Seeking Balance in the Use of Marijuana (Part 2): The Politics of Pot

Marijuana has been used for thousands of years for medicinal and other purposes. It was made illegal in the USA through the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937. Pharmaceutical companies had to discontinue their research and use of it in medicines. Marijuana and its derivatives were later classified as a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. The legalization of this herb called Cannabis for medicinal purposes and even for recreational use in
many states has brought marijuana back into the public discussion.

THC concentrations have significantly increased through plant breeding practices over the past 50 years. The negative impact on brain function, especially in prenatal development in pregnant mothers, children of nursing mothers, and our youth, raises serious concerns for many who examine the evidence. The wisdom of our lawmakers is in question when recreational
marijuana is supported, yet lobbying efforts are winning the political game across the USA.

Many argue that the broader costs to society do not justify the revenue generated through taxes. Here are some points to consider if you are voting on this issue.

Traffic Accidents and Fatalities: Marijuana is the drug most frequently reported in connection to fatal accidents, as well as impaired driving accidents in general. A 2012 Meta-analysis of the data concluded with: “Drivers who test positive for marijuana or self–report using marijuana are more than twice as likely as other drivers to be involved in motor vehicle crashes.”

Another study reported it “doubles the risk of a motor vehicle accident.” THC levels and performance impairment have been tested and verified in laboratory studies. The evidence is clear from other research that marijuana impairs perception of time and speed, reaction time, motor coordination, and attentiveness.

Increased Crime: Crime has significantly increased where marijuana is legalized. Consider the report by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. “The crime rate in Colorado has increased 11 times faster than the rest of the nation since legalization, with the Colorado Bureau of Investigation reporting an 8.3% increase in property crimes and an 18.6% increase in violent crimes.” This makes sense when considering the impaired judgment and impulse control
which is a consequence of marijuana use.

Brain Impact on Youth: Statistics show that young people use marijuana at a higher rate after it is legalized. Their brains are still forming until they are 25 years old, and the serious negative impact on them has been clearly documented. The younger the brain, the worse the long term negative impact of marijuana use. The loss of an average of eight IQ points persists even into midlife, according to a longitudinal study of regular marijuana users.

Gateway Drug: Increased use of marijuana does predict an increased risk of the use of other illicit drugs. This is both through social contacts who introduce the person to other illicit drugs, as well as the impact on different regions of the brain. Impaired pre-frontal cortex activity leads to decreased judgment, and the specific dopamine system impact can result in an increased addictive potential from opioids, if ingested. Who will bear the cost to society of losses to the
work force, treatment and increased need for health care due to these problems?.

Increased Black Market: The black market for marijuana has greatly increased in states where legalization has occurred, contrary to the false arguments of pro-marijuana supporters. The overproduction of marijuana is one reason noted. Another is the desire to avoid paying the extra cost from taxation. Another possibility is the competition for higher THC levels among
recreational users, increasing significantly the potential for dependence and even permanent psychotic episodes in some people.

Profits to Big Corporations: Large tobacco and alcohol companies, insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies, and even banking interests are lobbying for legalization of marijuana. George Soros and the lobbying group Drug Policy Alliance have contributed hundreds of millions of dollars to the cause, influencing politicians in this direction for over 15 years. Alcohol companies and the pharmaceutical industry have changed their opposition into
support, seeing new potential for profits. The argument that legalization of recreational marijuana will benefit our local economies has to be examined more carefully.

Problems due to Federal prohibition: Commerce and even travel across state lines presents potential legal problems, and even international travel is in jeopardy for those involved in the marijuana business. This State versus Federal “rights” issue is making it difficult for the banking industry at present, although congress is currently debating that issue.

Conclusion: It is reasonable to advocate for marijuana with lower levels of THC – the part that gets people “high” – to be used in research to determine its health benefits. This is particularly true of the CBD oil component from marijuana which does not get people high. Putting it under Federal oversight through the DEA and FDA will not only increase research, it can then standardize dosages and diminish contaminants like pesticides and heavy metals currently in many marijuana products. However, the health and social consequences of marijuana use strongly indicate legalization of marijuana for recreational use is a mistake for society in general. Judicial reform and racial bias in sentencing are concerns that can be addressed in other ways.

Ronald S. Newman, Ph.D. is a psychologist in Mays Landing on Route 50 who can be reached at:, or 609-567-9022. References upon request.
Originally written for the Hammonton Gazette, July 2019, who have first rights to publish.

Seeking Balance in the Use of Marijuana (Part 1)

The negative impact on the brain leads to great concerns in regard to normalizing recreational use of marijuana for the general public.

After researching this issue from a professional perspective, I believe there are both positive and negative factors to consider before choosing to use marijuana in any form.


Medical Conditions:  The National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s extensive 2017 review of the health effects of cannabinoids found that only three therapeutic uses had conclusive research support: 

1) treating some forms of chronic pain, 2) decreasing spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis, and 3) reducing nausea associated with chemotherapy. Other possible conditions being researched are glaucoma, epilepsy, wasting syndrome associated with AIDS, and inflammation (as in rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis).

Thousands of studies on the benefits of marijuana’s components are ongoing, with potential benefits to many other conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and neuropathy in diabetes.

CBD Oil: CBD oil is a non-THC part of marijuana that does not get a person “high”. Investigations are ongoing as to whether CBD oil provides equal benefit, or whether THC – the part that gets you “high”- is more effective for treating various conditions, especially pain. CBD oil as a safe alternative to THC is promising, although most companies get CBD from hemp as opposed to marijuana. Also, caution is needed since investigations show great variations in actual dosage compared to labels among different companies selling it.  

High quality CBD oil has much testimonial support as an alternative to THC, and claims of an improved pain management effect with a small dose of THC added that is insufficient to get a person “high”.  This may be useful in the treatment of conditions such as problems with anxiety disorders or even Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Rigorous studies are needed before empirical conclusions can be made. Quality control problems and lack of FDA or NIH approvals cause many to be cautious at present.  Due to THC in many CBD products, stories of many people having employment problems from positive drug tests are also of real concern for occupations such as truck drivers and police officers.


Risk of Psychosis? Cannabis use in teens increases the risk for psychosis.  Clients with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia experience a more severe course of illness and poorer life functioning.  The research shows, however, that other genetic factors, such as family members who have these conditions, may bring an even greater increase in risk.  Genetic vulnerability to this problem certainly indicates that those with hereditary risk factors should avoid marijuana use. 

Brain Function: Cannabis use in teens results in lower cognitive functioning and is also correlated with lower prestige occupations than their parents, lower income, higher unemployment, a greater need for socioeconomic assistance, increased criminal behavior, and lower satisfaction with life.  Brain scans show decreased blood flow to the brain indicating lesser brain function, decreased IQ, and increasing concerns regarding early Alzheimer’s disease. 

Adult Health Consequences: Long term daily cannabis users experience the most harmful effects, while these are uncommon for occasional recreational users. Inflammation of the large airways, lung hyperinflation, chronic bronchitis, increased respiratory infections, pneumonia, higher risk of stroke and heart attacks, are all noted in some correlational research with marijuana.  There is also concern for the prenatal brain development of unborn children.  Physically, the most frequent problem experienced is gum disease.  Research related to lung cancer is confounded by other variables, such as cigarette use.  Tobacco is clearly related to lung and other cancers, and many believe the evidence points to the same problem with marijuana.  Others argue for a protection benefit from some cancers, however, due to our endocannabinoid system and preliminary research.  

Addiction Potential: Nine percent of those who experiment with marijuana will develop an “addiction” to it.  That rises to about 17% for those who start using marijuana as teenagers, and 50% for those who smoke pot daily.  The teenage brain is still developing, so introduction of psychoactive substances at this age is seen as very problematic for healthy development.  Learning and memory portions of the brain are affected, as are those areas involved in alertness, self-conscious awareness, and impulse control.  The healthy development of children and youth is hindered through the influence of marijuana which studies show make them more vulnerable to addiction to other substances.

Brain scans show the same patterns for marijuana as other addictions. There is a “cannabis withdrawal syndrome” with irritability, sleep difficulty, anxiety, and craving which contributes to the addiction process and relapse.  

Gateway Drug: Increased use of marijuana does predict an increased risk of the use of other illicit drugs.  Research shows that marijuana decreases the reactivity of the dopamine neurons that modulate the brain’s reward regions.  In other words, the brain becomes more susceptible to addiction to other drugs, making marijuana a “gateway drug” both socially and physiologically.  The marijuana primes the brain for a heightened response to other drugs.  It is no surprise that research has shown that smoking marijuana doubles the risk for opioid addiction later in life.

Impaired Driving: A 2012 meta-analysis of the data concluded with:  “Drivers who test positive for marijuana or self–report using marijuana are more than twice as likely as other drivers to be involved in motor vehicle crashes.” Another study reported it “doubles the risk of a motor vehicle accident.” The evidence is clear from research that marijuana impairs perception of time and speed, reaction time, motor coordination, and attentiveness.     

What are your thoughts about legalization? Write me with your feedback or to request references.

Ronald S. Newman, Ph.D. is a psychologist in Mays Landing on Route 50 who can be reached at:, or 609-567-9022.      

Originally written for the Hammonton Gazette, June 2019, who have first rights to publish.

Seeking Balance to Overcome Racism (Part 4)

The science of psychology has hundreds of specialty areas which can help with any problem in race relations, if politics are removed from the equation with inherent win-lose goals. In the previous article I highlighted the importance of research on prejudice, listening with empathy, boundaries, forgiveness, leadership, and cognitive therapy.  In this article, I would like to make note of some other specialty areas of study which can be helpful. As with all science, these complement the Word of God, when interpreted properly, and are designed by God to be a blessing to us.     

Reflect on: Psalm 133:1;  Proverbs 2:1-15

Science of Religious Experience.  Since William James wrote his famous book, Varieties of Religious Experience in 1902, research has taken place showing the value of balanced religious faith and spirituality. Dr. David Larson, Dr. Harold Koenig, Dr. Siang-Yan Tan, and Dr. Everett Worthington are only a few authors who have written extensively on research in this area, proving the unifying and health-giving dimensions of positive spiritual and religious experience. Core values related to unity, love, equality, meaning and purpose in life, as well as an empowerment to live out those values, can be found here.  Race relations can be well served by the leadership of religious communities who can have a powerful moral and spiritual influence on this dialogue.   

Reflect on: Proverbs 3:1-8; I Corinthians 2:12-3:11

Group Processes. Yalom’s curative factors in group therapy included instillation of hope, universality (people face similar problems), learning information, altruism (desire to help others), working through dysfunctional family dynamics in a healthier way, improved socialization, modeling and imitation of healthy relationships, group cohesiveness, and catharsis. Each of these has relevance when working together to resolve race relations. 

How can we facilitate committed mixed race community groups who are willing to address race relations to see the curative impact of getting to know one another in this way?

Reflect on: Ecclesiastes 4:9-12; I Thessalonians 5:12-22 

Positive Psychology.  Research in this area addresses character strengths and virtues, and is a balance to the negative focus on pathology which can reinforce a victim mentality.  We can learn much from this area of study to build wellness and resilience.  Building on wisdom and knowledge, finding courage and love, developing hope and humor, pursuing gratitude and humility, seeking freedom and happiness, and many other positive areas of study can help each of us find valued direction in our pursuit of healthy race relations and fulfillment for all. 

Reflect on: II Corinthians 3:17-18; Philippians 4:4-13

Neuroscience.  In books by The Institute for Brain Potential, we see outlines for addressing deep seated, unhealthy patterns of behavior, including thoughts. Other resources such as the writings of  Dr. Dan Amen, Dr. Caroline Leaf, and Dr. Tim Jennings, give us insight into neuroscience for the layman. Research on neuroplasticity and our ability to modify even the chemical connections in our brain can help us understand how prejudices and even racist attitudes can be addressed when an individual chooses to train their mind to think in ways that value human relations with people of all races and people groups.  The human heart, mind, will, and emotions, can be transformed, which should give us all hope for improved race relations, if we choose to accept responsibility for our part in this complex equation.  

Reflect on: Romans 12:1-2;  Psalm 1:1-6

Cognitive Psychology. Racism is irrational. How do we first discern irrational beliefs, and then how do we challenge them? Racism disconnects from the larger group of humanity in favor of a smaller sub-group which wants to stay united in their use of power. Spirit-led, self-administered psychosurgery is needed, but can only be performed by each of us on ourselves with God’s help through the Word of God. Eliminate global generalizations, exaggerations, mind-reading tendencies, unfair comparisons, and all or nothing thinking.     

Reflect on: II Corinthians 10:3-5;  Romans 12:1-2

Love is what unites people. Fear, hurt and anger can lead to defensive reactions that hurt others, creating fractures in relationships. Repairing those relationships becomes necessary for there to be peace among all people groups. Let us pursue it. 

Reflect on: Galatians 5:13-16; Romans 12:9-18

Ronald S. Newman, Ph.D. is a psychologist in Mays Landing, NJ who also does tele-therapy. His website, has a blog designed to provide practical tips for managing a wide range of life problems. He also can be reached at 609-567-9022.

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Seeking Balance to Overcome Racism (Part 3)

In Marshall Rosenberg’s book, Non-violent Communication, we learn about a powerful process for healthy communication to help resolve conflicts.  We learn to express ourselves as well as listen without blame or criticism. We also see the value of “I” messages regarding what we observe and how we feel, tuning into needs, and clearly expressing what we want through non-demanding requests.  It is a reciprocal respectful process, proven to be successful around the world with various conflicted groups, including different races, nationalities, religions, and on a smaller scale even individual families.  

Conflict Management. Seeking ways of managing both internal and interpersonal conflict has been central to the field of psychology for well over a century. Acknowledging feelings, helping each side feel valued and heard, healthy communication of needs and desires, and fairness of both process and outcome seem to be essential ingredients. Win-win solutions are possible, barring interferences which hinder progress toward unity.

Reflect on: Matthew 5:9; James 3:17-18 

Problem-Solving. The steps of identifying problems, brainstorming solutions, evaluating options, and testing a selected option are essential, with input from everyone at the table. Every institution should be involved in this type of process, perhaps an “action research” approach, where solutions are revisited and reevaluated to see if they are moving toward the stated goal. Applied to race relations, we can do better.

Reflect on: Proverbs 14:15; 21:5;  Galatians 2:1-21 

Teamwork.  The science of teamwork has demonstrated many excellent principles for helping teams work more efficiently and in greater harmony. Emotional Intelligence research expands this literature even further, with healthy relationships growing out of a healthier individual sensitivity to your own and others emotional reactions. Similar goals and creating bonding experiences are important.  How can we create such opportunities for interaction and bonding in healthy ways?  It is doable.

Reflect on: Ephesians 4:11-16;  I Corinthians 12:4-27

Seeking Balance to Overcome Racism (Part 2)

The call for justice in society, a universal desire inherent in the heart of all people, resonates across all cultures.  Protests across the USA illustrate this principle. The triggering spark that lit the fire of protests was the senseless death of George Floyd under the knee of a police officer abusing his power over this man. Violence against police officers and others defending their businesses is also a serious injustice.  When institutions enable injustice in subtle or not-so-subtle ways, such as inconsistent treatment of people depending on the color of their skin or other differences, these need to be challenged.  (Ecclesiastes 5:8; Proverbs 17:14-15)

Assertiveness.  Free speech is a fundamental right in this country, since the First Amendment was ratified by our founding fathers. We all must speak out against wrongdoing and strive for justice, even if those injustices are through institutional politics and power inherent in some organization. Those who enforce justice must be careful not to abuse the power they have been granted, or tragedies like Mr. Floyd will continue to occur. Revenge by some who have chosen to go beyond peaceful protests needs to be stopped. Assertiveness is not aggression, and getting back to respectful assertive relationships is essential. 

Reflect on: Ephesians 4:25-27;  Proverbs 28:1

Boundaries.  Responsibility for our own individual actions is inherent in the concept of justice. Who is responsible for violations of the boundaries we define in our laws?  The perpetrator!  Defining the rules and consequences for violating those rules is part of why we vote for politicians who represent our personal beliefs and values. Children need to understand this in the home to internalize lessons from disciplinary actions and learn self-control. Apart from healthy boundaries, abuses of power will only grow and become more devastating to society.  Perpetrators of all crimes need to be held accountable, not through removal of boundaries, but rather through proper enforcement of justice.

Reflect on: Galatians 6:1-5; Proverbs 22:6, 15; 24:23-25; 28:4

Forgiveness.  Dr. Everett Worthington and Dr. Enright, and many others specializing in forgiveness research, have much to contribute as we seek unity. Marriages would all fail, if offenses were not put behind them. Families would all disintegrate. And societies cannot stand, if prior offenses cannot be put and kept in the past – after we have learned the lessons of our mistakes and changed our behavior. Sitting at the table together to dialogue is essential in order to achieve the unity forgiveness brings. Notable quotes: “Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude” (Martin Luther King Jr.). “There is no peace without forgiveness” (Marianne Williamson). “To forgive is to set a prisoner free, and realize the prisoner was you.” 

Reflect on: Ephesians 4:29-32; Matthew 18:15-35

Leadership. We have much to learn from leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  He had a dream which should be our dream, too. Love, unity and justice for all are at the heart of that dream. Mercy and forgiveness, as Dr. King preached, are also necessary for us to move forward toward this goal. The science of leadership development can help. Humility, vision, and character are all essential in picking leaders we can follow.Reflect on: I Timothy 3:1; 5:17-18; I Corinthians 11:1

Seeking Balance to Overcome Racism (Part 1)

This article is an effort to give practical direction in our quest for solutions to such a complex problem with such deep historical roots.  One challenge, I believe, is to join together and share our diverse expertise and perspectives, gleaning from the hundreds of specialized areas of research and study in the field of psychology. In an international virtual town hall sponsored by the American Association of Black Psychologists, someone rightly indicated we need the “ammunition of science” to help our local communities.  Reflect on: Psalm 89:14; Proverbs 1:2-5

Generalizations and biases may cloud the judgments of all of us, but we can help one another to pursue a valued goal of unity. Reflect on: John 17:19-21; Ephesians 4:2-6, 12-16

Here are my thoughts for using this time in history as an opportunity for healing.

Acknowledge prejudices.  Awareness of our biases based on our past experiences can help us respond rationally rather than emotionally based on fear or unresolved anger toward a person or particular group. All racism is unjust, just as all prejudice is morally wrong. Research shows that self-awareness and mindfulness exercises can help us all. 

Reflect on: Matthew 25:31-46; John 4:1-42

Listen and empathize. The past century of research in psychology has shown the value of non-judgmental acceptance of others, tuning in and listening to them.  It is the foundation of therapeutic relationships. 

We need to listen, seeking to understand and empathize with the pain and grief others experience because of injustices done to them. People tend to pre-judge others based on many different factors.  Recognizing and overcoming those tendencies is part of our challenge as we seek to unite as a community and society.

Reflect on: James 1:19-20; Proverbs 18:13

Trauma research.  Trauma in our personal and family histories often creates a hindrance to healthy emotional and relational functioning.  Research addressing how trauma can be resolved and how people can build wellness and resilience into their lives has much to add to the race relations issue.  Post-traumatic growth literature can guide many of our discussions on this issue.  

Reflect on: II Corinthians 11:23-30; Hebrews 11:32-12:3