Marihuana: The Forbidden Medicine

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Marihuana: The Forbidden Medicine

by Lester Grinspoon, M.D. and James B. Bakalar

From the Publisher:

This revised text describes the medical benefits of marijuana, explains why it has been forbidden, and puts forward arguments for legislation to make it available for patients who need it. The argument is supported by accounts from individuals with various ailments.

From the Author:

When I began to study marihuana in 1967, I had no doubt that it was a very harmful drug that was unfortunately being used by more and more foolish young people who would not listen to or could not understand the warnings about its dangers. My purpose was to define scientifically the nature and degree of those dangers. In the next three years, as I reviewed the scientific, medical, and lay literature, my views began to change. I came to understand that I, like so many other people in this country, had been brainwashed. My beliefs about the dangers of marihuana had little empirical foundation. By the time I completed the research that formed the basis for a book, I had become convinced that cannabis was considerably less harmful than tobacco and alcohol, the most commonly used legal drugs. The book was published in 1971; its title, Marihuana Reconsidered, reflected my change in view.

At that time I naively believed that once people understood that marihuana was much less harmful than drugs that were already legal, they would come to favor legalization. In 1971 I confidently predicted that cannabis would be legalized for adults within the decade. I had not yet learned that there is something very special about illicit drugs. If they don't always make the drug user behave irrationally, they certainly cause many non-users to behave that way. Instead of making marihuana legally available to adults, we have continued to criminalize many millions of Americans. About 300,000 mostly young people are arrested on marihuana charges each year, and the political climate has now deteriorated so severely that it has become difficult to discuss marihuana openly and freely. It could almost be said that there is a climate of psychopharmacological McCarthyism.

One indication of this climate is the rise in mandatory drug testing, which is analogous to the loyalty oaths of the McCarthy era. Hardly anyone believed that forced loyalty oaths would enhance national security, but people who refused to take such oaths risked loss of their jobs and reputations. Today we are witnessing the imposition of a chemical loyalty oath. Mandatory, often random testing of urine samples for the presence of illicit drugs is increasingly demanded as a condition of employment. People who test positive may be fired or, if they wish to keep their jobs, may be involuntarily assigned to drug counseling or 'employee assistance' programs.

All this is of little use in preventing or treating drug abuse. In the case of cannabis, urine testing can easily be defeated by chemical alteration of the urine or substitution of someone else's urine. Even if the urine sample has not been altered, the available tests are far from perfect. The cheaper ones are seriously inaccurate, and even the more expensive and accurate ones are fallible because of laboratory error and passive exposure to marihuana smoke. But even an infallible test would be of little use in preventing or treating drug abuse. Marihuana metabolites (breakdown products) remain in the urine for days after a single exposure and for weeks after a long-term user stops. Their presence bears no established relationship to drug effects on the brain. It tells little about when the drug was used, how much was used, or what effects it had or has. Like loyalty oaths imposed on government employees, urine testing for marihuana is useless for its ostensible purpose. It is little more than shotgun harassment designed to impose outward conformity.


Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Yale University Press; Revised edition (August 25, 1997)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0300070861
ISBN-13: 978-0300070866
Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.5 x 1 inches
Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces

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