Marijuana: The Unbiased Truth About the World’s Most Popular Weed

Image of Marijuana: The Unbiased Truth about the World's Most Popular Weed
Release Date: 
March 31, 2015
Hazelden Publishing
Reviewed by: 

“a very valuable resource for those who want to understand this problem and move beyond rhetoric to reality.”

The 1936 movie Reefer Madness provided a lurid depiction of the evils of marijuana consumption. Today, the pendulum has swung 180 degrees and marijuana is seen as an innocuous drug that is often considered to be less harmful than alcohol.

Hill explores the social, medical, and political issues associated with marijuana use to bring the reader a realistic assessment of the current situation regarding marijuana usage. From its use for over 5,000 years as a medical treatment in a number of cultures to its prevalence today, marijuana has been the topic of countless conversations and misinformation.

Marijuana provides an honest assessment of this complicated topic from a professional who has dealt first-hand with the issue.

One of the most interesting sections of the book deals with marijuana myths.  Hill looks at three prevalent misconceptions about marijuana: (1) marijuana is not harmful, (2) marijuana use cannot lead to addiction, and (3) stopping use of marijuana does not cause withdrawal.  

In each case Hill draws on both his clinical experiences and the scientific literature to point out the errors of each myth. He makes a strong case for marijuana harming the brain (especially in teens), for marijuana being an addictive substance in every sense of the word, and for cessation of marijuana use producing many of the same withdrawal symptoms as other drugs.

Going somewhat against popular conventional wisdom, Hill candidly discusses the issue of marijuana addiction. First, he tells it like it is: Marijuana can be addictive. Some 9% of adults and 17% of adolescences in America are addicted to marijuana —about 2.7 million people today. Second, he describes cases that he has seen in his medical practice. Third, he outlines treatment options for those dealing with the addiction.

The addiction problem is real, and Hill shares his experiences in diagnosis and treatment in a caring and very helpful way. Treatment involves both pharmacological intervention and counseling to deal with the background issues that make marijuana use appealing to an individual. Dealing with the withdrawal from the drug is often difficult and frustrating, so group support is a vital component of any treatment effort.

Decriminalization and legalization are complex topics with no clear solution. Currently, Colorado and Washington are the only two states that have legalized the drug, with Oregon looking at similar legislation. The road has been a rocky one in both states—Colorado is currently being sued by neighboring states because of the overflow of marijuana usage into those states and the alleged harm that has come as a result. The state of Washington is currently wrestling with a number of issues related to marketing and usage, as well as detection of impairment. In both states, the problem of underage use has become even more critical as marijuana is more accessible. Hill explores in detail the problems associated with making marijuana legal and regulating its availability and use.

Some of the complexities of medical vs. recreational marijuana can be seen when the situation in the state of Washington is explored. In 1998, citizens voted to allow medical marijuana for use in treating certain medical conditions. This vote led to the development of a largely unregulated industry that had little in the way of quality control or other oversight.

Currently, little is known about how many people in the state use “medical” marijuana, how many healthcare practitioners prescribe it, and how many dispensaries are open to provide the drug.  

More recently, a referendum was passed that allowed recreational use of marijuana under fairly tight limits. Currently, two systems exist at the same time, and state legislators are struggling with how to meld the two categories of users (and collect the taxes that were promised as a part of the recreational referendum campaign).

The bibliography at the end is not comprehensive, but does provide a number of useful references for those who wish to pursue these topics further. Most of the publications are from professional journals, but government and other sources are also cited.

From the relatively low levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) found in the plant in the 60s (between 2–3%) to the much higher concentrations (up to 20% or more) found in today’s plants, the impact of marijuana and its effects on behavior are still being evaluated. Numerous scientific reports are appearing that demonstrate measureable deleterious effects on brain development and function, especially among teenagers. In light of all the discussion and controversy, Marijuana provides a very valuable resource for those who want to understand this problem and move beyond rhetoric to reality.