STORIES

50 Years Ago This Medical Doctor BLASTED Prohibition

July 9, 2017

Fifty years ago this month, a medical doctor wrote a scathing letter to California Medicine that absolutely blasted an anti-cannabis piece in the now-defunct journal. Dr. William B. Wenner wrote that he was "disturbed" by the May 1967 article "Marijuana: Social Benefit or Social Detriment?" that he viewed as a piece of pure polemic bullshit, and CM published the letter (and a rebuttal) in the July issue. The following are some of Dr. Wenner's top lines:

  • The article is billed as a summary of contemporary thought concerning the use of marijuana. It is not. It contains many unsupported statements made in fear-inducing terms about the dangers of this drug's use.
  • The derisive and derogatory terms used to describe drug users are designed to prejudice the reader, not to enlighten him.
  • More serious than the emotional bias are the errors in fact. 
  • His remarks about the LaGuardia or Mayor's Committee Report published in 1944 are totally inaccurate. I can only conclude that he has not read it. 
  • Dr. Bloomquist refers to the LaGuardia report as the "magna charta of the weedheads." At a time in this country when a man can be put to death for a second offense of selling marijuana to someone under the age of 25, when mere possession of this drug can get you ten years in prison (six years in California), marijuana users need a magna carta. 
  • The author refers to Goodman and Gilman as to the characteristics of the marijuana user "... sexually maladjusted (often homosexual)... often psychopathic." It is hard to understand why an anesthesiologist would quote from a 1955 edition of a pharmacology text instead of the latest edition published in 1965. One reason might be that this inaccurate statement is omitted from the 1965 edition. 
  • Since Dr. Bloomquist has referred to the authority of the 1955 edition, you might be interested to know the lines immediately preceding his quote were, "... And no positive relation could be found between violent crime and the use of the drug. Marihuana is no more an aphrodisiac than is alcohol, and the drug apparently is not used for sexual stimulation. No cases of murder or sexual crimes due to marijuana were established, and Schonfield concluded that the smoking of marihuana was not associated with juvenile delinquency. Marihuana habituation does not lead to the use of morphine, heroin, cocaine, or alcohol, and the associated use of marihuana and narcotic drugs is rare. Indeed, strong alcoholic beverages counteract the psychic effects of marihuana and are avoided by the habitue."
  • The thing that most concerns me, is that this article will uncritically be accepted by physicians… [and] the kids will know we are lying about marijuana and will be deaf to our advice about LSD. 
  • CALIFORNIA MEDICINE owes its readers an apology. 


"Dr. Wenner's letter expresses one point of view," read a CM response, followed by one of the lamest rebuttals ever. The journal claimed most heroin addicts would have never shot up if not for "the permissive attitude induced by marijuana" and that there are "many documented examples of crimes of violence under the influence of marijuana." Still, it's hard to top this gem: "Parachute jumping presumably appears to be a pleasant and safe hobby to the parachute jumper and he naturally somewhat ignores the consequences should his chute fail to open. The point here, then, was to emphasize the calculated risks with a hard rather than a soft sell." 

Here's the dictionary definition of "hard sell": "Applying psychological pressure (by appealing to someone's fears, greed, or vanity)." The term is often associated with inferior products and ideas that most people would naturally reject if not for the high-pressure push. CM described its piece as a "hard sell," and ironically those two words perfectly describe prohibition's entire propaganda effort.  

Photo credit: Wikimedia

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