A few remarkable articles have recently been published linking the consumption of marijuana with increased night vision. Fishermen around the world have been telling the medical establishment for years that marijuana helps them navigate their boats at night, but only recently have scientists been taking their testimonials seriously.
One article supporting this claim was written by M.E. West in the journal Nature. This article was published back in 1991 and it's credited with really getting scientists interested in the relationship between marijuana and night vision.
In this article, West recorded his own exciting night trip on a Jamaican ship with a few fishermen who had all consumed a bit of marijuana beforehand. It is very common for Jamaican fishermen and sailors to either smoke cannabis or drink white rum infused with cannabis before going on extended night journeys.
West's ship was sailing to a fishing cay near the capital city of Kingston. Although West was certain this boat would crash, the crew was actually able to successfully dock. When West returned to the scene in the morning, he was totally shocked that the crew was able to successfully dock this boat without the use of any navigational tools or night-vision goggles. West attributed their great success to the consumption of cannabis.
After this experience, West became interested in the possibilities of using cannabis to treat other eye conditions, especially glaucoma. West went into detail about his own follow-up research and his proposed cannabis-based treatment for glaucoma.
It isn't only in Jamaica that marijuana has been observed to improve sight dramatically. Another study published in 2004 on PubMed.gov studied how cannabis affected the sight of Moroccan fishermen. Researchers noticed that many fishermen who experienced enhanced sight at nighttime also consumed regular amounts of marijuana.
Although there's a great deal of evidence that marijuana can help us see clearer at night time, many scientists don't have a clear answer as to why this actually works. One possible explanation came out of a study performed by workers at the Montréal Neurological Institute. This study, which was published in eLife, looked at what happened to tadpoles' eyes after exposure to cannabis.
Tadpoles were chosen for this study because they are transparent, and thus it's easier to see what effect the drug has on their eyes. Researchers found that the retinal ganglion cells, which are essential inner eye neurons, were far more sensitive to light after taking in cannabis. Also, the tadpoles were shown to be better able to pick up contrast and exposure.
Since marijuana has well over 400 different chemical compounds, it is very difficult to pinpoint which chemicals are having a positive visual effect on the eyes right now. However, the eLife study is a great first step toward discovering what chemicals present in marijuana can be used to help humans.
Research or no research, the fishermen in both Morocco and Jamaica say they will continue using cannabis to help them navigate their boats in the future.