Marijuana is More Dangerous Than You Think – Wall Street Journal
It did not take long for the anti-pot groups to create a Reefer Madness scare in 2019 as a new Democratic House is sworn into Congress today. The new Democratic house is heavily in favor of cannabis legalization and it seems that the Reefer Madness folks are getting more and more desperate to keep the cannabis palnt listed as an illegal substance.
In today’s Wall Street Journal, Alex Berenson wrote a 1,000-word essay titled “Marijuana is More Dangerous Than You Think”. Who is Alex Berenson you may ask? Mr. Berenson used to write for the financial website run by Jim Cramer, TheStreet.com . He has also written 12 spy novels according to his Wikipedia page. Why is he now a marijuana expert or writing about marijuana? He has a new book coming out in January about the dangers of marijuana. Coincidence?
The article is here, where you can read the 1,000 word essay, and below is some of our thoughts on his logic, or lack thereof, on the subject.
The essay is tied together with words, but not much data or consistency. The general theme is something like the following: Marijuana can induce psychosis is a very small group of people, the small group of people in psychosis could become paranoid, and that people who are in psychosis and become paranoid can become violent. Hence, marijuana is tied to violence. Mr. Berenson admits there is no evidence that marijuana causes psychosis and that the general theory is circumstantial at best.
“None of these studies prove that rising cannabis use has caused population-wide increases in psychosis or other mental illness, although they do offer suggestive evidence of a link. “
His whole argument comes down to this:
“What is clear is that, in individual cases, marijuana can cause psychosis, and psychosis is a high-risk factor for violence. What’s more, much of that violence occurs when psychotic people are using drugs.”
The rest of the essay focuses on marijuana causing violence:
“Still, there are studies showing that marijuana use is a significant risk factor for violence.”
This is where the essay goes from an interesting read on a very small group of people who may or may not go into psychosis from marijuana, and may or may not become violent while in psychosis, to pure Reefer Madness. This is where Mr. Berenson tries a slight of hand and likes to confuse “causation and correlation”.If you have ever taken a statistics class or economics course, they are very often confused.
Cannabis the plant, or marijuana, doesn’t cause violence, its listing as a schedule 1, illegal drug in the United States, causes violence. Just common sense will tell you that people who use cannabis regularly are not violent, as the stoner stereotype will tell you. Ask any law enforcement officer in the country if they would rather come up on 5 guys drinking alcohol in the park at midnight or 5 guys smoking weed, the answer will be a resounding “yes” to weed smokers. Why? They are mellow, relaxed, and just send them packing to the nearest Taco Bell. As Mr. Berenson admits, alcohol causes violence in many settings and many studies have been done to determine that alcohol is the cause, not a correlation.
The law classification causes violence in the studies that Mr. Berenson sites because people want the plant, and because they cannot get it legally, the black market takes over where there are drug dealers and a rougher crowd than the dispensaries that are now open. Hence, violence takes place around the buying and selling of the plant on the black market, not the actual plant itself. This is a big difference from alcohol.
Does cannabis cause violence, of course it does not cause violence. If anything, it does the opposite and calms people down. Does cannabis induce psychosis in a very small percentage of people who use the drug, yes. Do those people become paranoid, and do paranoid people in psychosis become violent? There may be a case or two, sure.
The logic behind Mr. Berenson’s argument doesn’t hold up well when you substitute other brain stimulating substances or activities. Maybe we should ban exercise too because this same logic can be applied: People who exercise generally get a “runner’s high” (dopamine released in the brain) after a workout, exercise promotes testosterone in men, testosterone, at higher levels, can lead to higher aggression and violence, hence, exercise is much more dangerous than you think.
Does Mr. Berenson, spy novelist and financial writer, want to drum up some buzz about his new marijuana book? Probably.
Remember when reading Reefer Madness articles to ask yourself “Is this correlation or causation, or something else?”
For example, we covered a story here, that said cannabis causes more car accidents and driving infractions.The only problem was that when you read the fine print of the study it said something like “driver’s blood had marijuana traces in it, as well as alcohol, cocaine, amphetamines, and heroin”.
So, you think the weed caused the accident, huh?
Beware of the Reefer Madness headlines as we move closer to legalization.