New Study Suggests Cannabis Doesn’t Stifle Motivation


Most of us are familiar with TV shows and films that depict cannabis users as lazy, out of touch, and highly unmotivated. But cannabis proponents have long questioned such depictions. In fact, numerous studies over the years have attempted to determine whether users really lack motivation. The most recent study suggests they do not.

Researchers at the University of Memphis enrolled forty-seven college students in their study. The subjects were divided into two groups: regular cannabis users (twenty-five) and non-users (twenty-two). Each one was put through a series of behavioral studies known as Effort Expenditure for Rewards Task (EEfRT).

What the Study Determined

Researchers tend to use EEfRT to determine how motivated a test subject is by giving the subject multiple activity choices that require varying amounts of effort. Those choices are compared against reward potential, likelihood, and the value of the reward in particular. A subject is considered more motivated if they choose more difficult tasks irrespective of reward potential.

Using the EEfRT model, the researchers were able to determine that the students who used marijuana regularly were more motivated than their non-using counterparts. They routinely chose more difficult tasks. Whether or not they completed those tasks any better was not clearly determined.

Researchers were quick to note in their written report that study results back up similar results from previous studies. For example, a 2020 study looking at the effect of cannabis on exercise determined that regular consumers were more likely to do more formal exercise than those who did not consume. They are also more likely to engage in general physical activity.

Cannabis and Job Performance

The results of the study clearly contrast with the stereotypical understanding of cannabis as a motivation killer. In fact, the University of Memphis study seems to show just the opposite. This begs the question of whether there is any correlation between motivation and cognition.

It is all well and good that college students were more motivated to choose challenging tasks. But how well did they perform those tasks? If motivation and performance correlate positively, we have yet another reason to recommend cannabis as both a medical and recreational product. But if they correlate negatively – meaning that cannabis inhibits performance – then we have an obvious trade-off between motivation and actually getting things done.

How It Could Affect the Workplace

Let us assume that future research proves that cannabis both motivates and does not affect cognition. How would that affect the workplace? Could employers still justify disciplining workers who test positive for cannabis?

Utah lawmakers recently passed a bill to prevent public sector employers from discriminating against workers who test positive for cannabis. Employers must now treat cannabis just like they do any other substances. As long as it doesn’t affect worker performance, public sector employers must allow it.

Deseret Wellness, a Park City medical cannabis pharmacy, says the law does not apply to private employers. They still have the right to establish their own cannabis policies. However, it would be much harder for a private employer to justify said policies if it was proved that cannabis actually motivates without harming how well employees do their jobs.

Scientific research is gradually opening the doors to a better understanding of cannabis and its effects on the human brain. It turns out that the plant may not be as bad as we have thought it to be all along. This does not suggest that cannabis is a magic herb that can fix all the world’s problems, but it might also not be the highly dangerous drug we have been led to believe.

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