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Alex Berenson’s new book delves into research linking heavy use with violent crime and mental illness. by Stephanie Mencimer Mother Jones (San Francisco), January 5, 2019. 

It’s been a few years since Alex Berenson has “committed journalism,” as he likes to say. As a New York Times reporter, Berenson did two tours covering the Iraq War, an experience that inspired him to write his first of nearly a dozen spy novels. Starting with the 2006 Edgar Award-winning The Faithful Spy, his books were so successful that he left the Times in 2010 to write fiction full time. But his latest book, out January 8, strays far from the halls of Langley and the jihadis of Afghanistan. Tell Your Children is nonfiction that takes a sledgehammer to the promised benefits of marijuana legalization, and cannabis enthusiasts are not going to like it one bit.

The book was seeded one night a few years ago when Berenson’s wife, a psychiatrist who evaluates mentally ill criminal defendants in New York, started talking about a horrific case she was handling. It was “the usual horror story, somebody who’d cut up his grandmother or set fire to his apartment – typical bedtime chat in the Berenson house,” he writes. But then, his wife added, “Of course he was high, been smoking pot his whole life.”

Berenson, who smoked a bit in college, didn’t have strong feelings about marijuana one way or another, but he was skeptical that it could bring about violent crime. Like most Americans, he thought stoners ate pizza and played video games – they didn’t hack up family members. Yet his Harvard-trained wife insisted that all the horrible cases she was seeing involved people who were heavy into weed. She directed him to the science on the subject.

We look back and laugh at Reefer Madness, which was pretty over-the-top, after all, but Berenson found himself immersed in some pretty sobering evidence: Cannabis has been associated with legitimate reports of psychotic behavior and violence dating at least to the 19th century, when a Punjabi lawyer in India noted that 20 to 30 percent of patients in mental hospitals were committed for cannabis-related insanity. The lawyer, like Berenson’s wife, described horrific crimes – including at least one beheading – and attributed far more cases of mental illness to cannabis than to alcohol or opium. The Mexican government reached similar conclusions, banning cannabis sales in 1920 – nearly 20 years before the United States did – after years of reports of cannabis-induced madness and violent crime.

For complete article

Tell Your Children: 
The Truth About Marijuana, Mental Illness, and Violence 
by Alex Berenson                     

(New York: Free Press, 2019) Hardcover: 272 pages ISBN: 978-1982103668 RRP: US$26.00
Book description An eye-opening report from an award-winning author and former New York Times reporter reveals the link between teenage marijuana use and mental illness, and a hidden epidemic of violence caused by the drug – facts the media have ignored as the United States rushes to legalize cannabis.

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A few years ago, the National Academy of Medicine convened a panel of sixteen leading medical experts to analyze the scientific literature on cannabis. The report they prepared, which came out in January of 2017, runs to four hundred and sixty-eight pages. It contains no bombshells or surprises, which perhaps explains why it went largely unnoticed. It simply stated, over and over again, that a drug North Americans have become enthusiastic about remains a mystery!

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December 20, 2018

We already know that cannabis lowers sperm count, but new research suggests that the drug actually causes genetic changes to the sperm itself — which might have implications for the health of a potential baby.

For a study published today in the journal Epigenetics, scientists at Duke University 

Think of your DNA as a list of instructions for making proteins, and genes as small subsets of that list. Our body has little chemical tags (called methyl groups) that get added to the DNA at specific regions, explains Susan Kay Murphy, a professor of gynecology at Duke and co-author of the study. These chemicals don’t mutate the genes themselves, but they do affect how they’re used, like deciding which instructions are followed and which aren’t.

Najari already counsels men who use marijuana regularly to cut back because of the effect on sperm count. “I think one of the important positive things about research like this is that it may further motivate men to change their health,” he adds. “It’s one thing to talk about sperm count, another when you’re talking about the potential health of the child.”

Both Najari and Murphy stress that future research needs to be done, and the Duke team is already working on follow-up studies. Are those changes reversible? Will they even end up affecting a potential baby? “

For complete story 

Executive Summary

Cannabis can be both addictive and harmful. 

Our understanding of the precise extent and nature of the health implications of recreational cannabis use is developing but, at this stage, there is a great deal of uncertainty. On the eve of the first legal retail sales of recreational cannabis in Canada, the Canadian Medical Association Journal published an editorial which referred to legalisation as: a national, uncontrolled experiment in which the profits of cannabis producers and tax revenues are squarely pitched against the health of Canadians.1 

The World Health Organisation recognises addiction rates of 1 in every 9 adults that uses cannabis. This rate of addiction is significantly higher in teenagers, the very age group most susceptible to its harmful effects. Currently, there is scientific uncertainty regarding the causality between cannabis use and the onset of conditions such as psychosis or diminished cognitive function. Nevertheless, there is a compelling body of correlational evidence, spanning 20 years and multiple jurisdictions, that heavily suggests that there is a such relationship. This is particularly pronounced in frequent and younger users. The existing law does mitigate the risk that cannabis poses. Although there has been a slight up-lift in recent years, cannabis consumption has been falling for nearly 20 years in the UK. A great many people do take the law seriously and, to many, the law continues to deter them from using a harmful substance.

For complete Report

INCD Press Release UNIS/NAR/1367  16 November 2018

VIENNA, 16 November 2018 (UN Information Service) - The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) concluded today its 123rd session in Vienna. In closing the session, theINCB President, Dr. Viroj Sumyai, recognized once again the importance of compliance by countries with the three international drug control treaties to ensure the health and well-being of their people, and emphasized the importance of cooperation at all levels.

Over the past three weeks, the Board addressed diverse challenges at the core of the world drug problem. The Board devoted a significant amount of time to consider the matter of treaty implementation, in particular with respect to recent developments concerning the legalization of cannabis for non-medical and non-scientific purposes. The Board reiterated that the drug control treaties limit the use of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances exclusively to medical and scientific purposes, and highlighted the serious consequences that non-compliance can have on public health, especially among vulnerable groups.

The Board also gave significant attention to the opioid overdose crisis in North America, and the potential opioid abuse problems in other parts of the world. The Board, and its Standing Committee on Estimates, reviewed the availability of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances for medical purposes in different countries. In this context, the Board finalized a special report on the matter to be published in early 2019 as a supplement to its Annual Report for 2018.

The Board finalized during the session its 2018 Annual Report, dedicating a thematic chapter to the use of cannabis and cannabinoids for medical, scientific and "recreational" purposes, and approved its report on precursors and its technical publications on narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances. The 2018 Annual Report, its supplement on availability and the report on precursors will be launched worldwide in March 2019.

During the session, the Board also focused its attention on the findings of its recent country missions and agreed on recommendations to be made to the respective Governments on improving their national drug control systems.

This session also marked the 50 th anniversary of INCB. On this occasion, INCB invited Member States to discuss the international drug control system, challenges and the way forward. The Board reiterated its commitment to continuous cooperation with Member States, as well as international organizations and civil society.

On the margins of the session, the INCB President addressed the fifth intersessional meeting of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, where he emphasized that the fundamental objective of the drug control treaties is to safeguard "the health and welfare of humankind by ensuring the availability of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances for medical and scientific use, preventing drug abuse and providing treatment for those affected by drug use, as well as address the diversion of controlled substances and precursors chemical to illicit activities".

The Board met with the Chair of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs as part of ongoing cooperation and in preparation for the ministerial segment of the sixty-second session of the Commission to be held in March 2019. In line with the Joint Statement of INCB, UNODC and WHO in Implementation of the UNGASS 2016 Recommendations , and in the spirit of ongoing cooperation, the Board held consultations with officials from the World Health Organizations (WHO), the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), as well as the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). The discussions focused on cooperation among the agencies within their respective mandates to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly relating to health and well-being.

The Board will continue its work in February 2019.

***

The Vienna-based International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) is an independent body, established by the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, mandated to monitor and support governments' compliance with the three international drug control treaties. Its 13 members are elected by the Economic and Social Council to serve in their individual capacities for a term of five years.

The 123 rd session of the Board was held from 30 October - 16 November 2018.

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