The Benefits and Drawbacks of Marijuana: The Definitive Guide to What the Experts Now Know

2017 may be the year that marijuana (cannabis) has its full coming out party. As TIME magazine reported on November 9, 2016, “When California voters approved Proposition 64 on Tuesday, the basic idea was simple: a majority of people in America’s most populous state believe that adults should be able to consume marijuana if they feel like it, like a glass of wine at 5 o’clock.”

TIME got additional information from Amanda Reiman, the Drug Policy Alliance’s manager of marijuana law and policy. The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) is the nation’s leading organization promoting drug policies that are grounded in science, compassion, health and human rights.

I began working in the field of drug abuse prevention and health in 1968 after I graduated from U.C. Berkeley and started a therapeutic community program to help people recover from problems associated with drug and alcohol abuse. It soon became apparent that helping people with their problems was made more difficult by laws that criminalized use, rather than making use a health issue. This unnecessarily increased people’s level of anxiety and depression, and kept people from getting the help they needed.

In 1973 I wrote the first of many professional articles to expand our understanding of drugs and how they impact people’s thoughts, feelings, and behavior, both positively and negatively. In the article, I wrote,

“The drug problem in this country continues to get worse, and the programs that we have developed to combat the problem are actually adding fuel to the fire. The laws that have been developed over the past 60 years have done nothing to discourage the use of drugs. Their effect has caused the criminalization of millions of otherwise law abiding citizens.”

I went on to say,

“Legal restrictions on mind active drugs have produced a new industry that has proven extremely profitable to legal drug manufacturers and salesmen as well as the illegal drug entrepreneurs. The huge profits to be made in the drug business have caused corruption in large segments of society.”

Well, as Bob Dylan reminds us, the times, they are a changin’. As of January 2017, 28 states and the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis for the treatment of medical conditions. Eight of these states and the District of Columbia have also legalized cannabis for recreational use. In addition to the growing availability of legalized cannabis, there has also been a rapid expansion in the types of available cannabis products, including edibles, oils, and a variety of inhaled substances. [Read more…]