Scientists really don’t know why marijuana makes some people more productive

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Cannabis use is usually thought to impair our ability to pay attention or organize efficiently (and a lot of scientific research backs up that assumption to some extent). But there are also plenty of people who say smoking up helps them focus and get things done, writes Calvin Hughes.

Addiction psychiatrist Larissa Mooney says she hears this a lot.

"I've heard individuals report that they’ve followed through on tasks or got something accomplished," she told Mashable recently. There are also numerous cannabis companies that market strains and other products as productivity boosters, even though there is no research to back up those claims.

And scientists seem to agree that cannabis itself isn't likely to make you more productive.

"Actually, most of the research on cannabis and motivation shows no effect, or if anything, reduced motivation," said John Salamone, a psychopharmacologist at the University of Connecticut.

Mooney added that marijuana "can impair executive functions, which is to plan and organize." 

But it is possible that cannabis use has an indirect effect on productivity and focus. The plant's ability to induce euphoria, improve mood and other effects could benefit your ability to follow through with things.

"Someone's perception is someone's perception," said Mooney. "During intoxication somebody might have more energy or more euphoria. They may be actually feeling better, at least, temporarily."

This is all speculative though, and there are no solid reasons for why so many people find that marijuana makes them more productive. And we probably won't get to the bottom of that mystery so long as marijuana prohibition remains in effect. By lumping marijuana alongside heroin as a Schedule I drug in the Controlled Substances Act, the federal government has made studying marijuana extremely costly and difficult for researchers like Mooney and Salamone.

So at least one thing is perfectly clear: cannabis prohibition is very unproductive.

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