A book was released in 2019 called ‘Tell Your Children: The Truth About Marijuana, Mental Illness, and Violence’. In it, author Alex Berenson warns that THC, the compound in cannabis that gets you high, can cause psychotic episodes that in turn can end in violence.
Put simply, the book contains lots of cherry-picked data, sensationalised anecdotes, and a desire to find causative relationships where they don’t exist.
Alex Berensen is a throwback to the reefer madness propaganda of the 60s and another outdated proponent of the massively harmful “war on drugs”.
In order to set the record straight, it’s time to tell the truth about cannabis. Here are seven important points that give a clearer picture of the situation.
1. It’s legal for medical use in much of the world, including the UK
Cannabis has been legalised for medical use in the following countries: Argentina, Australia, Barbados, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Finland, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Lebanon, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malawi, Malta, the Netherlands, New Zealand, North Macedonia, Norway, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Rwanda, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, San Marino, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Thailand,, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Zambia, and Zimbabwe
The medicinal properties of cannabis are so undeniable that even the UK government has had to acknowledge them, legalising medical cannabis back in late 2018.
While it’s still difficult to get on the NHS, a number of private cannabis clinics have now sprung up around the country and thousands of prescriptions have been written and fulfilled.
More recently, in September 2020, two new cannabis cards were announced that were designed to help medical consumers avoid arrest by the police. While they offer no legal protection, the cards urge police officers to use their discretion when dealing with cannabis patients who produce them.
2. It doesn’t have to get you high
CBD oil has been unmissable over the past few years, making its way into health shops, supermarket shelves, local coffee shops and farmer’s markets. Chances are your parents would have heard of CBD.
However, CBD is just one of over 100 cannabinoids – with each offering their own unique properties. CBG, for example, is another cannabinoid with much therapeutic potential that is currently available in the UK.
While the science of these less common cannabinoids is very much in its infancy, many scientists and researchers are optimistic about the developments that studying these unique compounds will provide to the medical field.
Tell your parents that people use cannabis for a lot more than just getting high on THC. Most cannabinoids do not cause changes in perception like THC and some, like CBD, even have the ability to reduce the negative effects of THC, such as anxiety and paranoia.
3. You have an endocannabinoid system
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a very important bodily system that rarely gets discussed outside of the cannabis field. Although it’s relatively new to science, the ECS plays a role in regulating physiological and cognitive processes, including fertility, pregnancy, pre- and postnatal development, immune response, appetite, pain-sensation, mood, and memory.
It’s also how cannabis exerts its effects on us – cannabinoids found in cannabis, such as THC and CBD (there are over 100 more), mimic chemicals produced naturally by the body to stimulate receptors of the ECS.
The chemicals produced within the body are known as endocannabinoids and are a part of the body’s ECS. Anandamide, for example, has been found to be the cause of ‘runner’s high’ – the mood boost you get after exercise. THC mimics anandamide in many ways, which is why it can also boost your mood when used appropriately.
4. You don’t have to smoke it
If your parents have tried cannabis, it was probably a while ago and likely via a joint/spliff.
5. It can help with many aging-related conditions
Cannabinoids, including THC, have been found to offer a whole range of health benefits and to be useful in treating a number of conditions.
For example, cannabinoids have strong anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective properties that can help treat brain injuries and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, while it’s also effective for arthritis and some autoimmune conditions.
THC is also effective at treating some forms of epilepsy, while CBD has potential in treating mental health conditions including addiction and anxiety disorders.
Not only that, cannabis and cannabinoids are extremely safe and completely non-toxic. The only real danger is taking too much THC for your level of tolerance, resulting in a racing heart, possible palpitations and often intense paranoia or anxiety.
Serious issues are extremely rare and death is impossible from cannabis use alone.
6. It does not cause psychosis or mental health problems when used responsibly
One of the biggest myths your parents may adhere to is that cannabis use causes psychosis.
Now, while there is indeed a link present, that link has yet to be proven to be causal. There definitely are risks associated with chronic, high doses of THC – particularly during adolescence – however, healthy adults have little increased risk of mental health issues.
This is displayed by the fact that while cannabis use has increased in many populations, including the UK, the corresponding level of psychosis incidence has not.
Also, this recent study on twins suggests that THC use has little impact on rates of psychosis. Its authors conclude: “The results suggest this association is likely attributable to familial confounds rather than a causal effect of cannabis exposure.”
When used responsibly by a well-rounded and mature adult, cannabis is very, very safe. A lot safer than alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, aspirin, shellfish, peanuts, and getting in the bathtub.
Additionally, rates of cannabis addiction are low (around 10% of consumers) and can be massively reduced further with the concurrent use of CBD, safe methods of consumption, and mindful use. This book and this course can also help.
7. ‘Skunk’ is just a media buzzword
The term ‘skunk’ is nothing but a tabloid buzzword. In reality, skunk is just high-THC cannabis – you know, like the high-THC cannabis being prescribed by doctors in the UK and around the world.
Before the word was hijacked by fear-mongering journalists, skunk (or Skunk #1) was actually the name of a certain cultivar (or strain) of cannabis – no different to hundreds of other strains that have been developed around the world.
It was given its name due to its pungent smell, which resembles that produced by a skunk, just as Lemon Haze, another strain with high levels of THC, was named due to its citrusy stench.
It’s 2021 and about time cannabis use (and drug use in general) is talked about truthfully and maturely.
While it’s true that there are some risks associated with using high doses of THC regularly, they are often way overstated by old-school prohibitionists like Alex Berensen.
Ultimately, cannabis is a tool that has been very useful to humanity for countless generations. It is futile to try and banish it from the earth. Rather, let’s learn about it and educate each other on ways to maximise its positive effects and minimise its negative effects.
One way you can do that is by telling your parents the truth about cannabis.