TMP: In your Times op-ed, you suggest that the ominous scholarly findings have been ignored thanks to legalization advocates and the private cannabis industry. Is it just that they made a more convincing argument, that they were louder, or is something else going on?
AB: Linking legalization to medical use was a brilliant decision. No one wants to deny terminal cancer patients or people with AIDS a medicine that might help them. They were also supported by a lot of people in the elite media who became convinced by the social and racial justice arguments and didn’t do the work necessary to understand the science and health risks.
TMP: You refer to the social and racial justice arguments. You agree that there are real racial disparities in the treatment of drugs, including marijuana? How do they figure in the larger debate about legalization?
AB: I do. But legalizing marijuana will not solve those disparities—they are related to much broader criminal justice and social issues. In fact, not so long ago, many black and Hispanic leaders strongly opposed legalization, because they saw the way Big Tobacco and Big Alcohol targeted poor and minority communities. And support for legalization is still lower among African-Americans and Hispanics than whites.
I think it’s pretty clear that marijuana, while clearly beneficial for a select group of people, is not beneficial to just anyone who wants to use it — and thus should be regulated like other controlled substances.
Matthew Loftus teaches and practices Family Medicine in Baltimore and East Africa. His work has been featured in Christianity Today, Comment, & First Things and he is a regular contributor for Christ and Pop Culture. You can learn more about his work and writing at www.MatthewAndMaggie.org