The January 5, 2019 issue of the Wall Street Journal included a piece by Alex Berenson entitled “Marijuana Is More Dangerous Than You Think.” It is based on an upcoming book Tell Your Children: The Truth About Marijuana, Mental Illness, and Violence. Berenson argues that legalization of marijuana has resulted in increased violence and mental health problems. He uses crime statistics from 2013 (before legalization of recreational cannabis) and 2017 from Colorado, Washington, Alaska, and Oregon to make his point. Berenson claims that murders in these 4 states increased from 450 to 620; and that aggravated assaults increased from 30,300 to 38,000.
If these numbers are accurate, there are many possible reasons for the increase in violence. Marijuana may not be involved. Berenson expresses concern about an increase in people who use marijuana heavily – defined as 300 days out of 365. His assumption seems to be that these people are all using it “recreationally.” Many medical patients also use cannabis (marijuana or hemp) in order to get daily medication.
His more troubling assertion is that the increase in heavy marijuana use is contributing to mental illness as well as violence. He builds on the fact that paranoia is a well-known side-effect of THC. A paranoid person certainly could strike out violently. CBD, on the other hand, has been found to decrease paranoia in many marijuana smokers.
There is research that has found an association between marijuana use and psychotic symptoms. If you have been diagnosed with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder you may want to avoid marijuana. Hemp seems to be very different. The hemp form of cannabis contains mostly CBD and CBD may actually treat psychosis. A 2018 full review article is pretty dense but interesting.
Industrial hemp is legal in all 50 states of the U.S. and many other countries. Some former marijuana smokers are reporting that they now enjoy smoking or vaping hemp flower instead. No paranoia, no intoxication – just relaxation and pain relief. Maybe you should make the switch?
[Edit 1/10] The Seattle Times reported that cannabis researchers are taking issue with the WSJ article and a similar one in the New Yorker.
Of course nobody should go off any medication because they think that CBD would work better. This is early research.