New research finds that intoxication with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive compound in cannabis, makes people more predisposed to forming false memories. The findings have significant legal implications.

Lilian Kloft, Ph.D. — of the Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience at Maastricht University, in the Netherlands — and colleagues set out to investigate the effects of cannabis consumption on memory formation.

Cannabis is known to affect memory. Earlier studies have shown that “acute and chronic exposure to cannabis” impairs verbal memory, learning, and attention.

The impact of cannabis on memory, explain the researchers, is a particularly important issue that has attracted a lot of interest, including from a legal perspective.

Convictions often rely on the testimonies and memories of eyewitnesses, but memories are sometimes false.

Malleability” of memory refers to the fact that are we able to create memories of events that did not take place, alter details of past experiences, and even plant completely false memories into someone else’s mind.

So, how does cannabis affect one’s susceptibility to such false memories? To find out, Kloft and the team tested the effects of THC intoxication on the memories of 64 healthy volunteers.

The researchers published their findings in the journalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.