VOICE FROM THE SOUTH
By FR. EMETERIO BARCELON S.J.
President Duterte may be right in prohibiting marijuana in this country. It is to some extent like nuclear energy. We still don’t know the possible effect of a breakdown in a nuclear plant. In marijuana, the long-term effects are not yet determined. There is a lot of good news about its effect on pain. But even this is not so sure. Some say that the pain is just postponed. So if in medical marijuana the effects are not positive, we have to be careful about recreational marijuana. I came across an article of Alex Berenson, a journalist for Denver Post and whose wife is a medical doctor in Mid-Hudson Forensic Psychiatric Institute, one of the places that New York State sends defendants in cases involving insanity. He is not so sure that marijuana does not lead to psychosis, the disease that separates the individual from reality. He read as many studies as he could and found that ignorance on Marijuana was unbelievable.
Does marijuana lead or even cause schizophrenia? Or does it alleviate mental illness and violence? Over the past 30 years there has been a campaign to promote marijuana and many companies are advertising that if you want to become rich, your should invest in companies that produce marijuana. It is the most sellable thing on the market. I have asked friends their opinion on marijuana and most of them approve of medical marijuana and some even approve of recreational marijuana. But the long-term studies of its effects are not yet out. Berenson thinks that from what he has read in the available studies, even the short-term effects are not favorable. He cites studies in Australia which showed that “cannabis use was associated with greater pain over time.” He claims that cannabis like alcohol is too weak to help those in real pain like cancer. So it does not substitute for opiods. He quotes a review by the National Academy of Medicine which found in 2017 that “cannabis use is likely to increase the risk of developing schizophrenia and other psychoses; the higher the use, the greater the risk.” He also shows some studies that three years later, states that legalized marijuana had more opiod users than those that did not.
The more prudent move is that of President Duterte, not to legalize the use of marijuana even medical marijuana. What studies we have at present shows that marijuana leads to psychosis and violence. Europeans have some data and they show that “the most obvious way that cannabis fuels violence in psychotic people is through its tendency to cause paranoia—something that even cannabis advocates acknowledge.” We should discourage cannabis use just as we discourage tobacco or alcohol while driving. At present this effort is difficult work “in part because advocates have stigmatized anyone who raises the issue.” Marijuana is causing a lot of trouble in the United States, we should learn from them.
Marijuana is celebrated in the old Spanish song popular once in the Philippines: “La cucaracha, la cucaracha, yo no puede caminar. Porque no tiene, porque no tiene, marijuana pa fumar.” Let us leave it in song. Marijuana is not as dangerous as shabu but it can have many of the ill effects of shabu.