Drug Law

Marijuana & Schizophrenics: Bad Mix?

| by Reason Foundation

By Jacob Sullum

FrumForum contributor Ron Hill, a New Orleans psychologist, rebuts David Frum's argument that pot should remain illegal because it may adversely affect schizophrenics who may end up killing people:

To suggest that marijuana should remain illegal because its use is contraindicated in some part of the population makes as much sense as arguing that alcohol should be illegal because its use is sometimes contraindicated as well. This is particularly true since deaths from marijuana are almost unheard of, yet alcohol misuse is directly blamed in the deaths of 79,646 Americans between 2001 and 2005, according to the CDC. I have also known bipolar patients to misuse caffeine and tobacco in an effort to bring on a manic state, at which point they may become a danger to themselves or others. Should tobacco and caffeine fall under tighter regulation also? Where does it end?

Keeping marijuana banned or toughening penalties for its use is not the solution for isolated acts of violence by alleged schizophrenics....

I'm a conservative because I believe government should use its powers only when necessary and only to the extent necessary to accomplish the limited responsibilities of the Federal government. My belief is the war on marijuana undermines one of the fundamental goals of conservatism: reducing the size and scope of the federal government.

Frum is wise to be concerned about the effects of marijuana and other mood altering drugs. I don't use or promote their use, but I'm also concerned about the drug wars influence on government spending and power. I just think there are other ways to deal with marijuana that would better minimize the problems associated with it without giving government more resources and greater powers to involve itself in the lives of its citizens.

Meanwhile, the reliably over-the-top "journalist and media critic" Cliff Kincaid, who suffers from a different sort of reefer madness, latches onto Frum's argument to support his own fantasy about a "Soros-funded marijuana lobby" that is "working overtime to try to draw media attention away from [Jared Lee Loughner's] addiction to the drug." His evidence: a single post on the subject by the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), which does not receive any funding from George Soros. NORML's executive director, Allen St. Pierre, says "the organization has not taken a single call from the media re any connection [between] cannabis and the Arizona shooting." Kincaid, director of the Center for Investigative Journalism at Accuracy in Media (no—really), also claims NORML "attacked" Loughner's main target, the gravely wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), two years ago. Judge for yourself.

Kincaid wants to talk about the connection between marijuana and schizophrenia—the incidence of which, as Maia Szalavitz notes in Time, remained stubbornly static even "while marijuana went from being a secret shared by a small community of hepcats and beatniks in the 1940s and '50s to a rite of passage for some 70% of youth by the turn of the century." But first he wants to make sure we know that "Weather Underground terrorist Bernardine Dohrn...declared marijuana and other mind-altering drugs to be weapons in the revolution" and that "Playboy founder Hugh Hefner was the early funder of the marijuana legalization movement."

Having noted the clear link between pot and revolutions both political and sexual, Kincaid says he can tell just by looking at a picture of Loughner—a tittering, red-faced pinko who "hated religion, listened to acid rock, and posted a link to an American flag-burning video"—that marijuana was at the root of his homicidal impulses: "A photograph of a smirking Jared Loughner, after he was taken into custody, seems to prove beyond doubt that he is seriously disturbed, as a result of prolonged drug use." Still don't buy it? To clinch his case, Kincaid cites an online comment from a pseudonymous reader of the St. Paul Pioneer Press who says "everyone who promotes marijuana as a good thing has blood on their hands." And you thought Kincaid was just making s**t up.