I was dismayed and horrified to read Bertha Massoffi’s letter to the editor last week (“Missing the Point on Marijuana,” August 1, 2019) in which she posits that legalizing recreational marijuana is what is best for us as a society. Ironically, she refers to a book authored by a former “New York Times” investigative reporter (“Tell Your Children: The Truth About Marijuana, Mental Illness, and Violence,” by Alex Berenson) as being filled with “propaganda, and fear-mongering,” while stating, incredulously, that there is “much evidence showing the effectiveness of marijuana as an exit drug from opioids, hard drugs and alcohol abuse.” Let’s set the record straight with facts, rather than agenda-driven suppositions.
Fact: The only pharmacological evidence-based and FDA approved treatments for opioid addiction are methadone and buprenorphine. In fact, notwithstanding the legality of “medical” marijuana in many states, marijuana/THC is not approved by the FDA as a treatment for any purpose, and has not gone through the rigorous tests and studies required of every prescription medication. Studies that have been done show marijuana having little to no medical benefit for any condition (other than, perhaps, chronic pain associated with end-stage cancers, and chronic nerve pain associated with Multiple Sclerosis). In terms of other uses, marijuana has been shown to have similar effects on pain as Tylenol, ibuprofen or a few stiff drinks.
Fact: Berenson’s book cites scientific studies that show a causal effect between early use of marijuana and serious mental illness. If citing scientific studies that show the real risks and dangers of marijuana usage is “propaganda and fear-mongering,” then maybe we need a little more propaganda. I highly recommend Berenson’s book – it’s a quick read and is truly eye-opening, particularly if you are a parent.
Fact: According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, marijuana use by children and teens is unhealthy, dangerous and can lead to many issues, some of them chronic and lifelong. These issues include problems with memory and concentration, increased aggression, use of and addiction to other drugs or alcohol, risky sexual behaviors, worsening of underlying mental health conditions including mood changes and suicidal thinking and increased risk of psychosis. Given that we now know that the frontal cortex of our brain continues to grow and develop until age 25 or 26, these risks extend far beyond the teenage years.
Predictably, Ms. Massoffi ends her letter by creating an equivalency between alcohol and marijuana. Using our country’s failed attempt at outlawing alcohol as a reason to legalize marijuana is a drumbeat often echoed by the well-funded and profit-driven legalization lobby. Marijuana is not alcohol. By legalizing marijuana we are making this harmful substance more accessible to our children and messaging to them that it is “safe.” I, for one, am not willing to lose any more of our children as a result of the desire of some to “light up” legally.Etiel Forman
Co-Founder, Communities Confronting Substance Abuse