The health and psychological consequences of cannabis use chapter 2

National Drug Strategy
Monograph Series No. 25

2. Introduction 
This review of the literature on the health and psychological effects
of cannabis was undertaken at the initiative of the former Federal
Justice Minister, Senator Michael Tate, who requested a review of
knowledge relating to cannabis, to inform policy decisions. At Senator
Tate's urging, a National Task Force on Cannabis was established on 25
May 1992. The Task Force commissioned this review of the evidence on
the health and psychological effects of cannabis use. A new and
independent review was thought necessary because there has not been
any major international review of the literature on the health and
psychological effects of cannabis since 1981, when the Addiction
Research Foundation and World Health Organization jointly reviewed the
literature. The purpose of this review was to update the conclusions
of earlier reviews in the light of research undertaken during the past
decade (ARF/WHO, 1981; Fehr and Kalant, 1983). 
2.1 Our approach to the literature
Our review of the literature was not intended to be, and could not
hope to be, as comprehensive as the major review undertaken by the
Addiction Research Foundation and the World Health Organization. The
literature is too large, and the diversity of relevant disciplines
represented in it beyond the expertise we had available for the task.
Unavoidably, we have relied upon published expert opinion in the very
many areas which lie outside the authors' collective expertise, which
is primarily in epidemiology, psychopharmacology, neurophysiology and
neuropsychology. This fact is inevitably reflected in the relative
attention given to the literatures that lie within and beyond our
expertise. The literatures on the psychological consequences of acute
and chronic cannabis use, for example, are much more comprehensively
and critically reviewed than those pertaining to effects on the
reproductive and immune systems. In reviewing the literature that lies
outside our expertise, we have relied upon the consensus views
expressed in the literature by experts in the relevant fields. When
there has been controversy between the experts we have explicitly
acknowledged it. We have checked our understanding and representation
of these expert views by asking Australian and international
researchers with expertise in the relevant fields to critically review
what we have written.