• 29 APR 19
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    Week 3 Assignment

    Running head: IS MARIJUANA USE SAFE? 1


    Is Marijuana Use Safe? Comment by Foster, Christopher: Begin with a title page, formatted according to APA standards

    Dr. Christopher Foster

    PHI103 Informal Logic

    Ashford University

    Modeled example for week 3 assignment

    With many states legalizing both medical and recreational marijuana, an important question for voters, legislators, and potential users is whether marijuana is safe. There have been many studies done on the topic, with findings on both sides. The focus of this paper will be to present scholarly research on both sides of the question and to evaluate the quality of each. To provide the most reliable information possible, I have chosen to present the findings of meta-studies on each side of the question of the safety of marijuana use. I will present and evaluate the reasoning used by each and conclude with a discussion of the value of different types of sources in terms of the degree of support that they provide for their conclusions. Comment by Foster, Christopher: The paper begins with an introductory paragraph, allowing readers to learn and see the importance of the research topic. Comment by Foster, Christopher: Introductory paragraphs should contain a preview of what will be covered in the rest of the paper.

    Presentation of an Argument that Marijuana Use is Safe Comment by Foster, Christopher: Clear section headings make certain that the paper is organized and make it easy for instructors to know that all required elements of the assignment have been covered.

    A large meta-study was performed by a group of researchers at UC San Diego focusing on the long-term neurocognitive effects of cannabis use (Grant, Gonzales, Carey, Natarajan, & Wolfson, 2003). The study analyzed other studies that had been done, comparing data for 623 cannabis users against 409 non- or minimal users. The researchers found that chronic users of marijuana showed minor decreases in performance in the categories of learning and remembering, but no other significant effects. The study concludes that cannabis is probably safe for use for medical purposes (Grant et al., 2003). Comment by Foster, Christopher: This paragraph introduces the reader to the source and overviews its findings.

    The primary argument given may be represented in standard form as follows:

    Premise 1: Combining data from studies that have been done on the effects of marijuana use on cognitive function allows for a large data pool from which to draw strong conclusions. Comment by Foster, Christopher: The clearest way to express an argument is in standard form, with the premises labeled and listed above the conclusion.

    Premise 2: In six out of the eight cognitive areas studied, namely: reaction time, attention, language, abstraction/executive, perceptual, and motor skills, no significant cognitive impairment was found among marijuana users. Comment by Foster, Christopher: The premises of the argument are not usually listed clearly within articles (scholarly or otherwise). It is necessary for you to formulate what you feel is the main argument given in the paper.

    Premise 3: In the two areas in which cognitive impairment was found, learning and memory, the effect was small and could have been affected by sample bias.

    Premise 4: Medical use of marijuana tends not to involve long term use, resulting in even more minor if any, ill effects.

    Premise 5: Medical use of marijuana is likely to have benefits that outweigh minor amounts of harm.

    Conclusion: Medical use of marijuana has “an acceptable margin of safety under the more limited conditions of exposure that would likely obtain in a medical setting” (Grant et al., 2003). Comment by Foster, Christopher: The premises and conclusion of your argument should be put in your own words. If some passages are directly from the source, then they should occur within quotation marks, with the source cited.

    The reasoning presented appears to be strong since the premises appear adequately to support the idea that the potential harms are minor and either don’t apply to medical use or are outweighed by the benefits to be gained therefrom. The article also attempts to explain away the negative effects in learning and memory, suggesting that they could be due to selection bias in the articles reviewed or due to an insufficient time of non-use of the drug prior to the study (Grant et al., 2003). If the article is right about that, then perhaps there is no significant neurological harm even in those two areas. The article supplies substantial support for its premises, since there is a large data pool, all of it gathered from scientific studies. Comment by Foster, Christopher: After the argument is given, there is a paragraph detailing the strength of the reasoning (how certain the premises make the conclusion, assuming that they are true). Comment by Foster, Christopher: This is a comment on the amount of support for the premises.

    However, the article points out that there are limitations of the research, such as different lengths of time within the studies since the last use of the drug and the question of whether long term marijuana users may not have the same initial cognitive abilities as those that do not, making causal inferences more difficult (Grant et al., 2003). Comment by Foster, Christopher: It is important to point out any weakness in the reasoning as well. Sometimes these weaknesses are pointed out in the article and not necessarily fallacious. Other times, you may notice weaknesses in the reasoning that are not acknowledged within the article itself. Either way, it is important to comment on any such factors affecting the strength of the reasoning.

    Presentation of an Argument that Marijuana Use is Unsafe Comment by Foster, Christopher: It is good to supply section headings that are as clear as possible about what the section covers.

    On the other side of the issue, a study from 2016 seems to demonstrate the exact opposite conclusion. The authors show that use of marijuana, especially by teens, has many long term negative effects and is associated with a multitude of including physical, psychiatric, neurological, and social impairments (Feeney & Kampman, 2016). The argument presented can be summarized as follows:

    Premise 1: Marijuana is addictive (Volkow, Baler, Compton, & Weiss, 2014).

    Premise 2: Marijuana causes breathing problems (Tashkin, Baldwin, Sarafian, Dubinett, & Roth, 2002).

    Premise 3: Marijuana may increase the likelihood of developing schizophrenia and other psychiatric symptoms (Arseneault, Cannon, Witton, & Murray, 2004).

    Premise 4: Marijuana causes long terms harms cognitive abilities, including attention, memory, processing speed, and executive functioning (Thames, Arbid, & Sayegh, 2014).

    Premise 5: Marijuana use by teens is correlated with lower academic achievement, job performance, and social functioning in relationships (Palamar et al., 2014).

    Premise 6: Marijuana use results in decreased psychomotor function, and reaction time, causing driving risks (Neavyn, Blohm, Babu, & Bird, 2014).

    Conclusion: Marijuana use can cause physical, psychological, neurological, and social harm, especially when used by adolescents. Comment by Foster, Christopher: It is important to present both arguments as strongly as possible. One of the points of this assignment is to be able to understand and appreciate the strongest arguments on each side of issues (rather than to take sides).

    The reasoning in the article seems quite strong. The conclusion seems to follow from the premises since it mostly summarizes the research findings. Furthermore, the premises are well supported since they are all based in scientific research studies. Comment by Foster, Christopher: These sentences evaluates the strength of the reasoning itself. Comment by Foster, Christopher: This sentence comments on the support for the premises (which is a separate question from the strength of the reasoning).

    However, there are some limitations in the strength of the reasoning (as noted within the study). One of those limitations is that we are not sure in all cases if marijuana use is the cause of the impairment observed. For example, the article notes that the correlation with schizophrenia may or may not be causal (Feeney & Kampman, 2016). Furthermore, most of the studies focus on the use of marijuana by teens; therefore, these results may have limited application to discussions of marijuana use among adults, especially those using it for medical purposes. Comment by Foster, Christopher: In addition to summarizing the strength of the reasoning and support for the premises, it is important to note any sources of weakness within the argument.

    Evaluation of Arguments:

    Both of these scholarly sources supply quite a bit of evidence for their conclusions by analyzing the data from multiple scientific studies. Non-scholarly sources, by contrast, frequently make claims that are not supported at all, or are only supported by other partisan sources. One of my non-scholarly sources does not explicitly cite any research at all, but only implies that it exists (Foundation, n.d.). This allows non-scholarly sources, such as advocative web pages, to make it sound as though the case for their position is much stronger than it actually is. Comment by Foster, Christopher: This section contrasts the evidence given by scholarly sources (week 3) with the amount of evidence given by non-scholarly sources (from week 1). Comment by Foster, Christopher: Part of the point of the week 1 and week 3 assignments is to contrast the type of support that one can find in scholarly versus non-scholarly sources.

    However, as we have seen, even scholarly sources are capable of contradicting each other. This would not be surprising in non-scholarly sources, especially between sources with advocative intent. It is more surprising to find contradictory results within scholarly sources. Comment by Foster, Christopher: Some of the questions in the prompt for this section are intended to be somewhat open-ended … the purpose is to critically discuss the sources of evidence, including the relative strengths and weaknesses of each. This analysis goes beyond just answering those questions and focuses on an interesting related issue about apparent contradictions one can find even in scholarly research.

    However, there are possible ways to resolve these contradictions. One possibility comes from noting that the first meta-study combined the data from its studies. Some of these specific studies showed greater and lesser scores for various neurocognitive skills among marijuana users, and the meta-study’s methodology allowed them to cancel each other out. The study on the contrary side, on the other hand, simply cited one source each for the various harms, which may have enabled the authors to select studies to cite that showed results more favorable to their preferred conclusion.

    Thus, while non-scholarly sources can be clearly partisan and non-objective, pulling from whichever sources, reliable or not, that support their point of view, even scholarly sources are able to analyze data in ways that are far from neutral.


    Studying the reasoning on each side of the issue has been enlightening. Though there is still debate, even among scholars, about the safety of marijuana use, studying the reasoning from high quality sources gives perspective about the type of evidence that is being used on each side, allowing one to assess which evidence is more reliable and provides more support for its conclusion. In the future, I am more likely to go to scholarly sources over popular ones and to analyze a multitude of scholarly results to understand the issue from a more well informed point of view. Comment by Foster, Christopher: A simple concluding paragraph can contain things such as thoughts on what one has learned about the value of searching out different types of sources.

    References Comment by Foster, Christopher: Always have a reference section that contains citations for all of the sources that you use within the article.

    Arseneault, L., Cannon, M., Witton, J., & Murray, R. M. (2004). Causal association between cannabis and psychosis: Examination of the evidence. British Journal of Psychiatry, 184(2), 110-117. https://doi.org/10.1192/bjp.184.2.110

    Feeney, K. E., & Kampman, K. M. (2016). Adverse effects of marijuana use. The Linacre Quarterly, 83(2), 174-178. https://doi.org/10.1080/00243639.2016.1175707

    Foundation for a Drug Free World. (n.d.). The truth about marijuana: Behind the smoke screen. Retrieved from http://www.drugfreeworld.org/drugfacts/marijuana/behind-the-smoke-screen.html

    Grant, I., Gonzales, R., Carey, C., Natarajan, L., & Wolfson, T. (2003). Non-acute (residual) neurocognitive effects of cannabis use: A meta-analytic study. Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society, 9(5), 679-689. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1355617703950016

    Neavyn, M. J., Blohm, E., Babu, K. M., & Bird, S. B. (2014). Medical marijuana and driving: A review. Journal of Medical Toxicology, 10(3), 269-279. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13181-014-0393-4

    Palamar, J. J., Fenstermaker, M., Kamboukos, D., Ompad, D. C., Cleland, C. M., & Weitzman, M. (2014). Adverse psychosocial outcomes associated with drug use among US high school seniors: A comparison of alcohol and marijuana. American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, 40(6), 438-446. https://doi.org/10.3109/00952990.2014.943371

    Tashkin, D. P., Baldwin, G. C., Sarafian, T., Dubinett, S., & Roth, M. D. (2002). Respiratory and immunologic consequences of marijuana smoking. Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, 42(S1), 71S-81S. https://doi.org/10.1002/j.1552-4604.2002.tb06006.x

    Thames, A. D., Arbid, N., & Sayegh, P. (2014). Cannabis use and neurocognitive functioning in a non-clinical sample of users. Addictive Behaviors, 39(5), 994-999. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.addbeh.2014.01.019

    Volkow, N. D., Baler, R. D., Compton, W. M., & Weiss, S. R. B. (2014). Adverse health effects of marijuana use. New England Journal of Medicine, 370, 2219-2227. https://doi.org/10.1056/NEJMra1402309



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