In his book released in January 2019, “Tell Your Children: The Truth About Marijuana, Mental Illness, and Violence,” Alex Berenson attempts to incite fear over the supposed devastation marijuana wreaks on mental health. But this self-described prohibitionist gets it wrong. He blends a lack of perspective with lazy research interpretation and cherry-picked statistics to make several specious claims. Rather than contributing to thoughtful debate, his work is a polemic based on a deeply inaccurate misreading of science.
This is a problem, because it is critically important, as we consider marijuana policies, that we understand the harms associated with both marijuana use and its prohibition. We know that marijuana can be associated with certain health risks, such as cannabis use disorder, and that it can impact the development of teenage brains. We also know that prohibition makes it impossible to regulate the content, labeling, packaging or distribution of marijuana—increasing health risks. And we know that prohibition has caused devastating social consequences.
Distorting the facts, like Berenson’s book does, risks contributing to a continuation of policies that have been deeply damaging to the health and wellbeing of millions of people in the US.