Blog Post

What Not To Tell Your Children: Five Things Alex Berenson Gets Wrong About Marijuana

Drug Policy Alliance

Have you heard about former journalist and conspiracy fiction writer Alex Berenson’s new book? It’s cleverly titled “Tell Your Children: The Truth About Marijuana, Mental Illness, and Violence,” playing on the famous line from the 1936 propaganda film “Reefer Madness” and just as ridiculous in its claims.

Berenson’s book is the latest attempt by fear mongers to derail marijuana legalization efforts based in evidence and is riddled with inaccuracies, lazy research interpretation, and cherry-picked statistics used to make incite fear about the supposed devastation marijuana wreaks on mental health.

Distorting the facts risks contributing to a continuation of policies that have been deeply damaging to the health and wellbeing of millions of people in the US.

“This sort of alarmism has been around since the earliest days of prohibition, but Berenson is resurrecting it at a critical time, when the public and policymakers are increasingly moving toward responsible regulation of marijuana,” said Maria McFarland Sánchez-Moreno, DPA’s executive director.

Here are five key points Berenson gets wrong about marijuana:

  • Berenson relies on junk science – he cherry picks data, conflates correlation with causation, and relies on data tainted by sampling bias
  • Berenson ignores the vast, racially disproportionate harms of marijuana prohibition  
  • Evidence overwhelmingly demonstrates that legal regulation has significant benefits for public health and safety
  • Prohibition has stymied marijuana research – and Berenson wildly mischaracterizes what the research has shown
  • Decriminalization does not do nearly enough to reduce the harms of marijuana prohibition

Prohibition means that states have no ability to control products’ content, purity, potency, or accessibility to young people,” Sánchez-Moreno continues. “It also means derailing hundreds of thousands of lives – overwhelmingly black and brown – every year with marijuana arrests. By contrast, states that have legalized marijuana for adult use are increasingly showing that regulation is an effective way to protect public health and safety.”

Get the Facts!

Learn more in our latest whitepaper What Not to Tell Your Children: Five Things Alex Berenson Gets Wrong About Marijuana.

Read the transcript for the Marshall Project virtual roundtable where DPA discusses and debates the book's claims Berenson and other expert panelists.