In 2014, Maureen Dowd devoted a New York Times column to the story of her own ill-fated experiment with edible marijuana in Colorado. After eating a THC-infused candy bar, she wrote, “I lay curled up in a hallucinatory state for the next eight hours. I was thirsty but couldn’t move to get water. Or even turn off the lights. I was panting and paranoid, sure that when the room-service waiter knocked and I didn’t answer, he’d call the police and have me arrested for being unable to handle my candy.”
The column made Dowd the subject of national ridicule. A Vice headline blared, “Maureen Dowd Freaked Out on Weed Chocolate Because She’s Stupid.” By the time of her column, the idea that marijuana is a harmless recreational drug that has been unfairly targeted by hysterical drug warriors had become liberal gospel. But Dowd’s story might have raised a more troubling question: Can any drug that causes near-psychotic breaks, hallucinations, or pathological paranoia in a first-time user really be considered harmless?
It’s a reasonable question that former New York Times reporter Alex Berenson attempts to answer in a new book, Tell Your Children. Berenson took a hard look at a vast body of scientific research on marijuana, and found that far from being a benign substance, it can cause profound damage to the brain, including psychosis and schizophrenia, and, with those things, violence.
Berenson is an unlikely anti-drug warrior. For the past decade or so, he has devoted most of his time to writing a series of successful spy novels. Berenson tells us that he’d smoked weed a few times and never had particularly strong feelings about legalization one way or another. But one night