Key elements of marijuana study missed

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Your report of Wayne Hall’s recent review of marijuana use fails to adequately describe the “regular” users for whom he discusses risks. Nowhere do you say what percent of all users are included in “regular” users, nor do you say what percent of all users fall into the “regular” category.

For him to say that “regular adolescent cannabis users have lower educational attainment” sounds scary to those who do not know that the he defines “regular” users as those who might smoke three to five joints a day, typically smoking every day. They do not represent the majority of all users, by far.

Crucial too, is the question of what percent of all users are ever regular users. By the American Psychiatric Society’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders criteria for dependence, the author says that 9 percent of those who ever use marijuana will at some time be “dependent” on it. He only mentions in passing that 15 percent of those who have ever used alcohol will at sometime be dependent on alcohol.

No one versed in the epidemiology and risk assessment of cannabis will claim that it is without risk. But at the same time, the professional literature is fraught with exaggeration regarding marijuana use, starting as far back as Harry Anslinger’s fanaticism and the classic movie, “Reefer Madness.”

If A.M. Costa Rica is to publish this side of the issue, then please, to prevent bias, tell us about the horrendous criminal sanctions imposed on thousands of people whose only crime has been possessing and using this drug. Tell us how Black and Latino users go to prison, while white male adolescents get sent to forced treatment, which which most of them do not need. Tell us about the enormity of the correctional system in the United States, the force behind criminalizing health problems.

Be fair, A.M. Costa Rica.

John French
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