You don’t expect the New Yorker and Mother Jones to be places where you read anti-marijuana articles, but Tell Your Children, the new book by former New York Times reporter Alex Berenson is knocking some people flat. The book examines what we know scientifically about marijuana use, and it turns out to be pretty damn scary.
I have never been a pot smoker, though back in my youth, I ate space cake in Amsterdam. Meh. I’ve always had ambivalent views about marijuana legalization. I can’t stand the way the stuff smells, and found the people I hung out with in college who were big fans of it to be incapable of talking about much else. But I accepted the line that pot was largely harmless. I don’t like the fact that it’s being legalized everywhere, but couldn’t come up with a compelling reason to oppose it. I chalked that up to social custom. Frankly, I didn’t much care.
Berenson’s book is a game-changer. In his New Yorker piece, Malcolm Gladwell writes straightforwardly about the overwhelming scientific evidence that marijuana is a hell of a lot more problematic than many of us think.
Look, you can make the case that medical marijuana helps people, while at the same time pointing out that legalizing a drug that messes with your brain is not a good idea. Demerol has medical uses, but nobody is out there saying "Hey, let's legalize that!" Well, maybe some Libertarians.
Over the past couple of decades, studies around the globe have found that THC—the active compound in cannabis—is strongly linked to psychosis, schizophrenia, and violence. Berenson interviewed far-flung researchers who have quietly but methodically documented the effects of THC on serious mental illness, and he makes a convincing case that a recreational drug marketed as an all-around health product may, in fact, be really dangerous—especially for people with a family history of mental illness and for adolescents with developing brains.
The statement that "Weed doesn't make people violent" is demonstrably false. The statement that weed is safer than alcohol is also demonstrably false. Marijuana has more carcinogens than tobacco, and Safety goons have been trying to stamp out Devil Weed for decades now. By legalizing recreational marijuana, we're expanding the user base of people who are consuming THC in levels that would have made 60's stoners sit back and say "Maybe that's too much, man!".
Paranoia and psychosis make people dangerous, so rising use of a drug that causes both would be expected to increase violent crime, rather than reduce it as pot advocates claim. Berenson looked at data for the four states that legalized weed in 2014 and 2015—Oregon, Washington, Alaska, and Colorado—and calculated a combined 35 percent increase in murders in those states from 2013 to 2017, compared with a 20-percent rise nationally. This “isn’t a statistical anomaly,” Berenson writes. “It’s real.”
The role of weed in rising violent crime rates in legalization states is a hotly contested question, especially in Colorado, where murders in Denver are at a 10-year high. Berenson admits he can’t say for sure whether those upswings are due to legal weed, but the raw data, he says, definitely contradicts advocates’ claims: “What I want people to stop saying is that legalization reduces violent crime. It doesn’t.”
I think the states that have legalized recreational marijuana are going to be the test experiments for the rest of the country, but I think that by the time we realize just how much damage marijuana does it'll be too late to do anything about it.