Marijuana remains hugely popular and many consider it a “safe” drug.  

Even so, the image of a “pothead” suggests that marijuana is not so safe. So, what are the health risks and benefits of weed?

Plenty of studies show marijuana can impact cognitive function. Baylor College of Medicine Dr. Everton Edmonson is a neurologist. He explains developing adolescent brains are vulnerable, especially with heavy use.

“There is some atrophy is some regions with memory impairment, lower test scores on examinations in folks who are using say two marijuana joints a day,” Edmonson said.

High daily use can also cause mental disorders from schizophrenia to psychosis.  Also, since most pot is smoked, there are other health complications.

“Some folks do develop chronic bronchitis and other respiratory issues,” Edmonson noted.

Those are some of the risks. What about the benefits?  Dr. Edmonson's other specialty is pain management. 

“I'm seeing these patients on a daily basis and get inquiries at least half a dozen times a week about cannabis.”  Edmonson said. 

In Texas, medical marijuana is only legal for certain intractable epilepsy patients. So, doctors simply answer patient questions.  How and if patients acquire marijuana, is up to them.  

Studies clearly show cannabis helps Multiple Sclerosis spasms and damaged nerves, but the jury is still on how it handles most types of chronic pain.

Weed can help cancer patients to ease chemo related nausea and does promote weight gain. That’s useful for patients with anorexia and H.I.V.

A big question? Is it addictive? The answer is: “Yes, but.”  

Dr. Edmonson said pot is no more addictive than legal alcohol.

In fact, he said marijuana can help patients avoid more dangerous addictions. The pain management clinician say patients may, “be frankly at a lower risk (for addiction with marijuana) than my writing them a prescription for Tylenol with codeine or some other opioid.”  

While many compare a blunt to a cocktail, Dr. Edmonson reminds parents, “You wouldn't let your middle schooler have a martini with you.”

You can visit the CDC's website for more information.

RELATED STORIES: 

Study: Marijuana could be making teens less intelligent

Could marijuana law reform come to Texas this year?

A look at legalizing marijuana and law enforcement concerns

► Make it easy to keep up-to-date. Download the KHOU News app now.

Have a news tip? Email us or message us on our Facebook page or Twitter feed.