Letter: Opposition to medical marijuana ignores science

From: Edward Cherlin


We have had two opinion pieces recently in opposition to medical marijuana and legalizing marijuana more broadly in Indiana. Both are marred by using cherry-picked data in opposition to the real science on the question.

  • Andrea Neal, “States with legal pot offer Indiana a warning”
  • Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill, “Don’t legalize marijuana in Indiana”

I cannot go through the science in detail here. It is easy to find the basic arguments and data on both sides if you really want to know, and are not just a partisan in the bubble. I will just note that the “most rigorous review to date” that Neal cites is meaningless, a review of 10,000 abstracts of published papers, but not of their methods, data or findings.

Opposition to marijuana in the U.S. was originally based on anti-Mexican racism, just as opium was used to demonize the Chinese, and cocaine to demonize blacks. The classification of marijuana on Schedule I, along with the most addictive opioids, has never had any scientific justification. It was merely a pretext for locking up undesirables. It still is.

This is a symptom of a larger problem in our society. It goes back to Creationism in support of slavery and Jim Crow, lead denial, DDT denial, acid rain denial, tobacco denial and many other forms of science denial. Each came to life in the service of financial and economic interests, no matter what the damage to human life and the environment. Now the great battle is over global warming.

Except that in real terms, the global warming battle is over. The markets that the Right professes to love so much have spoken. We passed Peak Coal in 2013. More than 190 countries agreed to the Paris Accords, which President Trump objects to. That puts us in the company of Syria and no other country in the world. Nicaragua originally did not sign up because it wanted a stronger agreement, but it has since joined.

The anti-scientists have lost every one of these battles. Creationism hangs on in churches whose leaders publicly lament their ongoing decline. Renewable energy is now cheaper than coal, and unstoppable.

And so is marijuana, no matter how much its opponents stand on the shore ordering the tide not to come in. The other side can delay it by lying and obfuscation, but the public is coming to understand that that is what they are doing, just as it did in all previous versions of this debate.