Medicine For People!

January 2020: Marijuana

Cannabis Sweet Relief
Photo credit Dr. Douwe Rienstra



  • The Sacred and the Profane
  • Marijuana: A Dispassionate View
  • Cannabidiol

The Sacred and the Profane

How often do you see the world as a sacred creation?

Most of us do. Even someone with the mental brilliance of Einstein could say that in their discoveries of how the world works, they could see the mind and the hand of God.

How often do you see a profane aspect to our world? The epidemic of drug-related deaths is just one example.

The drugs themselves are not evil. Heroin relieves the terrible pain of terminal cancer and tobacco is an effective anti-depressant.

Let's consider tobacco a little further. Our original peoples used tobacco in a social and ceremonial manner. They revered its calming and enlivening effects. They saw it as a sacred substance and put it to use in diplomacy, commerce, and social observances. Those natives who converted to Christianity often sealed their commitment using a sacred pipe, the Calumet.

Today this view of tobacco is long gone. Few give thanks to the Creator when they light up. Those corporations which sell the product not only turn a blind eye to the harms of this addictive substance but have been repeatedly found criminally liable for their marketing activities.

The alcohol industry has travelled far along this road as well. For many, wine can be taken sacramentally in church, ceremonially in special social ceremonies, and socially in moderation. Abuses were frequent but not criminal. Today the situation has changed. Despite clear evidence that alcohol causes birth defects with lifelong consequences in about one in thirty American children1, US corporations annually spend about $2 billion in advertising 2 and some $50 million in campaign contributions3 and lobbying4 so they can make more money.

Most people in the tobacco and alcohol industries are our hard-working neighbors who bear no blame. And wrongdoing can occur not only in the corporate suites but in our legislatures which promote another addictive harm—gambling in the form of state lotteries.  We're not just looking at a corporate problem here--we're looking at a people problem.

Marijuana: A Dispassionate View

Benefits of marijuana legalization include

  • Less adulteration with harmful substances to improve the "high".
  • Reduction of our prison population
  • Increased research of and more appropriate medical use of marijuana.
  • Changing a black market into a more easily regulated and taxed legal market.
  • Research of marijuana derivatives such as CBD (cannabidiol) can proceed as it should, free of legal constraints.

These are wonderful benefits and we don't want to lose them.

That said, the harms of excessive marijuana, legal or not, include

  • While studies continue, current evidence indicates that marijuana use during pregnancy can lead to impaired attention and intelligence in children. 5
  • Child maltreatment when parents become addicted: No psychoactive drug makes people better at parenting. There are few things that cause more suffering than neglect or abuse by a parent.
  • Decreased educational and skill acquisition: Alcohol impairs our ability to learn and to develop manual and technical skills. Marijuana does the sam.  It lasts longer in the blood and the mind.  It leads to apathy.
  • Decreased individual productivity: Alcohol and marijuana abuse impair job performance. We in the community pay more in unemployment costs, welfare costs, and loss of tax revenue.
  • Read more about the downsides of marijuana in previous newsletter.

Given these concerns, let me cast a vote against the kind of advertising illustrated in the "Sweet Relief" sign shown above.

Let us admit that we do not really know the complete story of marijuana legalization at this point. We can keep our Science Hats on for a few more years and see how it turns out.


Our in-depth understanding of cannabidiol, CBD, is in its early days. Let us all hope that CBD passes the test of time and becomes a real help to suffering individuals.

Early research on CBD suggests that it may be a remedy for a wide variety of difficult-to-treat conditions including chronic pain, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and other spastic disorders. 7 It may even promote recovery for people addicted to stimulants such cocaine and methamphetamine.8 As of today, however, many products labelled as CBD fail quality testing.9

The Sacred and the Profane

You may view this world as a gift of God, a gift of Nature, or both. Everything in it, from a snake to an apple, can have a sacred or a profane use, even marijuana.

Marijuana is relaxing but excessive marijuana is profane. Keeping a clear head and making a contribution to our shared natural and human world can be more relaxing and even sacred.












Thanks to my editor Jill Buhler Rienstra.



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Medicine for People! is published by Douwe Rienstra, MD at Port Townsend, Washington.