Recently, I attended a public showing of the documentary “The Other Side of Cannabis: Negative Effects of Marijuana on Our Youth.” The film has been traveling across the state, sponsored by local drug awareness groups to stimulate public discussion of potential marijuana legalization in Vermont. The film might more accurately be subtitled “Reefer Madness 2.0” — one-sided, highly exaggerated, spouting the same old, long discredited “facts” about marijuana use. It was so reeking in fear and paranoia that I thought I had been whisked back to 1936 when “Reefer Madness” first hit the movie screens and America’s first “drug czar,” Harry Anslinger, claimed that marijuana produces in its user “insanity, criminality and death.” That was pretty much the story line here, along with several other standard myths tossed in, including “marijuana is a gateway drug,” “marijuana leads to psychosis,” “marijuana will ruin your life,” and my favorite, “marijuana induces amotivational syndrome” — the new scientifically sounding way to say “lazy pothead.”
These myths were advanced as the reasons the eight or nine individuals profiled in the film had such negative experiences with marijuana. Their experiences and their pain were real, and it’s important to understand why some people are susceptible to negative effects with many substances. But this tiny, selected sample does not represent the larger population of marijuana consumers in the U.S. (Forty-nine percent of Americans have tried marijuana, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey.) They represent a very small segment of the population who are predisposed, either genetically or psychologically, to dependency or “addiction” to marijuana. It is important to know that some within the larger population have a predisposition to alcoholism, diabetes, obesity or food allergies. This, however, does not justify prohibition for the majority.
I give the film a “thumbs down” for — among other things — the use of fear-mongering to eclipse reason.