Dr. Lester Grinspoon is easily one of the most prominent, and influential voices within the cannabis reform movement, and he has been for decades. A retired Harvard Psychiatry Professor, Grinspoon is the author of numerous books, including the popular Marihuana Reconsidered and Marihuana The Forbidden Medicine. He's also on the Board of Directors for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, and has appeared in several television shows and movies, including The Union: The Business Behind Getting High. We caught up with Grinspoon recently, and he was kind enough to answer some questions for Toke of the Town.
Dr. Lester Grinspoon.
What is your opinion of the current state of affairs of cannabis law reform?
I wrote an essay a while ago titled "Marijuana's here to stay", and there's no question about it: Prohibition is through, it's ended. What we're seeing now is a culture scrambling to figure out how to accommodate to this new fact. Both the government and the culture. The rest of it as far as I can see is playing out the end game in this.
Like your state [Washington] with Initiative 502: The 5 nanogram DUI test is silly. It's going to have to be revised. It can't be done by any type of blood test. Not to mention who's going to take it; the police are going to take our blood? If you smoke it over the evening you can drive perfectly well the next morning.
The point is I applaud Washington, and I supported it, even though I had a problem with the DUI thing. A major part in moving forward is figuring out what to do about it. Ultimately it's going to have to be some sort of behavioral test. I'm not confident you can measure something in someone's body fluid and figure out if they're impaired or not.
At any rate, I wrote Marihuana Reconsidered in 1971; at the time Carl Sagan and I who were close friends for three decades would read each others manuscripts, and he read Marihuana Reconsidered. He said "Lester this is an excellent book, but you made one big mistake!" I said what's that? He said "you predicted prohibition will be gone in ten years"
I said, how long do you think it'll take? He said, "2-3 years!"
And I've been waiting far beyond that ten years for this to happen. But I see it now, it's virtually happened. We have to get everything lined up right, but that's how I see the situation now. There will be a lot more activity now through the states, both making it medical and making it legal.
I do believe the end of this dastardly prohibition is upon us. We're on the cusp of victory.
In your opinion, what would be the ideal cannabis policy?
I think a good cannabis policy would treat it like alcohol and tax it. This means if your'e going to use it irresponsibly like driving drunk, and you get caught, you get penalized. It means there's an age limit below which people can't get it. I think this is the best possible way to do it, because I'm concerned about youngsters using it too soon: Not because there is convincing data, mostly because the brain doesn't achieve ful development until they're in their early 20s.
I would say it's going to be treated that way [like alcohol], or since it's also a medicine, it could be treated like aspirin. I'm convinced we will not realize the full potential of this substance as a medicine until the prohibition is gone and people can get it as easy as they can for aspirin. No need to talk with a doctor and get a prescription for aspirin despite the fact that between 1,000-2,000 people in the United State die yearly from aspirin. Cannabis is non-lethal.
It has to be somewhere in the aspirin or the liquor model, It seems to me these are the only models that will free it to be used as both a medicine as for recreation.
Page down for more of our interview with Dr. Lester Grinspoon.