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New Study Shows Cannabis May Improve Night Vision

Researchers say cannabis could one day be used to prevent blindness.

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Smoking marijuana may give humans the gift of enhanced night vision, according to the latest findings published in the journal eLife.

In a study of tadpoles, Canadian researchers said marijuana showed promising results in giving the creatures better vision in the dark. The study goes on to suggests that since the herb makes cells in the retina more sensitive to light, patients with degenerative eye conditions such as retinitis pigmentosa may benefit from the use of medical marijuana.

As it was reported earlier this week in The Guardian, M.E. West of the University of the West Indies in Jamaica made this discovery more than two decades ago, when he noticed the local fisherman seemed to have “an uncanny ability to see in the dark” after they had consumed cannabis.

“It was impossible to believe that anyone could navigate a boat without compass and without light in such treacherous surroundings,” West recalls in the Great Book of Hemp, “[but] I was then convinced that the man who had taken the rum extract of cannabis had far better night vision than I had, and that a subjective effect was not responsible.”

Researchers at the Montreal Neurological Institute in Canada recently set out to further explore this concept using tadpoles from the African clawed toad. During the study, scientists found that cannabinoids made retinal cells more sensitive to light regardless of how bright or dim the area.

Tadpoles will typically avoid the dark – it’s a defense mechanism to stay safe from predators. Researchers said that when two sets of tadpoles -- one group under the influence of cannabinoids and another sober – were exposed to areas with little light, the stoned tadpoles were still able to avoid darkened areas. The sober tadpoles, however, tripped into these dark spots more frequently.

Scientists concluded that while it appears cannabis could enhance the ability to see at night, more research is needed on the subject in order to properly determine whether humans would experience similar effects. However, the results do give some indication that cannabis could one day be used in the treatment of severe retinal conditions that often lead to blindness.

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