Marijuana Is Here to Stay

In 1967, because of my concern about the rapidly growing use of the dangerous drug marijuana, I began my studies of the scientific and medical literature with the goal of providing a reasonably objective summary of the data which underlay its prohibition.

Much to my surprise, I found no credible scientific basis for the justification of the prohibition. The assertion that it is a very toxic drug is based on old and new myths. In fact, one of the many exceptional features of this drug is its remarkably limited toxicity. Compared to aspirin, which people are free to purchase and use without the advice or prescription of a physician, cannabis is much safer: there are well over 1000 deaths annually from aspirin in the United States alone, whereas there has never been a death anywhere from marijuana.

In fact, when cannabis regains its place in the US Pharmacopeia, a status it lost after the passage of the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, it will be seen as one of the safest drugs in that compendium. Moreover, it will eventually be hailed as a “wonder drug” just as penicillin was in the 1940s. Penicillin achieved this reputation because it was remarkably non-toxic, it was, once it was produced on an economy of scale, quite inexpensive, and it was effective in the treatment of a variety of infectious diseases. Similarly, cannabis is exceptionally safe, and once freed of the prohibition tariff, will be significantly less expensive than the conventional drugs it replaces while its already impressive medical versatility continues to expand.

Given these characteristics, it should come as no surprise that its use as a medicine is growing exponentially or that individual states have established legislation that makes it possible for patients suffering from a variety of disorders to use the drug legally with a recommendation from a physician.

Unfortunately, because each state arrogates the right to define which symptoms and syndromes may be lawfully treated with cannabis, many patients with legitimate claims to the therapeutic usefulness of this plant must continue to use it illegally and therefore endure the extra layer of anxiety imposed by its illegality.

California and Colorado are the two states in which the largest number of patients for whom it would be medically useful have the freedom to access it legally. New Jersey is the most restrictive, and I would guess that only a small fraction of the pool of patients who would find marijuana to be as or more useful than the invariably more toxic conventional drugs it will displace will be allowed legal access to it. The framers of the New Jersey legislation may fear what they see as chaos in the distribution of medical marijuana in California and Colorado, a fear born of their concern that the more liberal parameters of medical use adopted in these states have allowed its access to many people who use it for other than strictly medicinal reasons. If this is correct, it is consistent with my view that it will be impossible to realize the full potential of this plant as a medicine, not to speak of the other ways it is useful, in the setting of this destructive prohibition.

Marijuana is here to stay; there can no longer be any doubt that it is not just another transient drug fad. Like alcohol, it has become a part of our culture, a culture which is now trying to find an appropriate social, legal and medical accommodation. We have finally come to realize, after arresting over 21 million marijuana users since the 1960s, most of them young and 90% for mere possession, that “making war” against cannabis doesn’t work anymore now than it did for alcohol during the days of the Volstead Act.

Many people are expressing their impatience with the federal government’s intransigence as it obdurately maintains its position that ” marijuana is not a medicine”. Thirteen states have now decriminalized marijuana. And, beginning with California in 1996, another 15 states and the District of Columbia have followed suit in allowing patients legal access to marijuana, and others are in the process of enacting similar legislation. These states are inadvertently constructing a large social experiment in how best to deal with the reinvention of the “cannabis as medicine” phenomenon, while at the same time sending a powerful message to the federal government. Each of these state actions has taken a slice out of the extraordinary popular delusion known as cannabinophobia.

Perhaps in part because so many Americans have discovered for themselves that marijuana is both relatively benign and remarkably useful, moral consensus about the evil of cannabis is becoming uncertain and shallow. The authorities pretend that eliminating cannabis traffic is like eliminating slavery or piracy, or eradicating smallpox or malaria. The official view is that everything possible has to be done to prevent everyone from ever using marijuana, even as a medicine. But there is also an informal lore of marijuana use that is far more tolerant.

Many of the millions of cannabis users in this country not only disobey the drug laws but feel a principled lack of respect for them. They do not conceal their bitter resentment of laws that render them criminals. They believe that many people have been deceived by their government, and they have come to doubt that the “authorities” understand much about either the deleterious or the useful properties of the drug. This undercurrent of ambivalence and resistance in public attitudes towards marijuana laws leaves room for the possibility of change, especially since the costs of prohibition are all so high and rising.

It is also clear that the realities of human need are incompatible with the demand for a legally enforceable distinction between medicine and all other uses of cannabis. Marijuana simply does not conform to the conceptual boundaries established by twentieth-century institutions. It is truly a sui generis substance; is there another non-toxic drug which is capable of heightening many pleasures, has a large and growing number of medical uses and has the potential to enhance some individual capacities?

The only workable way of realizing the full potential of this remarkable substance, including its full medical potential, is to free it from the present dual set of regulations – those that control prescription drugs in general and the special criminal laws that control psychoactive substances. These mutually reinforcing laws establish a set of social categories that strangle its uniquely multifaceted potential. The only way out is to cut the knot by giving marijuana the same status as alcohol – legalizing it for adults for all uses and removing it entirely from the medical and criminal control systems.

Lester Grinspoon, M.D. is Associate Professor of Psychiatry, emeritus, at Harvard Medical School and the author of Marihuana Reconsidered and (with James B Bakalar) Marijuana, the Forbidden Medicine.

Dr. Grinspoon recently endorsed the Regulate Marijuana like Wine Act of 2012 to legalize marijuana in California. Read more on Cannabis Culture



  1. Guitarod on

    That was a great article. Unfortunately it would scoffed at by North American governments. Science or logic does not apply towards Cannabis Prohibition. While we are led to believe that Canada and the USA are free countries, this does not apply to millions of their tax paying citizens who use cannabis medicinally or recreation ally. We are still being persecuted and prosecuted to the full extent of the law. In Canada the punishment will become mandatory with Bill C-10 soon coming into effect by our unpopular majority government.
    Common sense and justice will prevail eventually. Not under the current Harper government though.

  2. Anonymous on

    Why is Lyme Disease Not JUST a Tick-Borne Disease Any More?
    Posted By Dr. Mercola | February 05 2012 | 20,240 views

    By Dr. Mercola
    Some experts feel that almost everyone has been exposed to Lyme disease and may have it in one way, shape or form.

    Whether that’s true or not is up for debate, but clearly there are those who have it and are severely disabled by it.

    Dr. Klinghardt—who is one of my earliest mentors in natural health and always on the leading edge—has actually suffered with Lyme disease himself, and as a result, he’s passionate about finding effective natural treatments for Lyme.

    The Ongoing Discovery of Lyme Disease

    It’s now been fairly well-established that chronic infection is an underlying factor in most chronic illnesses. Diseases such as Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis and chronic fatigue are all turning out to be expressions of chronic infections.

    “Right at the center of that is the ongoing discovery of Lyme disease,” Dr. Klinghardt says.

    Lyme disease has recently received a new definition. It now refers to illnesses transferred by insects, as opposed to simply a tick-borne disease. Mosquitoes can carry Lyme disease and many other serious infections, as can spiders, fleas and mites.

  3. Anonymous on


    Apologies for the low dollar mark for return on the greatest crime in our history. We need to move forward. The denial of the settlement sets up the war for reclaiming our sovereignty as to establish any rational living security. As a collective society we are in a situation of clear choice.


    Nothing like some nuclear mist and MRSA in the sand to help spread the story in Indy.
    MRSA ‘superbug’ found in ocean, public beaches
    San Diego Nuclear Power Plant Shut Down After Leak Discovered

    Cannabidiol and (?)?9-tetrahydrocannabinol are neuroprotective antioxidants
    A. J. Hampson,*† M. Grimaldi,‡ J. Axelrod,* and D. Wink§

    Autism And Lyme Disease Are Connected, Lyme-Induced Autism Study Finds

    Cannabis plant extracts can effectively fight drug-resistant bacteria.

    Antibacterial Cannabinoids from Cannabis sativa


  4. moldy on

    We need more good men like Dr. Lester Grinspoon.

  5. Leaf Lancelot on

    Yes, Paul Pot, Considering the rut too many other notables are in, Dr. Greenspoon’s writings are really helpful.

    However there is still no really good reason for Dr. Greenspoon to have been so slow in getting this message back in the 1960’s. It should not have taken him this long to come along especially since he knew and was influenced while he was at Harvard, by Dr. Richard Evans Schultes who was one of the greatest pioneers for cannabis, the plant (not a drug) to become more accepted.

    Dr. Greenspoon knows better than to call marijuana a drug. Dr. Schultes was on a much higher level at Harvard than Dr. Greenspoon since Dr. Schultes was the Director of HARVARD UNIVERSITY’s Botanical Museum and was wonderfully effusive to every one who would listen to him while they were (in many way) a captive audience at Harvard.

    Calling marijuana a drug is still incorrect. It is a plant and at best could be classified as a herb.

    Real drugs are fundamentally manufactured by humans.

    Marijuana should not be placed in the drug category because it is used in its natural state. For Dr. Greenspoon to still be calling it a drug diminishes the value of his article.

    Absolutely correct again Paul Pot, marijuana must be allowed to flourish like the free plant it is. The example of it responding to being treated well also opens people to knowing that then they can grow any plant if they give it the same kind of loving attention people really do and (love to) give to pot…

    … along with the research that is being done by private individuals (with anything) leads to awesome uses and discoveries.

    We really do not have to hear about the “Unfortunately, because each state arrogates…” or that he continues to compare it to alcohol (and other real drugs).

    Just like cigarettes are very different from alcohol so is marijuana very different to each of those manufactured products. It is always been lame to try to compare them.

    … and if we think we are impressed with how many young people have been arrested that is nothing to what is going to soon be happening to seniors who really know how to use it (and there sure is a lot of them).. and the reason(s) that it really works for all ages and especially people into their senior years is because of how many ailments marijuana relieves and/or cures. No kind of tobacco or alcohol fits in the same category or conversation on super positive and/or spiritual levels like marijuana.

    Dr. Greenspoon speaks like this is a revelation to the world. All the real good news about marijuana has been out there (in force) since the early 1960’s and it was thanks to the people who were impatient then (and not just those now) that the revolution is in full swing. We won this war long ago and just have to finish cleaning up what we started.

    Thanks again Dr. Greenspoon we’re all glad you’ve finally gotten some good years in having to started to come forward more and more seriously, however as mentioned you’ve still got a way to go because of you saying “it will be impossible to realize the full potential of this plant as a medicine, not to speak of the other ways it is useful, in the setting of this destructive prohibition.”

    (Please Dr. Greenspoon you can do much better than saying “…other ways it is useful” It is not just some few other ways… please try thousands of ways etc. etc. I know you could sharpen your points on this a lot more Dr. Greenspoon. We wish you would. It would be much appreciated.

    Please Dr. Greenspoon let go of the idea it is enough for you to be participating with a walk in our parade. We invite you to do more because we know you can and we see that every 15 or 20 years your opinion is more liberal… so keep coming on and take a real shot of being liberal considering what you experienced thanks to that person you knew long ago (Dr. Schultes who accomplished in the name of us all..

    … making history since more people also understand that “Nothwithstanding the point of view from which anyone approaches the subject of this plant (not drug), history loves having these informations which are recorded in our libraries on human behaviour so that now’s and future generations will know and understand how and why they are as healthy as they are and as spiritual as well.

    We would like you (Dr. Greenspoon) to take it a lot more easy and take a load off you… (figuratively speaking) on this issue, because our parade has some wonderful floats and you would be welcome to ride on them as much as you like and enjoy a toke while you’re up here too, with us who really would love it if you could be even more forthcoming with the idea of a cottage industry so people can share more the information that is so educational that comes to us from cannabis in so many entertaining ways.

    Thanks again.

    Leaf Lancelot.

  6. Anonymous on

    WOW – the news is spreading like a wild fire in the mind among the largest organizations of vets in America – the occupation center movement on earth – the martial arts circles – along with the NFL players wives association – figuring?


    HELL FIRE GLORY – prohibition to peace

    Wednesday, February 1, 2012 10:58 AM


    [email protected]



    Subject: Fw: HELL FIRE GLORY – prohibition to peace
    To: [email protected]
    Cc: [email protected]
    Date: Wednesday, February 1, 2012, 9:18 AM

    Capturing content for the fire phase of this great conflict resolve – all prayers are needed as many give all in this battle for joy!

    Starbuck’s promotes Ancient Aliens Season 3 Episode 7 – Aliens, Plagues & Epidemics HD

    Hello to all,

    Being a student of hope with love of our collective humanity – this communication ranks with the communication sent from a three mile island employee regarding the need to fix the cooling system which led to one of our greatest known ecological disasters that pales in comparison to this email notice pleading for a future in which there is a possibility for much more joy and productivity among the living.

    Some help with understanding our collective situation is about to be on the counter top with coffee all around the planet.

    Of course there is a list of all who have been noticed in communication. Thus those who were noticed will be held to some accountability for helping resolve this great crime against the living.

    War is a reality of life.

    I am showing you the caliber of mind that is invisioned to manifest the clarity necessary for joy to return to our living planet. Brother the rivers will run red as wisdom is eternally born of blood.

    Ron Fricke is an American film director and cinematographer, considered to be a master of time-lapse photography and large format cinematography. He was the director of photography for Koyaanisqatsi (1982) and directed the purely cinematic non-verbal non-narrative feature Baraka (1992). He designed and used his own 65 mm camera equipment for Baraka and his later projects. He also directed the IMAX films Chronos (1985) and Sacred Site (1986). His most recent work was as cinematographer for parts of the film Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (he was hired to shoot the eruption of Mt Etna in Sicily for use in scenes of the volcanic planet Mustafar). The sequel to Baraka, Samsara, was released in 2011. Fricke writes about his work: “I feel that my work has evolved through Koyaanisqatsi, Chronos and Baraka. Both technically and philosophically I am ready to delve even deeper into my favorite theme: humanity’s relationship to the eternal”.

    Lets see what is chosen – accepting that there is alien life and intelligence or paying for the greatest crime in our living history. Does anyone care about their history of work credit – we will see this is quite certain.

    To: [email protected]
    Date: Monday, January 30, 2012, 4:42 AM


    Watch Ancient Aliens Season 3 Episode 7 – Aliens, Plagues & Epidemics HD

    From the History Channel comes “Aliens, Plagues & Epidemics” which is the 7th episode of Ancient Aliens season 3.

    The History Channel originally aired this episode on the 8th September 2011 in the United States.

    If you have not seen previous episodes for this series, please read our articles and watch the episodes for Season 1 Season 2 Season 3

    Some themes covered in this episode are:

    •Scientists are continually challenged by unidentified strains of bacteria with mysterious origins.
    •Could some of our most crippling plagues and epidemics be traced to the darkest voids of space–or even extra-terrestrial intervention?
    •During the Black Death of the Middle Ages, people reported bronze flying ships emitting a strange mist.
    •As recently as 2011, NASA scientist Richard Hoover published evidence of life in meteorites.
    Is it possible that ancient aliens–as small as microbes–have shaped human history?


    Howzit – working on the content deal for the 2012 rock the world with key wisdom docu action science drama along with identifying key positions for future production and distribution as the world needs to heal.
    What is required for people to come together consciously for their own benefit. Ano Ano: The Seed–The Classic Trilogy by Kristin Zambucka enlightens the audience to the core wisdoms of Hawaiian Spiritual Traditions. The title is quite fitting for the circumstance of present and the forum for the discussion as the consequence of a citizens incarceration for providing the greatest wisdom for increasing joy and comfort during the passage of birth old age sickness and death will be embraced within an appropriate consequence in time.

    Hence a great consideration to understand our collective situation is of the highest priority. Marc Scott Emery brings the wisdom of the seed. Jesse Ventura provides the clarity of the unlawful biological war used against North America in the Plum Island Conspiracy via TRUtv along with the Independent movie “Under Our Skin” showing the horrors and criminal results of this very sophisticated organic weapon empowered by the Marijuana prohibition.

    Thus the question of personal self respect and positions of response are forced upon collective society who choose to fight for any intelligent right to life.

    How ironic and necessary is it that the Cannabis Culture Crew is thurst into the position to play Citizen Cop to fix the greatest crime in our living history.

    In Western society we use money to reflect values — where is the money supporting intelligent living citizens prosecuting left over Hitler assassin doctors working for a captured administration?







    The Illegal Herb that Fights Cancer
    Posted By Dr. Mercola | May 07 2011 | 420,850 views

    The Medical Miracle You’ll Get Arrested for Using
    Posted By Dr. Mercola | November 26 2011 | 255,598 views

    By Virginia T. Sherr 7-31-05

    Lyme borreliosis is a brain disease as well as a multisystemic disease caused by spirochetal bacteria.* Quite frankly, it is an infection that has been burdened with a thousand inaccurate medical diagnoses. The manner in which the current pandemic of tertiary Lyme disease, neuroborreliosis, has usually been handled— either angrily dismissed or strangely misdiagnosed–throughout the 30 years following its “discovery,” has blemished the historic excellence of modern American Medicine.

    Special to AOL News
    (May 28) — We’re in the midst of a terrifying epidemic, although you wouldn’t know it to talk to most doctors and health specialists.

    The disease is growing at a rate faster than AIDS. From 2006 to 2008 alone, the number of cases jumped a whopping 77 percent. In 2008 alone, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention listed 28,921 “confirmed” and 6,277 “probable” cases of the disease, but there could be as many as 420,000 because of underreporting.

    Prominent victims include Parker Posey, Richard Gere, President George W. Bush, Alice Walker and Christie Brinkley.

    If any other disease had stricken so many people, the medical community would be scurrying for knowledge, scrambling for cures or rushing to warn patients (think swine flu).

    But more important is the need for public health community to treat this disease like the epidemic it is, and start putting real resources into educating the public and the medical profession about how to identify it, treat it, and prevent it.


  7. Bernard Boulay on

    Marijuana is here to stay.What a beautiful title for an article.The author of this article is MD degree,associate professor of psychiatry and emeritus professor.In recent years as research progressed more and more voices from the scientific and medical community have been heard on the usefulness of cannabis.
    A lot of damage has been done by the prohibitionists throughout the years to the reputation of cannabis.This damage will be felt unfortunately for decades and decades to come.Many people with serious diseases and not so serious ailments have found a lot of comfort using cannabis.
    My question then is this : when will the elected politicians of this world who are supposedly there to represent the will of the people who elected them democratically, I say when will those politicians come to grip with marijuana and simply just legalize it.Politicians unfortunately seems to have a mind of their own not based on science objective facts and reality but on old antique laws. This is 2012 and I am very disturbed by all the hypocrisy surrounding marijuana and by this never ending drug war that split up families,destroy lives and young ones who go to prison.Obama by his stupid laughing at marijuana question is the incarnation of the perpetuation of this prohibitionist philosophy.

  8. Paul Pot on

    Wow what a great article. Awesome to hear someone else who thinks this too.
    As judge Francis Young said ‘the safest therapeutically active substance known’, potentially less harmful than potatoes.
    Cannabis is something very special that has grown very close to people over a long time. It really responds to being looked after. As a result, the diversity and potential in the cannabis plant is enormous. The only way to exploit that is by allowing everyone to grow it freely. Only with many growers will we be able to keep the many varieties. It will be a cottage industry. And one of the nice things about cottage industries is that people tend to do things better than big companies do and wealth is distributed more evenly throughout the community. The gardeners shall inherit the herb and will form a kind of club to keep the strains its lore and share that knowledge with spiritualists, healers and the sick. Only in true freedom can people gather reliable information for scientific and medical purposes resulting in the best outcome for everyone. This also has the added benefit of returning income and people to rural communities.

    Please also consider that alcohol should likewise not be heavily regulated. The current regs we have are actually a compromise remnant of prohibition. The restrictive taxes and limitations on alcohol production make it unviable as a cottage industry, which it should also be. The loss of small scale alcohol production is also an economic burden on rural communities and left us all dependant on fossil fuels and corporations. Alcohol can be used for fuel, plastics and cleaning products and more, all produced locally but the companies have a strangle hold on all that. Through prohibition, taxes and regulations our governments effectively sold out to the corporations and handed them control of the economy.

    A world without the drug war is a world without the CIA and their drug funded covert actions that destabilise nations just so that corporations can have access to resources at slave market prices. The drug war has resulted in police forces being twice the size they should otherwise be, and they did not stop the drugs, they just became corrupt on the massive sums of money they were put in charge of controlling. We have had a hard enough time keeping corruption out of developed nations, the rest of the world had no hope, so they all ended up with top heavy, corrupt police forces. Is it any wonder most of the worlds nations are police states. We can ‘occupy’ all we like but until we address the drug war, the state and the companies remain firmly in power ready to topple any emerging democratic state or sweep aside any individuals that stand in the way of profits.

    Opium too should be fully legalized so that it grows everywhere like a weed as cannabis should. For those who want to use it, it should be freely available to smoke with the least processing. Smoking in it raw form is highly unlikely to lead to OD as the smoker will be unconscious long before ingesting enough to cause harm. Asia was happily smoking the opium pipe until the drug war forced the economics of heroin on the drug scene there. If you just look at the statistics, cannabis and opium are two of the safest drugs of all and yet two of the most effective medically, yet most of the world is desperately lacking in both for genuine medical use. This results in agony and trauma for the weakest and most frail in out community. Imagine an old lady in India crying her eyes out with breast cancer day and night, never sleeping just crying like a baby till a long slow death finally brings her the only option for relief left available to her. Cry with her here
    We are not allowed to medicate and not allowed to euthanize.
    We are slaves of the cruelest fascist state.

    Prohibition does not work. It is a state of war against the weak, the dying, and our own nature and it creates fear and division within our community. As such it is a crime against humanity.

    Yes indeed. Completely free the fine herbs like they used to be.