Ron Hill does a pretty good job of responding to David Frum’s piece over at FrumForum with this more thoughtful Even If Reefers Cause Madness, They Shouldnâ€™t be Illegal
Hill makes it clear that he’s no fan of marijuana
David Frumâ€™s post on marijuana and schizophrenia has inspired much debate and criticism, yet his statement that marijuana use is associated with an increased risk of developing schizophrenia is correct. Itâ€™s also true that continued marijuana use may help trigger future psychotic episodes among those suffering from this serious brain disease.
Frum makes some valid points about marijuana and government policy; and I donâ€™t endorse its use.
If that’s all you read, you’d think that it’s a full-throated endorsement of Frum’s bizarre and untimely piece, but it’s not. Read the whole thing.
Here’s an important part of the difference between the two. Both Frum and Hill say that marijuana is “associated” with schizophrenia. Both Frum and Hill seem to understand that “associated with” is not the same as “causation.” (That’s already a quantum leap above most casual commentators.)
But where Frum disregards even the plain reading of the article to which he links, Hill goes a step further and really tries to understand the uncertainty of the science:
Keeping marijuana banned or toughening penalties for its use is not the solution for isolated acts of violence by alleged schizophrenics (due to the genetic factor in schizophrenia, these individuals appear to have been at high risk of experiencing a psychotic episode regardless of whether they smoked marijuana).
Itâ€™s also possible that a person who is developing schizophrenia may begin using marijuana to self medicate during the prodromal stage of schizophrenia â€“ meaning, the earliest phase of a developing condition. In this instance, the developing schizophrenic mind may precede the marijuana use; with marijuana used to cope with the effects of internal changes in brain functioning prior to what many call a psychotic episode. This would make it appear that marijuana hastened or â€œcausedâ€ the psychotic episode as the disease is often not diagnosed until after the first such episode. In this scenario, marijuana use may be a warning sign that someone may be developing schizophrenia, rather than a contributing factor in the schizophrenia.
Itâ€™s also possible that marijuana use is one of many factors that mix with genetics to trigger schizophrenia in those already genetically predisposed to it. Yet even if this is the case, it doesnâ€™t justify the need for a continued expensive war on drugs financed by the taxpayers and the resulting government intrusion into the private lives of citizens.
Even more important than the uncertainty of the role of marijuana in the tiny fraction of the population that has schizophrenia is the ridiculous notion of using that to validate marijuana laws.
But 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…
Final thought. We know next to nothing about the Tucson shooter. We don’t know the specifics of any mental illness he may or may not have (everything I’ve read is amateur conjecture). We know very little about his specific drug use or patterns. We know absolutely nothing about his drug use and its supposed connection to the act in question. And even if we knew all of those things with certainty, it would be absolute lunacy to craft public policy for everyone based on him.