From Rolling Stone
A former ‘New York Times’ journalist wrote about a “hidden epidemic” cause by pot — but it seems he got the science wrong
In the past week, there’s been a flurry of media coverage around a new book called Tell Your Children: The Truth About Marijuana, Mental Illness, and Violence. One of the main points is that legalization is a terrible idea, because legal pot is already causing more people to become schizophrenic and psychotic, and people who are schizophrenic and psychotic are more likely to commit violent crimes.
Alex Berenson, the book’s author — a former journalist who spent the past decade or so writing mysteries and thriller novels — landed plum op-eds in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. He appeared on Fox and Friends and Tucker Carlson Tonight. And the pop-psych theorist Malcolm Gladwell wrote an entire New Yorker article repeating and promoting the book’s thesis.
And yet, this theory is deeply flawed. After five years of extensive reporting on the cannabis industry, it seems pretty clear that weed itself isn’t that dangerous — sure, it can be abused like any drug, but it’s weed’s illegality, especially the illegality of the supply chain, that poses a far greater public safety threat. So hearing Berenson promote these distorted, dog-whistle conclusions, it left me with one question: is he trolling us? Does he genuinely believe that the full legalization of marijuana is going to cause a significant rise in murders, assaults and mental illness — or is he just assuming a contrarian position to scare people into buying his book?