What’s disturbing about Berenson’s book - and this was undoubtedly a major reason he chose to publish it at this juncture - is that New York had been on the verge of legalization, and this will likely complicate that process. New York has significant prohibitionist traditions - the infamous Rockefeller drug laws, Columbia University’s association with groups like CASA and researcher Gabriel Nahas, the New York Times’ long advocacy (until quite recently) of Prohibition - and no doubt there still exist major forces in the state fighting tooth and nail against legalization. I’m sure, too, we’ll start seeing a drumbeat of FoxNews stories about grisly murders “linked” to marijuana.


NYT & New Yorker are the establishment, better than Fox of course but they only appear liberal by comparison to the extreme right.

NYT backed invading Iraq and said George W. was a good guy.

The establishment is not particularly evidence base when it comes to progressive causes (LGBTQ rights are an exception).

Just look at how they hype child sex trafficking fear (rare in USA) and use it to argue for keeping prostitution / sex work illegal.


Malcom Gladwell's article is better:


Humans have been smoking and eating weed for thousands of years. The data is in. It's plenty safe. Many times safer than the experimental drugs big pharma gets us and our kids on through it's pushers... i.e. psychiatrists. Where's the New York Times article on that?


berenson doesn't confuse causation with correlation. he's certainly bright enough to understand the distinction. what he does is intentionally conflate the two in the hope that the reader will draw the conclusion that marijuana causes violence. he's not so much an incompetent statistician as he is a moderately clever dissembler.


While, like alcohol and tobacco, there are associations with cannabis use and psychosis, causation has not been established. However, even IF we did assume that cannabis is an independent cause of psychosis, then it so rarely does that you would have to stop thousands from using it to prevent just one case:

"IF we assume that cannabis use plays a causal role in psychosis, it will be difficult to reduce psychosis incidence by preventing cannabis uptake in the whole population: an estimated 4,700 young men in the United Kingdom aged 20–24 years would have to be dissuaded from smoking cannabis to prevent one case of schizophrenia" [Hall 2014]

If cannabis was a significant cause of psychosis, then varying rates of cannabis usage over time in the U.S. and other countries should have a corresponding change in rates of psychosis in those countries, but they have not despite decades of increased use by millions:

"The most parsimonious explanation of the results reported here are that the schizophrenia/psychoses data presented here are valid and the causal models linking cannabis with schizophrenia/psychoses are not supported by this study." [Frisher et al. 2009]

"There was a steep rise in the prevalence of cannabis use in Australia over the past 30 years and a corresponding decrease in the age of initiation of cannabis use. There was no evidence of a significant increase in the incidence of schizophrenia over the past 30 years"
"Cannabis use does not appear to be causally related to the incidence of schizophrenia..." [Degenhardt et al. 2003]

"The current data do not support low to moderate lifetime cannabis use to be a major contributor to psychosis or poor social and role functioning in high-risk youth" [Auther et al. 2012]

One of the most important confounders is the fact that cannabis helps some people with schizophrenia, especially varieties high in cannabidiol (CBD), a cannabinoid which can treat and prevent psychosis:

"Additionally, CBD prevented human experimental psychosis and was effective in open case reports and clinical trials in patients with schizophrenia with a remarkable safety profile...These results support the idea that CBD may be a future therapeutic option in psychosis, in general and in schizophrenia, in particular." [Zuardi et al. 2012]

Correlation does not imply causality. There are many factors involved, including the fact that many with undiagnosed psychosis are self-medicating with cannabis. It is especially difficult to tease out this confounder when trying to establish causation.


In his WSJ Op-Ed, Berenson states,
“And last September, a large survey found a rise in serious mental illness in the U.S. too. In 2017, 7.5% of young adults met the criteria for serious mental illness, double the rate in 2008.”

There is a rise in the number of legal cannabis states. And, there is a rise of mental illness. Is there any evidence suggesting causation? Berenson states, “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.”

What else might account for the rise of mental illness in the 9-year period to which he refers, between 2008 and 2017? We’ve experienced the explosion of social media, with Facebook and YouTube on every device and in every teen’s hand. Worldwide, the number of young people ages 5-19 who are obese has increased ten-fold from 1975 to 2016. More people are living alone than ever before , there are more chemicals in the water and in the air. And, most of us are hostage to the unceasing 24-7 news cycle of climate change, war, the polarization of American politics, anti-intellectualism, Ebola, flesh-eating viruses, economic inequality, and fake news.

Is it really that surprising that we see a rise in mental illness in the U.S, especially in young adults?

Berenson’s suggestion that it’s simply cannabis legalization is specious and disingenuous—in fact, the percentages of young people using cannabis has remained stable, and in legal states, has decreased.

Berenson’s work promotes exactly the type of irrational mania that fostered and supported the legal framework of cannabis prohibition (a framework that has caused so much misery and produced such little good). His work has influence—especially when it appears in the NY Times, the WSJ, and on CBS News—because policy makers see these headlines, and because the article has a whiff of scientific validity, feel vindicated about prohibitionist laws.


what Timothy Byars said ^^^^


Never let the facts get in the way of disseminating an effective piece of hysterical rhetoric” ~~ The Prohibitionist’s Motto


@3 I don't think Gladwells article was good at all. He repeated tons of unscientific claims from the book in a very credulous manner. If you took out all the supposition and opinion his article would have been a page long.


I was relieved that the Wall Street Journal had a fairly sympathetic Letters to the Editor section in their Weekend edition. Now Berenson is Tweeting about the Sacramento murder, of course.


Berenson’s going to be bludgeoning people with Tweets whenever there’s an “axe murder” or driving fatality “linked to” marijuana use. He’ll be doing it every few days, indefinitely.


oh my god MEDIA ARE not MEDIA IS (yes i will DIE ON THIS HILL)


Drugs, along with sex, will always be a target for the irrational and hysterical.


@13 We will build you a nice little shrine when you go, but the media isn't going to cover it, sadly.


Berenson's book is likely wrong on many point. However, studies have consistently shown that chronic pot use does negatively impact people's mood, and increase measures of psychosis. All drug's have side effects. I am sure many of us know people that don't smoke for that very reason. Some tolerate side effects better than others, but we shouldn't ignore that they exist. While we shouldn't go back to the days of prohibition, we also shouldn't encourage/allow the current snake-oil advertising. As a public health matter: Pharmaceutical, Marijuana, Tobacco, and Alcohol ads should all be banned to the fullest extent possible.


To be fair, this isn't so much an east coast thing. I get a variety of MJ business magazines and I've seen these war on drugs relics trying to sow their world's coming to an end if it's legal fears in just about every state that's implemented medical, recreational, or both. It's more of a timing issue, with the book and some articles coming out around the same time.

And it's nice to see the naysayers claims get shot down, refuted, or put into proper perspective, another pattern I've seen repeated elsewhere. It's the war on drugs dinosaurs last gasps, folks, fear mongering is all they've got left because it's really the only tactic they ever had.


@16 - I call BS on those studies for the simple reason that if it impacted people's moods negatively, studies wouldn't be showing that cannabis can be used to treat depression. Being high is a better quality state of mind than being depressed. Speaking from personal experience, you don't have to be high all the time to keep depression at bay, some like me just need a little, while others might need more.

Millions of people use cannabis for a variety of reasons, if it were causing "measures of psychosis" on a mass scale, we'd be seeing headlines everywhere going back 50 years or so.

Is cannabis for everyone? No, there are people who don't tolerate aspects of the drug well or who don't have the experience and/or maturity. But the truth is, cannabis and human beings evolved together, so much so that our bodies are equipped with built in cannabinoid receptors.

This is why it works so well for so many people on so many different health issues. I work in the industry and I can tell you with much certainty that within 50 years, every home will have cannabis products of one kind or another in their homes, whether it's in the medicine cabinet, the kitchen, or bedroom.

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