Why You Shouldn't Blame Gary Johnson's Memory on Pot

Another Gary Johnson gaffe, another round of stoner shaming.

This time, the Libertarian presidential candidate was asked to name any current world leader that he admires during MSNBC's "Hardball" town hall on Wednesday. For 30 painful seconds, Johnson struggled to recall the name of former Mexican president Vicente Fox. His running mate, William Weld, eventually tipped him off.

"I guess I'm having an Aleppo moment in the former president of Mexico," Johnson said, referencing his recent faux pas when asked about how he'd handle the refugee crisis in the Syrian city. "I'm having a brain freeze."

Inevitably, the memory lapse has been attributed to Johnson's use of marijuana.

While the candidate claims he is abstaining from cannabis on the campaign trail, his calls for legalization and open admission of past consumption have made him a target of stoner stereotypes. But here's the issue, while there is evidence that THC, the active psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, affects short-term memory, there's no conclusive evidence that it diminishes long-term memory.

Had Matthews prompted Johnson to rip a bong before his appearance on national television, the pot jokes would've stuck, because marijuana can make it more difficult to form new memories or recall things you learned while high.


But the effects of long-term marijuana use on memory also appear to be reversible, as ATTN: previously reported. A 2001 study published in journal Archives of General Psychiatry determined that the cognitive impairments associated with heavy marijuana use — attention, verbal fluency, and memory — cease about seven days after use. These impairments "appear reversible and related to recent cannabis exposure rather than irreversible and related to cumulative lifetime use," the study authors wrote.

In any case, Johnson's close ties to the marijuana legalization movement has increasingly proven to be more of a liability than an asset to reform advocates.

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