- - Monday, April 22, 2019

Journalist Alex Berenson makes a few good points when he admonishes us in his book to, “Tell Your Children: The Truth About Marijuana, Mental Illness and Violence.” Nonetheless, his basic conclusions are shaped by misinterpretations and selecting specific factoids then ignoring the context in which they are found.

In such situations, President Reagan used to say, “It’s not what he doesn’t know. It’s what he knows that just ain’t so.”

Certainly, Mr. Berenson is correct in condemning advocates of cannabis freedom who personally attack those who are out to protect adults from themselves. Stifling the debate should not be tolerated. So too to the century-long heavy-handed suppression of academic and commercial research that could have provided us with a clear picture of the benefits and the liabilities of marijuana. Research, instead, was limited to a few universities that were legally permitted even to possess cannabis.

Mr. Berenson does his best to undercut the credibility of the positive information that is now coming out. Well-respected labs and research programs, like those in Israel, are documenting medical and health-related benefits provided by the marijuana plant. Mr. Berenson missed positive findings.

It is time to recognize the downside of the frivolous use of marijuana. But it is way past time to recognize and positive contributions this plant can make to the well-being of so many human beings now needlessly suffering.

It is time to find ways of measuring the healing and reduction of inflammation and pain that can be derived from this much maligned plant. We need to know through serious analyses the dosage and frequency of use needed to have a positive impact and/or what might trigger a negative impact. So many specific cases of cannabis playing a positive role in dealing successfully with a serious medical condition have convinced even the skeptics that the marijuana option deserves to come out of the darkness and be put into the mainstream of health care.

Honest professionals have come forward reporting cannabis playing a major positive role in dealing with glaucoma, arthritis, childhood seizures, loss of appetite after chemo, opioid addiction, insomnia, old-age depression and, perhaps most important, the PTSD of so many of our troops coming home from the endless war we are fighting in the Middle East.

Most of these success stories are referred to as anecdotal, yet there are enough of these anecdotes that this option should be pursued with great haste and be made available to alleviate what may be unnecessary suffering.

More research is necessary, but in the meantime, it is a travesty to continue wasting the limited time and resources of our police, DEA, judges, prosecutors and prison staffs to stamp out the use of marijuana by adult Americans. It is equally ridiculous to threaten doctors and other health specialists to prevent them from prescribing cannabis when it could be of help to a patient dealing with a major health care challenge or even a little challenge.

One point made by cannabis critics is that it is clearly harmful for young people to be consuming marijuana. The electronics of a developing brain can be seriously impacted. Then let’s make it illegal to sell a minor marijuana, but that is not an excuse to make such behavior illegal for adults. In fact, if legalized no more young people will use marijuana than now, that is just how easy it is to obtain cannabis in our country. Only if marijuana is legal, will the product being consumed be labeled and transactions be conducted by accountable business professionals instead of drug cartel gangsters.

Finally, Mr. Berenson’s book tells us that marijuana legalization will create more violence in our society. He backs this proposition by pointing to reports that when consumed by people who are already mentally unstable that cannabis causes violent behavior. That is not a reason to limit its use to those it can help. It is not illogical to conclude that people who are mentally unstable are probably similarly impacted by the introduction of alcohol, playing of video games or the introduction of a fanatic political or religious ideology. Whatever, singling out cannabis as a negative factor for the psychologically vulnerable is not a justified reason to restrict its use by normal adults for medical or even recreational use.

For me this remains a freedom issue. Our Founding Fathers did not create a nanny state to control our personal lives nor did they empower a federal government to enforce criminal law throughout the states. It is time to, yes, have a rational discussion about the danger of cannabis with our kids, as well as the danger of alcohol, overeating, etc. It is also time to quit treating adults like children and limiting their freedom to control their own lives.

• Dana Rohrabacher is a former U.S. representative from California.

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