OLYMPIA, Wash. (CBS Seattle/AP) – A new study has found a connection between smoking marijuana and an increase in stroke risk for young adults.

According to a press release posted by the American Heart Association, researchers in New Zealand found that younger patients suffering from either ischemic strokes or transient ischemic attacks were 2.3 times more likely to have cannabis in their systems.

“This is the first case-controlled study to show a possible link to the increased risk of stroke from cannabis,” lead investigator P. Alan Barber, Ph.D., M.D., was quoted as saying. “Cannabis has been thought by the public to be a relatively safe, although illegal substance. This study shows this might not be the case; it may lead to stroke.”

Researchers reportedly examined 160 patients between the ages of 18 and 55 whose urine had been taken after arriving at the hospital.

The study left lingering questions with researchers and reviewers alike regarding whether or not cigarettes played a larger role in the maladies of stroke patients, as the vast majority of participants – all but one, in fact – had used tobacco in addition to marijuana.

“We believe it is the cannabis and not tobacco,” Barber, who is also a professor of clinical neurology at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, stated.

He added that the findings of the study are enough to merit additional investigation into the matter, isolating patients who smoked marijuana but not tobacco.

“This may prove difficult given the risks of bias and ethical strictures of studying the use of an illegal substance,” Barber noted. “However, the high prevalence of cannabis use in this cohort of younger stroke patients makes this research imperative.”

The findings come not long after two states – Washington and Colorado – voted to legalize marijuana. Specifically, the two states voted to legalize recreational marijuana use by adults over 21 and to create state-licensed systems of growers, processors and retail stores that sell heavily taxed pot.

Washington is even hiring for an official marijuana consultant to fill in the gaps of the typical bureaucrat’s education: how cannabis is best grown, dried, tested, labeled, packaged, regulated and cooked into brownies.

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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