Harvard Psychiatrist on Weed

Pun intended.

A while ago Freakonomics had a quorum on the legalization of marijuana. In reality I don't think cannabis will be legalized for some time regardless of what doctors and other prominent figures say.

My friends always ask for a source that endorses the legalization of marijuana who isn't just another hippy pot head, so here's that from what I consider to be the best excerpt from the above link.

Also, look up the credentials of those that give anti-marijuana views in the article (and vise verse). At least one of the other "experts" in that article is a doctor who cites erroneous studies and was appointed by the Bush administration... but... how could you possibly take yourself seriously as a scientist in that administration?

Dr. Lester Grinspoon, associate professor of psychiatry at the Harvard Medical School, author of Marihuana Reconsidered, and coauthor of Marijuana, the Forbidden Medicine:

I began my study of marijuana in 1967 because I was concerned that young people were harming themselves by ignoring authorities’ warnings about a dangerous drug. I had hoped to write a paper that would definitively establish a scientific basis for this concern, and publish it in a widely read medium.

It was not long before I realized that despite my training in science and medicine, I had, like almost every other citizen of this country, been brainwashed by the United States government into believing that cannabis is a terribly dangerous drug. By 1971, the year Harvard University Press published Marihuana Reconsidered, I knew that, far more harmful than any inherent psychopharmacological property of this substance, was the way we as a society were dealing with its use. While marijuana is, in fact, remarkably free of toxicity, the consequences of annually arresting 300,000 mostly young people were not. Once I grasped the absurdity of this prohibition, I became devoted to the cause of changing these laws.

The development of marijuana laws began with the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, which was based on the same myths as the movie Reefer Madness — myths which have long since been abandoned. The prohibition itself should have been discarded after the publication in 1972 of the report of the Nixon-appointed National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse. The report was titled “Marihuana, A Signal of Misunderstanding,” and it affirmed the lack of a sound basis for prohibition. The Commission recommended the elimination of all penalties for personal possession and use of marijuana by adults, and for the not-for-profit transfer of small amounts of marijuana between adults. Instead, marijuana laws and their enforcement have become increasingly severe, buttressed by “new” myths dressed in scientific costume such as the present notion, developed largely in England and Australia, that marijuana causes schizophrenia.

The marijuana sector of the Drug War has seen annual increases in both its cost (now estimated to be about $11 billion) and the number of arrests. Marijuana arrests now constitute nearly 44 percent of all drug arrests in the U.S. The Uniform Crime Report figures for 2006 reveal that 829,625 people were arrested on marijuana charges, nearly a 15 percent increase from 2005. Nine out of ten were arrested for mere possession. More than 10 million people have been arrested on marijuana charges since 1990, and 75 percent of them were 30 or younger at the time of arrest.

Despite the increasing number of arrests, the growing demands of employers for urine tests, and the ubiquity of misinformation purveyed by the government and anti-marijuana organizations, the number of Americans who experiment with or regularly use this substance continues to grow. A December 2002 CNN/Time magazine survey found that 47 percent of American adults had tried marijuana. The number of people who use it regularly has increased to about 15 million.

This expanding use can no longer be dismissed as simply a youthful fad. It is a clear sign that adults who have a desire or need to stretch their consciousness are discovering that the least costly agent of this kind of experience is offered by marijuana. If used properly, it leads to a gentle alteration of consciousness, there is very little risk to health, the experience does not lead to any kind of antisocial behavior, and it is relatively (or would be, without the prohibition tariff) inexpensive. Marijuana has become part of our culture, and it is here to stay.

There are two other categories of use as well: medicine and enhancement, both of which overlap to some extent with each other and with recreational uses. Enhancement refers to that capacity of the marijuana high to add to the strength, worth, beauty, or other desirable qualities of experiences ranging from food and sex to creativity and appreciation of the natural world (see here for more information). So many people in the last decade have discovered its remarkable and versatile uses as a medicine that twelve states have now adopted legislation or initiatives which allow for its medicinal use. Unfortunately, the federal government, insisting that it has no medical utility, continues its merciless crackdown on patients, their doctors, and the people who grow this medicine within the legal limitations specified by the particular state.

The many thousands of patients who use marijuana for the treatment of a number of symptoms and syndromes do so because they find it to be as or more effective, and generally less toxic, than the conventionally prescribed medicines it replaces, plus it is less expensive, even at prohibition-inflated prices. Despite the federal government’s insistence that marijuana is more of a poison than a medicine, more states are now considering legislation or initiatives to make it available as a medicine, and some are considering initiatives to decriminalize it by reducing penalties for possession of small quantities.

Whatever interim changes we decide to take, ultimately we will have to cut the knot by giving marijuana the same status as alcohol — legalizing it for all uses, and largely removing it from medical and criminal control systems.