Introduction to the Marijuana-Uses Blog by Lester Grinspoon

February 11th, 2010

Every age has its peculiar folly, and if Charles Mackay, the author of the mid-19th century classic, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, were alive today he would surely see “canabinophobia” as a popular delusion along with the “tulipmania” and “witch hunts” of earlier ages. I believe that we are now at the cusp of this particular popular delusion which to date has been responsible for the arrest of about 20 million US citizens. I also believe that future historians will look at this epic and recognize it as another instance of the “madness of crowds.” Millions of marijuana users have already arrived at this understanding.

For a short period of time in the 70s it was possible to believe that this “popular delusion” was beginning to lose it deeply embedded grip. Whatever the cultural conditions that made it possible, there was no doubt that the discussion about marijuana was becoming more sensible. We were gradually becoming conscious of the irrationality of classifying this drug as one with a high abuse potential and no value. It seemed to me that if that trend had continued, it was likely that within another decade marijuana would be sold and regulated in the United States in much the same way as alcohol.

We had reason to be optimistic at that time. In 1971 the National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse, appointed by President Nixon, had recommended the elimination of penalties for possession of marijuana for personal use and casual non-profit transfers of small amounts. In 1973 Oregon had become the first state to decriminalize marijuana, making possession of less than an ounce a civil offense accompanied by a small fine. In 1975 Alaska had eliminated all penalties for private possession and cultivation of less than 4 ounces. President Carter had endorsed decriminalization, as had the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Bar Association, and the National Council of Churches. By 1977 most states had reduced simple possession to a misdemeanor, and by 1980 11 states had actually decriminalized possession.

Unfortunately, this trend did not continue and the marijuana reform movement peaked in the late 1970s. In 1978 Dr. Peter Bourne, the White House drug advisor who helped President Carter move toward reform, resigned and was replaced by Lee Dogoloff, a hardliner. Under President Reagan the government instituted a program of “zero tolerance.” By 1983 it was spraying the dangerous insecticide Paraquat on domestic marihuana crops and using military methods to uproot cannabis plants and arrest growers in northern California.

In 1987 Supreme Court nominee Douglas Ginsburg had to withdraw under pressure because he had smoked marijuana as a law professor. In 1989 under President George H.W. Bush, the federal government began Operation Green Merchant; it confiscated lists of people who had ordered indoor plant-growing equipment and raided their homes. The first Bush administration also worked hard to persuade Alaska to recriminalize marihuana possession and succeeded in 1990. That same year Congress passed a bill calling for federal transportation funds to be withheld from states refusing to enact a six-month suspension of the automobile licenses of people convicted of marijuana possession.

It is important to remember that these increasingly harsh government measures (and the growing hysteria of anti-marijuana citizens’ groups) did not reflect any new knowledge about the dangers of this drug. The more than a third of a century since the publication of the first edition of Marihuana Reconsidered has produced remarkably little laboratory, sociological, or epidemiological evidence of serious health or social problems caused by marijuana.

The present attitude of the government and anti-marijuana crusaders bears the same relationship to reality that the film Reefer Madness bore in 1936. But the dissonance is even more striking now, because we know so much more. Since 1971 millions of dollars have been spent by the National Institute of Drug Abuse to study the dangers of cannabis. This vast research enterprise has completely failed to provide a scientific basis for prohibition. Although evidence against the alleged toxicity continues to accumulate, the federal government persists in escalating its war on marijuana use, and to justify this policy it continues to distort, stretch, and truncate research findings to an extent worthy of Procrustes. One of the prices of the present level of enforcement is the growing number of annual marijuana arrests (872,000 in 2007), with enormous collateral costs.

In 1971 I pointed out in Marihuana Reconsidered that since cannabis had been used by so many people all over the world for thousands of years with so little evidence of significant toxic effects, the discovery of some previously unknown serious health hazard was unlikely. I suggested that the emphasis in cannabis research should be shifted to its potential both as a medicine and as a tool to advance our understanding of brain function. Although few government resources have been committed to either of these fields, there have been compelling developments in both.

In 1990 researchers discovered the first of two receptors in the brain stimulated by tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). This exciting discovery implied that the body produces its own version of cannabinoids for one or more useful purposes. The first of the cannabinod-like neurotransmitters was identified in 1992 and named anandamide (ananda is the Sanskrit word for bliss). Cannabinod receptor sites occur not only in the lower brain but also in the cerebral cortex, where higher thinking takes place, and in the hippocampus, which is a locus of memory.

These discoveries raise some interesting questions. Could the distribution of anandamide receptor sites in the higher brain explain why so many marijuana users claim that the drug enhances some mental activities, including insight, creativity and fluidity of associations? Do these receptor sites play a role in marijuana’s capacity to alter the subjective experience of time? What about the subtle enhancement of perception and the capacity to experience the physical world with some of the freshness and excitement of childhood? Today there is a large research enterprise focusing on what is now called the endocannabinoid system, promoting an increased understanding of how the brain functions and the remarkable diversity of mental and physical capacities catalyzed by cannabis.

When I first began to study marijuana in 1967, I naïvely believed that its only use was as a recreational drug. I soon came to understand that it also had a second important utility, as a medicine, and I published (along with James B. Bakalar) Marijuana, the Forbidden Medicine. Just as penicillin, after its discovery as an antibiotic in 1941, was soon hailed as a wonder drug because of its limited toxicity, its versatility in treating a number of different kinds of symptoms and syndromes, and its limited cost, we believe that marijuana, for the same three reasons, will eventually be hailed as a wonder medicine. Over the last decade and a half I have come to believe that there is a third category of marijuana use –enhancement. The three categories are to some degree overlapping.

The use of cannabis as a recreational drug is well known. Recognition of its usefulness as medicine has been growing rapidly over the last decade and a half, so much so that pharmaceutical companies are now investing large sums of money in their attempts to develop patentable cannabinoid-analogs that they hope will compete profitably with herbal marihuana (presently the medicinal cannabis gold standard), which, as a plant, cannot be patented.

Because most of marijuana’s powers of enhancement
are not as immediately available as its capacities for fun and medicine, this third category is the least recognized and most underappreciated. While some facets of this capacity, like the lifting of mood and the enhancement of appetite and sexual experience are obvious to almost everyone who has succeeded in getting high, its more portentous expressions may provide deep insights which have led to significant life-changing personal growth.

Locating and exploring this category of the usefulness of marijuana requires more familiarity with the cannabis psychoactive experience than casual use provides, and some learning may be required. The learning involves exploring one’s own stoned mental possibilities and capacities, and knowing something of what other people have achieved.

As with the other two major categories of cannabis experience, there appears to be, as evidenced by these essays, a great variety of cannabis catalyzed enhancement experiences. Some are so subtle that it is understandable that some nonusers may be skeptical or consider these claims illusionary, just as many continue to believe the same about the medical claims and demand “double-blind controlled” studies to prove the countless anecdote-driven claims of the many medicinal uses of cannabis. And just as the patient with multiple sclerosis, for example, who gets better relief for muscle spasm and pain will not wait for controlled studies to affirm his or her experience that marijuana is more useful and safer than the conventional medicines used to treat these symptoms, users who find cannabis useful to their creative capacities, for example, will not wait for some sort of good housekeeping seal of approval.

This blog is meant to supplement the essays (Read) in an attempt to convey the fullness of the concept of this kind of enhancement and the richness of its potential.

The Meaning of Life Without God by Aristopus

March 7th, 2009

If humanity is going to continue to evolve, the traditional orthodox religions must be dismissed as indefensible mythology. Religion has kept us in the Dark Ages long enough. The time has finally come because nature has been strained to her limits. She is at carrying capacity right now. Religions continue to encourage runaway population growth at exponential rates such that millions die of starvation and preventable diseases every year. War is no longer a feasible answer to population control.

Even worse, religion indoctrinates subjects to believe that the world is coming to an end, so it doesn’t matter what we do to Gaia, she’s a lost cause anyway. The endmeme (see my video on the “endmeme” on Youtube) is the most dangerous and treacherous idea to ever escape from Pandora’s Box. How can we hope to survive when the vast majority of the Earth’s citizens believe God’s wrath hangs over us like the Sword of Damocles?

All human beings are on the same boat, a cruise ship sailing through space. We’re passengers on “a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam,” as Carl Sagan describes it.We all face the same dismal fate bar none: nothingness.

But our sad existential fate doesn’t have to ruin our lives. We can ward off pessimism by a positive attitude. Instead of focusing on the vastness of the cosmos and our evident insignificance, we can concentrate on the sunbeam. We can appreciate the sheer luck of living at the intersection of the unimaginable fifteen-billion-year-old timeline of the cosmos and our own meager lifespan. An average lifespan seems like a long time but geologically it’s a millionth of a second. We’re ephemerons like mayflies. Every second of our life is precious.

That being so, it looks to me like the hippies of Woodstock Nation had it right. The purpose of life is to have fun—SEX, DRUGS, and ROCK ‘N’ ROLL. For me, it’s Sex, Pot and Art (Verdi and Puccini, Wagner and Richard Strauss, Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich; Rembrandt and Vermeer, Monet and Renoir, Picasso and Rouault), not that I have anything against rock ‘n’ roll. Classical music and the paintings of the great masters bring me to a sublime consciousness, so beautiful it makes all the suffering of life worthwhile.

There’s no doubt in my mind that pot increases the keenness of the senses, but more importantly, our feelings toward one another and nature.

The first time I went to the opera was at the old Met on Broadway—the majestic building, the souls of greatness along the statuary of the Grand Promenade, the chandeliers slowly ascending to the heavens like ethereal muses watching over and protecting the starry-eyed audience.

That grass increases sensitivity and feeling is inarguable. The first opera I saw was the following. The chance that two of the greatest stars ever should meet is incalculable. I was a hippie at the time and could identify with Rodolfo the poet, and when Tebaldi described the joy of watching the sun rising over the rooftops of Paris, I was imprinted with ecstasy like a baby duck. Listen for it in the second part of her famous aria. Musically you can see and feel the sun rising in a marvelous crescendo. Her presence transforms from the demeanor of a humble, modest seamstress into a confident and queenly goddess. No modern-day cinema superstarlet could possibly emanate the joy, innocence and compassion of Tebaldi. Opera is happening when you watch it and you’re in the same auditorium. There’s a palpable human vibration that flows between stage and audience. Movies take this interaction away.

Cerebral acupuncture, that’s what it was, and marijuana was the anesthetic that relaxed the cells of the parietal lobe for the high-pitched sonic needle.

The physical pleasure of listening to opera and classical music became my favorite pastime, and I continued going to the opera for the next 50 years to this very day. I was there when Maria Callas and Giuseppe DiStefano flew into town to sing at Carnegie Hall. It seemed crazy to me that the stereotype of grass at the time was reefer madness. I didn’t become a dope fiend, I wasn’t aggressive and bellicose, I didn’t become a sociopath: With some good ganja, I loved to go to the opera.

I believe that if everyone in the world shared this worldview—that art is humanity at its most sublime, and life is fleeting and meaningless— there wouldn’t be so much violence. Picture an army recruiter telling his hippie customer, “Your life has just begun but we need to kill our enemies, don’t we? You’ll be respected and honored by friends and family. But everything’s a trade-off. There’s a chance you won’t come back but if that happens we’ll wrap your coffin in colorful flag, shoot rifles in the air, make sad sounds with a bugle and say prayers to a non-existent God. Wha-dya say?”

Anybody who gave this proposition some thought would recognize a no-brainer. “Sorry, Doc. Your offer would be cool if I had nine lives like a cat. Or if there’s an afterlife where I could enjoy eternal bliss. But I don’t think so.”

If the rulers of the world shared this view of life I don’t believe humanity would be suffering in war and pestilence. With all their money and power, they’d be too busy living life to the fullest: getting high, experiencing the ecstasy of playful sex and loving companionship, enjoying the geniuses of music, painting and literature. It would only a matter of time before the alphas figured out a way for everybody to live in harmony with each other and nature. The love of life would be so great that presidents couldn’t even bear the thought of aggression against other countries or of committing atrocities.

If humanity is to survive, the average joe has to tell the local politician, the parish priest, the corporate bully, “Look, you do your thing and I’ll do mine. Just have fun and enjoy your life, don’t hurt anybody, and don’t pollute our beautiful planet. Paradise could be right here and now, if the human intellect emerges from the soul of mankind and dominates the world.”

As in the fairytale, when Beauty kissed the Beast—the beast being our evolutionary baggage, our phylogeny—the beast was transmogrified into a handsome prince.

[More on this subject at or]

"Legalize Pot on Religious Grounds" by Goscicki

February 22nd, 2009

Pardon me if I banter Christians more than the other organized religionists; I’m a product of the Catholic school system from grammar school to Boston College. The other religions are equally as farfetched. It’s just that I’m better acquainted with the doctrines of the church than the conventions and convictions of Judaism or Islam.

I rejected religious ideas at a very early age. The fables were too unbelievable, even to a seven year old: Jonah living in the belly of a whale; Adam and Eve chatting with that slimy, duplicitous snake; Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego hopping out of the furnace and scaring the piss out of mean King Nebuchadnezzar. Jesus thrashing the money changers for doing business in the temple was another one; He should at least have been as non-violent as Confucius or Buddha, methinks. What a tragic example he set by condoning violence when morally offended. How many fanatical soldiers lost their lives fighting while morally vexed —even in foreign lands where they didn’t belong?

In high school the fundamental concepts of Christianity perplexed and irritated me: An omnipotent being creates a peculiar ape that disobeys and offends him. He is angry and his feelings are hurt. So He wills that his only son transmogrifies into a peculiar ape and gets tortured by His brutish, bloodthirsty creation. All so God could appease himself.

So my first argument for legalized pot is to appeal to the country’s sense of fair play. Weed is to my religion what Holy Communion is to Catholicism. Communicants are told to believe bread and wine are the actual body and blood of Christ—no symbolism, we’re talking about real meat you can chew on. That’s okay. If they want to make believe they are sanctified and blessed by carrying the lord around in their bodies, that’s fine. It’s far out but à chaqu’un son gout. It’s a free country.

But grass has a tangible, perceivable effect on my brain at the molecular level. Neurotransmitters get stimulated and turned on. The basal ganglia and the limbic system in all of us— including other mammals—are rich in CBI receptors. These receptors are essentially absent in the medulla oblongata, the part of the brain stem that is responsible for respiratory and cardiovascular functions. There is no risk of respiratory or cardiovascular dysfunction as there is with many other drugs. CBI receptors appear to be responsible for the euphoric and anticonvulsive effects of cannabis.

The high’s quite real and I feel euphoric. Tetrahydrocanabinol is a euphoriant. At this very moment I’m as high as a GPS satellite, observing and enjoying earthly phenomena with godlike fancy. I’m listening to the glorious Camille Saint-Saens Organ Symphony, and at the organ’s grand entrance in the third movement, I feel I’m standing at the portals of heaven. Order, peace, harmony, reason. Art is the human intellect at its most sublime. The high leads me to believe that heaven on Earth is possible for all human beings once we shirk the stultifying effects of mine-controlling ideolgy and we resume evolving. Unlike Holy Communion, where the communicants feel a self-delusionary, make-believe high, there is an actual change of consciousness on grass.

I’ll never forget the first time a smoked some good weed. It was the time of Woodstock Nation, John Lennon, Allan Ginsberg and Bob Dylan. A psych major from NYU’s class of ’66 marched to the beat of different drummer, that’s for sure. When I witnessed how people acted on TV commercials—deranged by consumerism—I felt like I was from another planet.

Twenty-six years old, standing on the banks of Lake Willoughby in the lovely, rolling Green Mountains of northern Vermont. A kaleidoscope of chlorophylls and carotenes tickled my retina with shimmering light—earthy colors of rust and yellow, brown and beige, every shade of red that sunrays could irradiate. The leaves on the far embankment seemed to sparkle in the midday sun. The glinting crests of tiny wavelets on the lake blended with the leaves so as to present a panorama of continuous light—like a Monet or Cezanne.

As a NYC boy, the amorphous lake was the most beautiful natural beauty I had ever seen. Before that day, Central Park was the most beautiful nature I had ever experienced. The rise in consciousness was palpable.

On a nearby white birch tree, a lazy squirrel hung by his hind claws. Dangling upside down, propped up on his elbows, he confidently held an acorn like a kid with a bag of popcorn in front of a TV. He wasn’t afraid but with my delightful high I could absolutely determine he was wondering what I was doing there emitting such a peculiar ropy smell. I felt a holy communion all right, but with the living— mammal to mammal, each enjoying life in our own way.

Grass increases one’s connection with nature. I hesitate to make a blanket statement but it sure does for me and many people I know. The image of the squirrel stayed with me nearly fifty years.

Along Foliage Road on the other side of the lake, a dump truck intruded into my personal heaven. It hissed, growled and devoured the sleepy country road. The sounds were threatening and a conspicuous intrusion into the peacefulness of the lake. Over the tops of the tree, I could make out in the back of the truck plastic pipes and rubber tubing, flailing and whirling in all directions like the snakes of Hydra’s hair. The monster was undoubtedly headed for some construction site to devastate scenery as lovely as this.

Poor Earth.

With grass, the indoctrination and conditioning of school melt away like chains of ice. I didn’t passively accept that the driver had to earn a living. I viewed the lake and thought of Henry David Thoreau. What would he say about the dump truck meeting up with bull dozers and other earth movers? What misguided powers have preordained the truck to invade my idyllic reverie? Powers far-away, in glass and aluminum, cubical skyscraper offices. They have no idea what they are doing because they forfeited feeling for Lake Willoughby. Their religions have numbed their sensibilities and ability to empathize with nature and the biodiversity of life. Love and respect that belongs to Nature are diverted to a hallucinatory Moloch.

“Religion,” an interesting etymology. “Re,” of course, “again” or “back.” But “lig” refers to a tying, as in “ligature.” We’re talking about a reconnect, but unfortunately for humanity the retying has been to human organizations with bank accounts, presidents, boards of directors, real property and an army of working professionals. The Mother Church has usurped love and devotion that belongs to nature.

I felt like grabbing the truck driver (the logger, construction worker, land surveyor) and getting in his/er face: “Look, man, with all due respect, you don’t know what you’re doing. Think of how unfeeling and robotic you have to be to mutilate the land itself. What kind of people would devastate our nation’s ineffable natural beauty in favor of strip malls and shopping malls, chemical plants and plastic factories? You need to reconnect. Hop out of your mental cage and smell the wildflowers—the bars of the cage are all in your head.”

As I stared across the shimmering lake, a chilly New England breeze made me feel the hair on my arms and blood streaming faster down my legs. A dappled rock bass jumped a few yards away.

How wrong and sad it is that the truck driver pays respect, homage and love to a non-existent g
od rather than Nature. If he weren’t sidetracked by mythological, conditioned beliefs, he’d probably be getting high, enjoying the beauty of nature and art, striving to be a good person and caring about generations to follow. We grew out of the planet; there’s no doubt about it to a bio teacher. The wellbeing of all future life depends powerfully on how well we understand the cosmos and planet from which we arose abiogenetically (without parents) and evolved.

Now nearly fifty years after Lake Willoughby, Carl Sagan urges a new religion based on our perception of the cosmos as revealed by science. Instead of the writings of ancient goat-herders and fishermen, we need a religion based on information revealed by telescopes and microscopes, computers and spacecraft sent to the outer reaches of the solar system.

I dreamed of a new religion when I fantasized about scolding the truck driver. Weed can be our holy eucharist. Instead of each person mutely receiving a sterile wafer, people of a New Age religion will pass around a joint thumb to thumb and rap about philosophy, science and art, instead of maintaining humiliating silence with simulated piety. They’ll actively participate; they’ll be the religion because they are real. Instead of making sacrifices, they’ll share a peace pipe and have fun listening to music, perhaps enjoying views of nature by a pristine mountain lake.

How about John Lennon for the hippie religion’s first martyr and saint?

James Dean could be John the Baptist, urging the young not to repent but rebel. How wrong it is for professional clerics to teach kids that they are born in sin; how ungrateful to the serendipity of evolution to inculcate students with the belief that sex and their naked bodies are shameful and dirty.

Bob Dylan could be the first prophet.

Okay, maybe Dean shouldn’t be John the Baptist and John Lennon the first voice in the wilderness. Imagine there’s no religion at all. What difference does it make? It’ll be a disorganized religion. Some days we’ll meet on Wednesdays at 10 am, some nights on Tuesday at 11 pm. Who needs dogma and rituals? A disorganized religion belongs in a free country.

Churches and synagogues could be converted into community centers where lovers of the human condition congregate to have fun and get to know one another. Let’s produce plays and bring back poetry instead of watching TV. Let’s play our own game of baseball instead watching overpaid cheaters. Enjoying educational and humanistic activities is more beneficial to the community than listening to the same tiresome sermon week after week. Education makes you a better person.

(Please note: I’m not talking of any seizure of property. I’m speaking about the legal sale of church property due to lack of interest by the public—or when the churches are asked to pay their fair share of taxes.)

A 1960s song title: They called for a war and nobody volunteered. They called for a mass and nobody was interested.

Visionaries don’t care how unpopular or farfetched their ideas. I know humanity can not go on worshipping plastic idols forever: we are reproducing exponentially as millions starve every year. Every religion exhorts its following to spawn as many babies as possible. The planet is at its carrying capacity right now. It’s certain Gaia eventually will have enough of this nonsense and refuse to take any more abuse from the apish bipeds. If unbridled reproduction continues, Gaia will punish mankind’s imagined self importance and contemptible arrogance. Most of the world’s religionists have the delusion that we have some privilege in this vast cosmos other than our humble and limited consciousness.

As far as the slippery-slope argument goes, people don’t become homeless winos from a sip of burgundy. THC isn’t chemically related to the hard drugs. It’s not even close in composition. Legal oxycodone and its derivatives like Oxycortin and Percocet are chemically closer to heroin than marijuana. They are addictive and scientifically- documented depressants to the central nervous system. Plus there are terrible side effects like constipation and lethargy. With grass you can’t even overdose because you’ll pass out and wake up in the morning without even a hangover.

Denis Miller asserts in one of his gigs, “If Prozac and marijuana went head to head as the drug of choice, Prozac would lose.” Pot is illegal because Big Pharma wants it that way and wastes millions on bogus organizations like Partnership for a Drug-free America and DARE. Money that could have been used fixing up inner city schools or sheltering the homeless.

To present evidence that marijuana is not a source of disease, I end this post with a link to an interview last year with my friends Dr. Lester Grinspoon of Harvard and radio host, Lynn Thompson of Living on

As far as psychological addiction goes, I’m reminded of the late comedian Bill Hicks’ comment about Art Linkletter’s kid who jumped out the window. “Dork, why did she have to ruin it for everybody?” (Ironically, toxicology tests confirmed there was no evidence of LSD usage.) Just because something is good doesn’t mean you have the right to abuse it. We recommend responsible use. I’ve been smoking nearly 50 years but only on special occasions like parties or an opera. I don’t even like the sight of needles.

Perhaps President Obama at the 2012 Democratic Convention will repeat the words of FDR in ’32: “This convention wants repeal. Your candidate wants repeal.And I am confident that the United States of America wants repeal.”

But he’ll be talking about grass instead of booze. Just ask the eighty million of our citizens who have tried grass with zesty inhales.