Unique Zoom study links high-potency cannabis with some memory issues

A new study on cannabis, which used the popular video-conferencing app Zoom to get around restrictive drug laws, has linked high-potency cannabis use with certain types of memory impairment. Though this isn't the first study to evaluate marijuana and its potential impact on memory, it is one of the first to focus specifically on the type of cannabis products consumers are actually likely to use.

Though many states in the US have legalized cannabis for medicinal and/or recreational use, the plant remains a scheduled substance at the federal level. This continued presence as a Schedule 1 substance interferes with scientists' ability to adequately investigate the compounds and their health implications.

To get around this issue, researchers with Washington State University developed a unique study protocol: Zoom meetings. The participants were tasked with purchasing their own cannabis products from Washington dispensaries, taking tests from their own homes, and participating in Zoom calls to be remotely observed by the researchers.

While scientists are limited to studying the whole cannabis plant with a THC level under 10-percent, consumers in legal states can purchase marijuana products that have up to 90-percent THC — a considerably high potency that hasn't been adequately studied. Many flowers purchased at dispensaries have above 20-percent THC, while many vapes can have over 60-percent.

Using their unique protocol, the researchers linked high-potency cannabis use with certain types of memory impairment, including increased susceptibility to false memory, trouble recalling words, and issues with remembering how a piece of information was learned. However, little differences between users and control subjects were found involving things like prospective memory and temporal order memory.