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Comments on
Lester Grinspoon, Cannabis, & the Media
by Leora Lawton
Jul 22, 1993
Originally archived on Usenet
Tsk. Those foolish kids, throwing their lives away on that dangerous drug marijuana. Maybe they would pay attention to another voice, one based on scientific research, psychiatrist Lester Grinspoon reasoned.

Fired with his mission, Grinspoon embarked on a three-year investigation of cannabis, emerging with a changed perspective. "I came to understand that I had been brainwashed like the rest of the country," said Grinspoon, who is now on the staff of the Harvard Medical School.

Grinspoon wrote a widely discussed book in 1971 about the conversion of his thinking and in May his latest book, "Marihuana, The Forbidden Medicine," was released by Yale University Press.

[stuff about his speech and a free, public conference in Denver this weekend deleted]

Although the (colorado) state law allows cannabis to be used for medical reasons, federal law prohibits its sale in any form but a derivative capsule. It is prescribed to reduce the nausea of cancer paitents undergoing chemotherapy, to reduce the nausea of AIDS patients and to relieve the symptoms of glaucoma.

Although there is little medical use of marijuana in Colorado, that is because other, more effective drugs are available and not because regualtions make the drug unavailable, said Donn Fox, spokesman for the Drug Enforcement Administration office in Denver.

The DEA has completed a three-year study on whether to loosen restrictions on cannabis, Fox said, and found no support from any "bona fide" medical association in the U.S.

"The argument could be made that groups such as NORML are using the medicinial marijuana issue in an attempt to legitimize marijuana in our society," Fox said.

Grinspoon responds that cannabis should be legitimized, but that takes nothing from its medical value. If the pill derivative is less effective than other drugs, he said, that is because it works better as a cigarette than a pill.

Now, he said, he is convinced the only rational approach is to treat marijuana like alcohol.

"If I had to make a choice, I would far rather have someone use marijuana than alcohol," Grinspoon said. "It's less toxic physically and its behaviorial toxicity is vastly different--people don't get aggressive and abusive when they use marijuana.

"There is no such thing as a harmless drug," Grinspoon said, "but marijuana is far less harmful than either alcohol or tobacco. I believed rather naively that once people understood that, it would be legalized within 10 years. Marijuana doesn't make its users behave irrationally, but it certrainly makes non-users behavior irrationally." [great line!]

Grinspoon said he does not believe marijuana is addictive, although it is more harmful to the lungs than tobacco smoke. Studies of users, however, have shown that unlike cigarette smokers, they only smoke until high and then stop, he said.

Attitudes are changing, Grinspoon said. Massachusetts last year became the 35th state to legalize the medical use of marijuana. Oregon reduced penalties for marijuana use to a fine in 1973. In the Netherlands, marijuana is easily available and seldom penalized, Grinspoon said.

He believes the U.S. government will eventually decriminalize the plant.