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…]

Want to Save 32,000 Lives a Year? It May Be As Easy as Seeing A Female Rather Than a Male Doctor

I still have a vivid memory of my first doctor, Dr. Minden. No one likes to see a doctor and I can still remember the fear of getting the immunization shots that were part of growing up. But doctor Minden was always so kind and caring, it made whatever I had to endure worth going. I knew that whatever he did was always done to help me and that any momentary pain would be short-lived. I was heart-broken when I grew older and learned that he was a “kid’s doctor” and I had graduated to adult doctors.

Part of the reason I went to medical school was to become the kind of doctor I remember Dr. Minden being. Part of the reason I left medical school was the kind of education I was getting was harsh and abusive rather than kind and caring. When I was in medical school, there were only a few females in my class. Now women outnumber men in medical schools (and colleges) and profession is shifting.

It seems that the care and compassion I remember from my childhood doctor are seen more commonly in female than in male health care providers. So, I’ve always sought out female health-care practitioners over the years. Compared to the male doctors I had, they were more  engaged and involved. They were much closer in spirit my childhood doctor Minden. I suspect that all doctors would be better doctors if they spend significant time learning about healing from children.

Now a new study by doctors from Harvard have found that we could save 32,000 lives a year if we saw female doctors as opposed to male doctors. After examining the medical records of Medicare patients from across the country, the Harvard researchers calculated that 10.82% of those treated by physicians who were women died within 30 days of being admitted to the hospital. Among patients treated by male physicians, the 30-day mortality rate was 11.49%, according to a study published recently in in JAMA Internal Medicine.

The differences between male and female providers persisted even after the researchers accounted for factors like the age, gender and income of patients, how sick those patients were when they first checked into the hospital, the resources of the hospitals and the experience of the doctors. There seems to be something about the qualities of being female that pays off in better health care. [Read more…]

Jed Diamond’s Trends and Predictions for 2017

18dsfu_vpzi-shane-hauserFor me, 2016 was a time of massive change. My wife and I moved from our home of 25 years in the beautifully quiet hills outside of Willits and bought a home in town where we could walk everywhere. I turned 73, which isn’t an obviously important age like 21, 60, 75, 80, or 100, but it was the year I healed old wounds, learned to love, and let go of fear.

I wrote about my process in a series of articles: (1) The Soul’s Code: Embracing My Destiny as a Man (2) My Mother, My Wife, My Marriage: How Inherited Family Trauma Can Impact Our Relationships; (3) Lost Fathers: How Deaths, Divorces, and Disconnections Impact Our Health and Happiness.

On the world stage, Time Magazine notes, “Between historic elections, populist movements in America and Europe and the loss of Prince, Muhammad Ali, Leonard Cohen, and more, 2016 was a year like no other. In the last 12 months, Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election, the U.K. voted to leave the E.U. and the world witnessed the destruction of Aleppo and the desperation of its citizens through social media. In moments of hope, nearly 200 countries ratified the Paris climate change agreement, refugee athletes competed in the Olympics, the Chicago Cubs broke a century-long curse to win the World Series, and Native American water protectors stood firm at Standing Rock.”

Each year I pick a Tarot card from the Voyager Deck. For 2017 it was “The Magician.” Here’s what it said, in part: “The magician symbolizes the law of talent. Magic comes from the ancient Magh, meaning power. Your power comes from being a channel for the universe.” So here are the things I see coming in 2017:

  1. Love and fear compete for our attention.

In 1979 Gerald Jampolsky, M.D., wrote a little book, Love is Letting Go of Fear. In the introduction he says, “In 1975, the outside world saw me as a successful psychiatrist who appeared to have everything he wanted. But my inner world was chaotic, empty, unhappy, and hypocritical. My twenty-year marriage had recently ended in a painful divorce. I had become a heavy drinker and had developed chronic, disabling back pain as a means of handling guilt.”

Jampolsky found personal healing in A Course in Miracles, and founded the first Center for Attitudinal Healing in Marin County (My wife, Carlin, was one of the early volunteers). There are now centers throughout the world based on this simple statement: Teach only love for that is what you are. 2017 will bring multiple opportunities to promote love or fear. Choose love.

  1. Mental illness and mental health are turned upside down.

My father was the black sheep of the family. His brothers were all successful businessmen who focused on the bottom line and made lots of money. My father was a dreamer who wanted people to love each other and he became increasingly depressed when he couldn’t fit into the system. He was sent to a mental hospital, diagnosed as manic-depressive, and given shock treatments. He later escaped from the “nut house” and became a successful puppeteer in San Francisco and taught people from different cultures how to love one another. [Read more…]

The Soul’s Code: Embracing My Destiny as a Man

8muutamcwu4-jez-timmsLearning to make sense of our lives and fully embrace who we are is a life-long journey. I’ll be 73 years old in December and have been spending time recently reflecting on my life. In his book, The Soul’s Code: In Search of Character and Calling, James Hillman says that we must answer two related question about our lives:

  1. How do I put together into a coherent image the pieces of my life?
  2. How do I find the basic plot of my story?

I took another step in answering these questions when I spent time with philosopher Pierre Grimes, author of Philosophical Midwifery: A New Paradigm for Understanding Human Problems. In my article, “A Little in Love with Death: My Healing Encounter with Pierre Grimes,” I describe my upbringing and my mother’s preoccupation with death and dying.

Soon after my birth my mother was convinced she would die before I was out of high school and bought a life insurance policy she couldn’t afford so I’d have money after she was gone (In face, she lived until she was 80). She also got a life insurance policy for me when I turned five, insisting you can never start too soon to take care of your family after you’re gone. When I started nursery school she was already preparing for my life after she was dead and for the life of my wife and family after I died.

My mother married my father on the rebound when the man she truly loved was sent to Europe on assignment as a writer for the New York Times. I don’t think their marriage was a happy one and I don’t think my father ever felt truly loved. He suffered from depression and bipolar disorder. We now view depression as a “brain disease” and treat it with drugs, but that may not be the best way to look at these problems. [Read more…]

A Little in Love With Death: My Healing Encounter with Pierre Grimes

pierre-grimesIntroduction: I attended the 4-Day Sacred Path Men’s Retreat to recognize and support Stephen Johnson’s life and work and pay tribute to the men who have made possible these retreats over the last 30 years. I had never heard of Pierre Grimes, know little about philosophy, and next to nothing about the Greek philosophers. Yet I know when I’m in the presence of a master and took Pierre up on his offer to work through a dream and a daydream I had. I had no idea it would change my life.

Basic information: My parents were married on my mother’s birthday, October 5, 1934. The story I learned was that they tried to have a child, but were unsuccessful until they tried an experimental procedure of injecting my father’s sperm into my mother’s womb. I was told I was the “miracle baby, they had always wanted, with my birth December 21, 1943. They were sure I was going to be a girl and had dolls waiting along with an assortment of agreeable girl’s names. When the baby arrived sporting a penis, they had to quickly settle on a name.

My name: When I was born, I was named Elliott Diamond. I was named after my father’s nephew who had recently died. The story was that my mother cried for days until my father relented and I was given the name my mother preferred John Diamond, adding Elliott as a middle name. This time I was named after my mother’s dead father, John.

My life focus: I’ve always thought of myself as special, that I was a wanted child who brought great joy to my family. But there was a darker undercurrent of death that invaded my life.

Surrounded by death as a child: Soon after my birth my mother was convinced she would die before I was out of high school and bought a life insurance policy she couldn’t afford so I’d have money after she was gone.

She also got a life insurance policy for me when I turned five, insisting you can never start too soon to take care of your family after you’re gone. When I started nursery school she was already preparing for my life after she was dead and for the life of my wife and family after I died.

A close friend of family, Holly, shot himself in 1948 when I was five years old.  I remember going to the service, confused and afraid, but no one talked about why Holly died.  Later that year my closest friend, Woody, drowned in the river near our house. My mother was so glad I was alive, she wouldn’t listen to my own grief or feelings of loss. [Read more…]

Welcome to My Men’s Group: The Five Critical Things I Learned in the Last 37 Years

mens-groupMy men’s group meets again on Wednesday. It’s hard to believe that the group has been together now for 37 years. Over that time, two men have left, two new men have been added (our newest member joined twenty years ago) and one man died. There are six of us, now, and we have developed bonds of love and connection that are like nothing else in this world. We began meeting once a week for seven or eight years. Now that we’re more spread out, we meet four times a year for a five day retreat.

My wife, Carlin, says she believes that a lot of the success of our 36 year-marriage can be traced back to the things I’ve learned during the 37 years I’ve been in the men’s group. Recently our group viewed an exciting new film by my friend and colleague Joseph Culp who wrote, produced, and acted in the film. It’s called Welcome to the Men’s Group. It’s the first, feature-length film that takes you inside the hearts and souls of men who have made a commitment to each other to become better fathers, better husbands, and better men.

I’m often asked, “What really goes on inside your men’s group?” Now I can say, watch the film. During an entertaining two hours, you will get a unique glimpse into the lives of men and what men really want and need today. Women will be particularly moved by what guys say and do when there aren’t any females around. You can help get the film shown widely by supporting the Indie-Go-Go Fundraiser, and receive some fabulous perks, including copies of my new book, The Enlightened Marriage: The 5 Transformative Stages of Relationships and Why the  Best is Still To Come and here’s my new online course. 

 The film touches on many important themes. Here are the five most important things I learned during the last 37 years in my men’s group: [Read more…]

Why Men Write: Life, Death, Sex, and Soul

302942066_6139e6473d_zMy first book, Inside Out Becoming My Own Man, was published in 1983, but I began writing long before that. As far back as I can remember I’ve been asking questions. What does it mean to be a man? Are there essential differences between men and women? Why so many men kill themselves and kill others? I don’t just write for men. I’ve found that women, too, are vitally interested in “men’s issue” since they are so intertwined with “women’s issues.”

Prior to my birth my parents were sure I was going to be a girl—something about which direction a needle on a string swung when held over my mother’s belly. When I emerged in the world they had girls dolls waiting for me and a number of girl’s names picked out, but seemed totally surprised when they saw my little penis.

My first introduction to the world of men occurred eight days later when my father held me down and the mohel (circumciser) cut off my foreskin. The story was that I screamed bloody murder, arched a stream of urine over my head and hit my father in the eye. It was many years before I wrote The Warrior’s Journey Home: Healing Men, Healing the Planet, and said that circumcision was a form of child sexual abuse. But my 8-day-old self knew the truth even then.

I have vague memories of my mother holding me as an infant, but remember little about my father. Later stories I heard from my aunt said, “Your mother was so fearful that something would happen to you, she rarely let your father hold you. She was very protective and kept you close to her all the time.”

I know my father did his best to stay connected. I have one picture of me riding on his shoulders when I was four years old in a park in Sherman Oaks where I grew up in the San Fernando Valley. But memories darkened when my father tried to take his own life when I was five year’s old. The economic depression of the time and his own internal feelings of failure and loss combined to drive him to a point where he thought everyone would be better off without him. Though he survived physically, our lives were never the same and I began my quest to understand what happened to my father and if whatever it was would happen to me. [Read more…]

My Mental Illness: Coming Out as a Therapist

6339082427_87d8de1f5b_zWhen I found my father’s journals, I knew I had to stop running away from mental illness.  They were at the bottom of a box containing his unpublished plays and stories that revealed his struggles during the time I was growing up. By the time I read them I was a successful psychotherapist with a set of interlocking secrets: Mental illness ran in my family. My father was mentally ill. I suffered from depression and bipolar illness myself. I imagined I could run away from the reality of my own suffering by getting educated and treating others.

Then I opened the box and found the journals. I was alternately mesmerized, horrified, and transformed. Here is a small excerpt:

June 4th: 

               Your flesh crawls, your scalp wrinkles when you look around and see good writers, established writers, writers with credits a block long, unable to sell, unable to find work,  Yes, it’s enough to make anyone, blanch, turn pale and sicken.

   “August 15th:

              Faster, faster, faster, I walk.  I plug away looking for work, anything to support my family.  I try, try, try, try, try.  I always try and never stop.

“November 8th:

              A hundred failures, an endless number of failures, until now, my confidence, my hope, my belief in myself, has run completely out.  Middle aged, I stand and gaze ahead, numb, confused, and desperately worried.  All around me I see the young in spirit, the young in heart, with ten times my confidence, twice my youth, ten times my fervor, twice my education. 

             I see them all, a whole army of them, battering at the same doors I’m battering, trying in the same field I’m trying.  Yes, on a Sunday morning in early November, my hope and my life stream are both running desperately low, so low, so stagnant, that I hold my breath in fear, believing that the dark, blank curtain is about to descend.”

Six days after his November 8th entry, my father tried to kill himself. I was five years old. I never understood what happened to my father, but I was told he was in a hospital. Every Sunday for a year my uncle took me to visit him. I can still picture the line of trees as we neared Camarillo State Hospital after the two hour drive north from Los Angeles. [Read more…]

Why Women Are Saying “No” to Marriage and Men Are Becoming Angry, Depressed, and Lonely

Hannah K. LeeThere are two intersecting trends that are changing the ways men and women live and love. I see these changes in my friends and family and in the clients who come to me for marriage and family counseling. These changes have taken place, for the most part, under the radar of our awareness but they are changing everything from how we deal with our health to who we elect as our next president.

A recent book review in the New York Times, from which the above picture was taken, begins:

“Throughout America’s history, the start of adult life for women — whatever else it might have been destined to include — had been typically marked by marriage,” Rebecca Traister writes in her new book, All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation. “Since the late 19th century, the median age of first marriage for women had fluctuated between 20 and 22. This had been the shape, pattern and definition of female life.”

But the times are changing, big time. An article in New York Magazine quotes Ms. Traister’s research:

“In 2009, the proportion of American women who were married dropped below 50 percent. In other words, for the first time in American history, single women (including those who were never married, widowed, divorced, or separated) outnumbered married women. Perhaps even more strikingly, the number of adults younger than 34 who had never married was up to 46 percent, rising 12 percentage points in less than a decade. For women under 30, the likelihood of being married has become astonishingly small: Today, only around 20 percent of Americans ages 18–29 are wed, compared to nearly 60 percent in 1960.”

“It is a radical upheaval, a national reckoning with massive social and political implications,” says Traister. “Across classes, and races, we are seeing a wholesale revision of what female life might entail. We are living through the invention of independent female adulthood as a norm, not an aberration, and the creation of an entirely new population: adult women who are no longer economically, socially, sexually, or reproductively dependent on or defined by the men they marry.”

So, we might summarize one trend as: “Independent Single Ladies on the Rise.”
[Read more…]

Earth Day: Healing Ourselves, Healing the Planet, Through Sports

Wizards v/s Warriors 03/02/11One day a year we reflect on the state of our planet and take steps to heal the wounds that we have inflicted. It’s also a time to heal ourselves, since we humans are an integral part of Gaia. April 22, 2016 is the day we celebrate life on Earth. For me it’s also a day to reflect on life and sports.

From the time I was in junior high I loved playing basketball. Sports was my way of connecting with others, of engaging a practice that I could never master, but could get better playing. After school I would spend hours shooting hoops, alone or with other kids in the neighborhood. Now I watch the Golden State Warriors try to repeat as World Champions.

I’m guessing that most people don’t think of Earth Day and sports together, but they are linked for me in my growing up years in southern California. During the 1950s and 1960s there was very little attention to the environment. In post-war America we were focused on growth, of building more freeways so people could live in suburbia, and riding an expanding economy ever upwards.

But change was coming and many of us first saw it following the 1962 publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, in which she highlighted the dangers of DDT and its effects on bird populations. The book created a sensation of awareness and ultimately DDT was outlawed and bird populations began a comeback. The environmental movement was born in those days. These were also the days that I played basketball in high school with an unlikely, soon to be superstar named Gail Goodrich, who went on to star at U.C.L.A. and the Los Angeles Lakers.

I went on to graduate school, first in social work, and later getting Ph.D. in International Health. I was interested in the relationship between personal health and planetary healing. And once again I found a way to integrate the two in a sports context. Living in Marin county in the 1970s I joined the Aikido of Tamalpais dojo and began learning from masters like George Leonard, Richard Heckler, and Wendy Palmer, along with Terry Dobson.

I initially got involved because I felt I needed a physical practice to balance out all the mental activity I was doing in my therapy practice and writing my first books. But I was also out of balance with my life, feeling alternately manic and depressed and beginning to have problems with irregular heart rhythms. In Aikido I found a way “get out of my head” and get more connected to my body. [Read more…]