Our culture has it pretty well documented that smoking cannabis can help with cataracts
. But could regular toking actually be enhancing your night vision capabilities? Surprisingly, yes, according to a team of scientists…and their lab full of tadpoles.
Past Accounts of Night Vision-Enhancing Ganja
People have reportedly been using cannabis to give the ol’ night vision an edge for ages but perhaps the first publicized account happened over 20 years ago when a University of the West Indies pharmacologist, M.E. West, noticed fishermen in Kingston, Jamaica augmenting their nocturnal sight by partaking of some evening ganja. The Guardian
recently detailed West’s excursion in which night fishermen were smoking pot and drinking a rum-based concoction that used the leaves and stems of the cannabis plant. Upon consuming the weed through their preferred means, these fishermen exhibited an extraordinary ability to navigate treacherous coral reefs in the dead of the night. Astounded by what he witnessed, West spoke to the crew who schooled him on a Moroccan tradition of smoking hashish to improve nocturnal navigation through mountainous terrain and waterways alike. This prompted an unrelated group of researchers to visit the Moroccan Rif Mountains in 2002 where they conducted a series of tests with hashish, using a synthetic cannabinoid as a placebo to compare results. Those who were given the genuine hashish exhibited superior night vision down the line.
Tadpoles Smoking Pot in the Name of Science
The latest research into the effects of smoking pot on night vision, conducted by a group from the Montreal Neurological Institute, were published in the eLife scientific journal
. For their experiments, they opted to use the tadpole spawn of African clawed toads. Why tadpoles? Polliwogs exhibit a natural aversion to the dark for the same reason we humans do; the dark just raises our chances for something to get the drop on us. In the case of the tadpole, that something could be a fish or other predator. For us it would probably be something like a homicidal clown escaped from an insane asylum. The point is, whether you’re a human or a tadpole, you have a natural instinct to avoid unfamiliar dark spaces when possible.
There’s something sort of cute and morally terrifying about getting tadpoles stoned but no matter your stance on it, it happened. Upon observing both stoned and sober tadpoles, the researchers noted that the stoned tadpoles were more sensitive to light, managing to locate and avoid dark patches in already dim areas, whereas the straight tadpoles seemed oblivious to these patches. So tadpoles experiencing marijuana intoxication are more capable of sidestepping the potentially dangerous darkness. What does this mean to you as a human?
Potential Applications of Medical Marijuana for Ocular Ailments
While it’s a bit ambitious to draw too many parallels between a tadpole and a human being, scientists are cautiously optimistic that these studies could be the genesis of learning to treat a whole host of ocular disorders with cannabis. Ailments of the eye that lead to an actual degeneration of sight may be able to be slowed, staved off, or even healed through smoking pot. The study makes specific reference to retinitis pigmentosa but other conditions that can lead to blindness may eventually be fought with medical marijuana.
With the DEA supposedly softening up on marijuana research, we’ll risk a little optimism that we’ll get further developments on marijuana’s relation to ocular health in the near future. Until then, you can at least count on smoking pot to take your night vision to the next level, though probably not so much that you’ll be signing up for Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters or anything. I wouldn’t even suggest any night sails through coral reefs just yet. Maybe for now we can just be less afraid to watch horror movies with the lights out.