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Marijuana Myths, Marijuana Facts


November-December 1997

by Eric E. Sterling

Marijuana Myths, Marijuana Facts, by Lynn Zimmer, Ph.D., and John Morgan, M.D., is an important, new contribution to the literature regarding marijuana use. This book takes some of the contemporary statements about marijuana's harmfulness made by the most commonly-quoted public and private authorities and compares them to the authors' review of the scientific or other literature.

Among the virtues of this book is that it is very well written, well-organized and highly readable. Reading the many statements about marijuana -- extreme, indeed, absurd -- made recently by otherwise responsible, sober persons such as Lee Brown, Ph.D, Joseph Califano, Esq. and Donna Shalala, Ph.D., to name a few, induces feelings alternating between hilarity and disgust. To see, repeatedly, how persons widely considered to be national drug experts make statements fundamentally contrary to the scientific evidence on that point creates despair that drug policy will ever be a field of serious inquiry.

The volume is concise in dealing with a very large volume of material -- in my view, too concise -- but the subject matter is quite manageable and in sufficient depth for the general public. In a few respects, the volume is unsatisfying. For example, Michigan's former "drug czar" is quoted in the myth section regarding Dutch Marijuana Policy stating that, "The Netherlands has Europe's highest crime rate and crime there has increased as the number of drug `coffee shops' and drug users expanded." This or similar assertions are often made by opponents of drug policy reform. But the authors didn't address the Dutch crime rate -- either how it may or not have increased (and why) nor how Dutch crime rates compare to other European states (pp. 48-54). The "myth" is left uncorrected.

Notwithstanding such limitations, this book is very important for every drug policy scholar to have on his or her shelf because of its valuable, up-to-date references. For anyone who is going to discuss marijuana policy this book is extremely important to read thoroughly. The book addresses many of the current issues in the debate regarding the safety and uses of marijuana from the perspective of those who have concluded marijuana is not a serious public health, psychological or criminal problem.

The establishment purveyors of the marijuana "myths" criticized by the authors will no doubt condemn this book as a white wash, but it is not. Repeatedly the studies that point to marijuana's harmful effects are identified  -- but they are fairly reported and placed in an appropriate scientific context. The authors are not disregarding the hazards where they exist. Regarding driving ability and highway safety, for example, the authors warn that:

in some individuals, marijuana may increase the risk of an accident. At very high doses, people may be unable to compensate for marijuana's psychomotor impairment. Inexperienced marijuana users and inexperienced drivers, in particular, may be unable to drive safely even after small doses of marijuana ... it is also likely that marijuana contributes to bad driving in some individuals.

The book is not being distributed by a conventional publisher; it is published by The Lindesmith Center of the Open Society Institute. It is available from Bookworld Companies (800-444-2524 or 941-758-8094, fax 941-753-9396) for $12.95 plus $3.95 shipping. (The order taker will ask for the ISBN 0-9641568-4-9). It is also available from the Drug Policy Foundation (202-537-5005) for $13.00 plus $3.00 for shipping. If you order it from your local book store (where it may take a couple of weeks to obtain) it will cost $12.95 plus tax.