By "Radical" Russ Belville on January 21, 2011
I knew it would only be a matter of time before Joe Califano and the Center for Substance National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University would get around to blaming the mass shooting in Tucson, Arizona, on Jared Loughner’s cannabis use:
There has been plenty of media and talking head attention to the weak gun laws that allow purchase of automatic weapons and super size ammunition clips. There has been story upon story, and comment upon comment, bemoaning how easy it was for this mentally deranged young man to buy such a gun and ammunition clip. And the reporting about the twisted mind of Jared Lee Loughner and his erratic behavior has been extensive.
But I haven’t seen press reports or talking heads discuss their concern about how easy it has been for this mentally ill young man to get marijuana. And there has been no mention of the potential of marijuana to spark latent psychosis and exacerbate schizophrenia and other mental illnesses.
So as we continue to think about this killer and his deranged mind, we should be asking this question: Is Jared Loughner an individual whose psychosis was prompted or exacerbated by the use of marijuana?
Gee, Joe, what do you think we ought to do? Make marijuana illegal? Lock up people who use it? Break down their doors at night and shoot their dogs? Use helicopters and infrared to eradicate the plant wherever it’s grown? Throw billions at American and Mexican law enforcement for armor and weapons to fight its traffickers? Train dogs to sniff it out? Drug test employees, high schoolers, even middle schoolers to detect its use?
Because all that was in effect when Jared Loughner acquired his cannabis. Arizona hadn’t yet passed medical marijuana. Arizona already had felony statutes on the books for sales and possession.
The facts are that 1% of the population exhibits schizophrenia, whether it is 1979 and 60% of high school seniors have tried marijuana or it is 1992 and 33% have tried it. A study of 186 UK mental hospitals found no increase in schizophrenia or psychosis admissions, despite use rates of cannabis increasing greatly during that decade. (Read up on all my coverage of studies showing cannabis-using schizophrenics have better cognitive functioning, how THC may help schizophrenics, how schizophrenia has not increased with cannabis use increasing, and more in our Stash Schizophrenia Archive.)
Scientists are undecided about cannabis and mental illness. THC is highly psychoactive, so that cannabinoid may exacerbate psychoses. But CBD is shown to mitigate psychoactivity and reduce psychoses. Many schizophrenics self-medicate with cannabis for the benefit of the CBD. If so, it’s more argument for legalization, so users would have a labeled product and know the THC:CBD ratio, instead of buying underground and hoping for the right genetics.
Sorry, Joe, 100 million Americans know cannabis is relatively safe from direct experience. They won’t believe your scaremongering anymore.