State urged to reject idea cannabis has medicinal function

Author Alex Berenson links drug to violence and psychosis ahead of RCSI public talk

The legalisation of cannabis as a recreational drug in some US states has led to an increase in driving incidents and psychiatric admissions,  says Alex Berenson.

The legalisation of cannabis as a recreational drug in some US states has led to an increase in driving incidents and psychiatric admissions, says Alex Berenson.

 

The Government has been urged to “stand up for science” by rejecting the notion that cannabis can be considered a medicine.

“Governments don’t have to listen to public opinion when it comes to science. And the science on cannabis says it is not a medicine,” says Alex Berenson, the US author of a controversial book on the drug.

Most claims made for the medicinal effects of cannabis should be treated in the same way as the unfounded allegations made by anti-vaccine groups, he suggests.

Berenson, a former New York Times journalist, is due to speak at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) on Wednesday on “Cannabis and Youth Health – The Evidence”.

“Cannabis has been tested in more than 25,000 clinical trials around the world, and it does not work for almost any of the conditions it is supposed to help. We don’t pretend alcohol or garlic are medicines, so why should we pretend cannabis is?”

Recreational use

In his book, Tell Your Children, Berenson argues the recreational use of cannabis causes psychosis and this in turn leads to an increase in violent crime.

The legalisation of cannabis as a recreational drug in some US states has also led to an increase in driving incidents and psychiatric admissions, he says.

An employee manually trims medical cannabis plants in Ontario, Canada. File photograph: James MacDonald/Bloomberg via Getty Images
An employee manually trims medical cannabis plants in Ontario, Canada. File photograph: James MacDonald/Bloomberg via Getty Images

“In those US states, promises were made that violent crime would drop, that police would have more time to track serious criminals and black market dealing would end. It was claimed the legalisation of cannabis might reduce driving accidents, and would be a tremendous revenue source for government. Yet none of these things happened.”

Violent crime is up in the four states for which data is available since legalisation, he says, as are driving incidents and psychiatric admissions.

“Meanwhile, cannabis is a relatively small contributor to state budgets – about 1 per cent.”

War on drugs

In the often-fraught debate around cannabis, Berenson’s book has been criticised in the US for making a causal link between cannabis and violence.

Speaking to The Irish Times, he roundly rejects this criticism and insists there are “no errors” in the book.

As for the common assertion that legalisation is needed because “the war on drugs has failed”, he points out that most people do not use illegal drugs and that societies have successfully reduced their use of other substances, such as tobacco.

Berenson is speaking in a RCSI MyHealth lecture this Wednesday at 6.30pm, at RCSI, 26 York Street in Dublin. His talk will be followed by a panel discussion involving proponents of both sides of the cannabis debate.