to be illegal.

She said: "Even though I have identified some harms associated with cannabis use, they are subtle.

"I think the greater harm is the fact that it's illegal and exposes people to criminal activity and harder drugs."

Her colleague, Professor David Penington, of the Victorian Premier's Advisory Council on Illicit Drugs, backed her call to decriminalise the drug.

He added: "The argument for decriminalisation is not that there aren't dangers but they need to be objectively and openly discussed and understood.

"Marijuana use should not be a criminal offence when alcohol is responsible for far more deaths and ill-health."
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Copyright 1998 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Frew, Callum
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:May 13, 1998
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