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…]

10 Surprising Ways Legalized Marijuana Will Improve the Health of Our Community

legal marijuanaI can’t tell you my perspective about psychoactive drugs without being honest about my own drug use over the years. The first drug I tried was at age seven when my parents served me wine on a Friday night as part of a Jewish Seder. Drinking a little wine as part of a meal was standard practice in our home. In college I tried marijuana. I didn’t like to smoke, since my parents both suffered from smoking cigarettes, so someone made me a marijuana brownie. I got a bit “stoned” and giggled and laughed a lot. I tried LSD a few times after college, which was fun and gave me a mystical experience, but a few times was enough for me. Now, my only psychoactive drug is alcohol in the form of an occasional glass of wine with dinner.

Psychoactive drugs are substances that can change the consciousness, mood, and thoughts of those who take them. They include legal drugs, such as caffeine, tobacco and alcohol; as well as illicit drugs, such as cannabis, amphetamines, ecstasy, cocaine, and heroin. After years of repression most people in the U.S. feel that marijuana should be legalized and regulated. A recent Gallup poll shows that 58% of Americans favor legalization.

Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia currently have laws legalizing marijuana in some form. Four states–Colorado, Washington, Alaska, and Oregon–have legalized marijuana for recreational use. Other states that are expected to pass laws in the near future include California, Nevada, Arizona, Maine, Massachusetts, and Vermont.

I’ve been working in the health field for more than 40 years and have treated thousands of men, women, and children, suffering from the problems associated with the abuse of drugs. I’ve been writing about the benefits of ending drug wars since 1973. A new book by Johann Hari, Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs, is the best resource I’ve read for understanding our drug wars and how and why they must end. I believe that legalization and regulation will have many health benefits including the following: [Read more…]

Legalize Marijuana? What I Told My Grandkids About Drug Use—Theirs and Mine

2333236110_2afb88d203_zDear Shelby, Jacob, Cody, Teanna, Sierra, Deon, Derrick, Hailey, Gunnar, Christian, Matej, Jonovan, Flora, Natael, and Trey’Shawn,

It’s both wonderful and rare that we’re all together so I’m sending you this letter to let you know I love you. Like all parents and grandparents I want you to live long and healthy lives. Like all people everywhere you have to deal with many challenges in life, including dealing with drugs.

I can’t tell you my perspective about drugs without being honest about my own drug use over the years. The first drug I tried was at age seven when my parents served me wine on a Friday night as part of a Jewish Seder. Drinking a little wine as part of a meal was standard practice in our home. In college I tried marijuana. I didn’t like to smoke, since my parents both smoked cigarettes, so someone made me a marijuana brownie. I got a bit “stoned” and giggled and laughed a lot. I tried LSD a few times after college, which was fun and gave me a mystical experience, but a few times was enough for me.

Some people assume that since we live in the hills of Mendocino County I grow and sell marijuana. I don’t. I still drink wine on occasion with a meal, but that’s the only drug I use these days. As you know I’ve been a counselor for more than 40 years and have treated both kids and adults who have problems with drugs. Drug abuse can be very harmful for some people, even though most people who use drugs, including marijuana, don’t have a problem with it.

Most everything people hear about drugs is about the problems. We rarely hear about the majority of people who don’t have problems. We know that most people drink responsibly, but what we hear most about in the news are problem drinkers and drug abusers. It might surprise you to know that the United Nations Office on Drug Control, the global coordinator of the war on drugs, says that only 10% of drug users ever have a problem with their substance. 90% of people don’t have a problem. [Read more…]