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Marijuana Myths Marijuana Facts
by Lynn Zimmer & John P. Morgan
Publisher:
Lindesmith Center 
Year:
1997 
ISBN:
0964156849 
Categories:
Book Reviews
Reviewed by Kymmco, 3/5/2001

Marijuana is highly addictive. Marijuana is a gateway drug. Marijuana is more potent today than in the past.

These are a few of the twenty common assumptions about marijuana that Lynn Zimmer, an Associate Professor of Sociology at Queens College, City University of New York, and John Morgan, physician and Professor of Pharmacology at City University of New York Medical School, examine in their current release Marijuana Myths Marijuana Facts. Zimmer and Morgan devote a chapter to each of these ‘marijuana myths’ in which they examine the existing scientific evidence to see whether these assertions hold true. Their conclusion, on almost all counts, is a resounding no.

The book, the first release from the drug research foundation, The Lindesmith Center, is exhaustively researched, with about one-fifth of the volume taken up by references. However, the text is written in a very simple, nontechnical style. It is not, by design, a scientific treatise, but rather a summary and analysis of existing research. Therefore, it is valuable both as an overview for parents, educators, or anyone wanting an introduction to the subject, and as a great reference tool for serious drug policy researchers.

The authors definitely have an agenda, and they acknowledge this up front by saying that they set out to “promote discussion of less punitive [drug] policies… by presenting the facts about marijuana.” They achieve this most effectively when they take much cited claims used in antidrug campaigns and show us exactly where the statistics come from. For example, in the chapter on Marijuana, Sex Hormones and Reproduction, Zimmer & Morgan quote the publication “Marijuana: Tips for Teens” published in 1995 by the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention. This pamphlet includes the oft-repeated claim that “marijuana …. [causes] lower sperm counts and difficulty having children in men.” This is a belief that is widely accepted, even by some marijuana users and activists. So where does the evidence come from? Well, it turns out that these claims stem from a 1974 study conducted by a researcher named Robert Kolodny in which he reported that frequent marijuana users had lower sperm counts than occasional users. However, subsequent research has failed to repeat these findings. In fact, in a 1979 study, men spent thirty days in a closed lab smoking up to twenty marijuana cigarettes a day. When researchers examined their sperm counts, none were outside normal ranges.

Most of the chapters do not discuss actual studies in such a detailed manner, which occasionally weakens the author’s arguments since the reader must take their interpretation of the evidence on faith. However, I found most of their arguments compelling and their reasoning solid. Marijuana Myths is an interesting overview of a controversial topic, and a solid reference tool for further research.

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2 Comments »

  1. Overall a very objective and honest study of mainly the medical and social issues surrounding the use of marijuana. The authors do indeed have a stated agenda, mainly that our current drug policies are misguided and ineffective. However, they make no secret of this and state it up front and it doesn’t really seem to bias the book.
    The basic conclusion is that many of the popularly believed marijauna myths are just that-myths. They point out that some of the these myths have some truth to them, but they are extremely exaggerated or just simply unprovable. The book points out that many of the percieved dangers that cannabis has are a product of badly done science and cites the original studies to thoroughly debunk them, pointing biases and conflicts of interest in the process (often of government funded studies). ( ie basically marijuana use is relatively safe, but that does not equal harmless.)
    The book isn’t really all that technical, but they do cover a few more complicated things at times, so those using the book for serious research will probably want to consult some of the original sources.

    It’s been a couple years since I’ve read this book (with irreversible brain damage from marijuana use :) so there are probably some things I’m forgeting, but I wish the authors had talked about issue of marijauna and mental illness more thouroughly, since it seems to but such a hot topic the last few years with some really badly done scientific studies supposedly proving this theory. (For example the supposed link between marijuana use and a higher onset of schizophrenia.)

    I recommend this book to anyone who uses marijuana or deals with people that do (health care workers,etc)

    Comment by monoamine — 1/5/2006 @ 5:14 am

  2. This book is a very relevant source for all marijuana ambiguities. I am surprised that there are many people who think marijuana is a safe drug. This wrong perception of safe marijuana is another danger.

    Comment by Addiction Treatment — 6/25/2008 @ 7:35 am

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