Prof. Paola Brown
4 February 2008
In 2000, George Bierson’s "Marijuana, the Deceptive Drug", was published by the Massachusetts News. Bierson concludes that marijuana is harmful in many ways, including brain damage, damage to the reproductive system, and weakening of the immune system. He also attempts to convince the reader that marijuana is a "gateway drug" that leads the users to venture into much harder drugs. I believe that research to support anything can be found if one is looking hard enough, but that the fallacy of Bierson’s conclusion is due to his research seeking facts to support an already-assumed conclusion. Based on my research and my own personal experience, I have found that several of his points, when looked at logically, do not reach his conclusion.
One of Bierson’s strongest supporting claims is of the physical harms of marijuana. He argues that Heath's tests of the monkey's brain seemed to show conclusive evidence of brain damage; however, he fails to mention that the tests were later discredited: the monkeys were given extremely high doses, doses exponentially higher than that of the average recreational or medical marijuana user, and the test’s sample size was too small. More current studies of people who are heavy marijuana smokers show no evidence of brain damage; in addition, the American Medical Association has officially endorsed the decriminalization of marijuana. I find this to be quite a bit more compelling than an outdated and poorly executed test. His claims of damage to both the reproductive system and the immune system are again based on invalid experiments of nearly lethal doses administered to mice and other animals, not humans. Moreover, several studies of the effects of marijuana on the human reproductive and immune systems have failed to demonstrate adverse effects.
One of the longest standing arguments against the use of marijuana is that it gives users a "gateway" to harder or more illicit drug use. Bierson states in his article that "Marijuana is the seed from which the scourge of drug abuse grows. If we stop the marijuana, we will stop the rest of drug abuse". I have several issues with this statement: first, the simple fact that many heroin and cocaine users used marijuana first does not conclude that the latter is the result of the first. Correlation is not causality. Bierson’s vehement argument against marijuana alone become suspect, as most of these heroin and cocaine abusers had also previously used alcohol and tobacco. According to government surveys, a conservative estimate of 80 million American have tried marijuana in their life, and 20 million admit to using it recently; if marijuana were truly a gateway drug, we would see a higher...