Story and Photo by Ken Krayeske • 5:15 PM EST
The professor of pot, Lester Grinspoon, M.D., has been one of the foremost advocates for marijuana during the past 40 years.
After years of study, Lester Grinspoon concludes that cannabis, if subjected to rigorous double-blind tests, will prove to treat for many more diseases. He predicts medicine will accept its ability to free manic-depressives from lithium’s creative straightjacket.
"Cannabis is going to be recognized as a very important medicine in the treatment of bipolar disorder," Grinspoon promises.
When cannabis re-enters the pharmacopoeia, it will be one of the least toxic drugs. "Aspirin kills two thousand people in this country every year," Grinspoon notes. "Cannabis doesn't kill anybody."
That lack of toxicity is pot's best hope, he says. Additionally, medical utility will acquaint people with pot in a way that undoes their miseducation, misunderstanding and misperceptions, Grinspoon says.
"If it comes in as a medicine, as it clearly is, there's just no denying it," he says. "Only the federal government is denying it. The government is willing to allow a lot of suffering to keep up this bullshit."
"The government is frightened," Grinspoon postulates. "Barry McCaffrey insisted people like me were perpetrating a hoax with medical marijuana because they know that once people see somebody who matters to them, a relative or a friend, who is relieved by cannabis, they appreciate the limited toxicity connected with that. When that happens, people are not going to put up with the prohibition."
Retired from Harvard, and free from NORML, he is not done fighting. The Drug Free America Foundation recently asked the Massachusetts medical authorities to investigate Grinspoon’s license to practice medicine because he divulged his pot smoking in the August 2001 High Times (#312).
"Dr. Grinspoon's use of an illegal drug puts his patients in danger," wrote DFA director Calvina Fay. As an emeritus, Grinspoon says he is not worried. He now focuses on his family, which will continue to support him. "I think I am going to play tennis, and spend time with my wife," Grinspoon says.
As he grows old, he wonders if marijuana eases the aging process. He hopes to add it to the list of enhancements. His website, Marijuana-uses.com contains about 65 affidavits pronouncing pot's usefulness. From Allen Ginsberg's Atlantic Monthly classic, “The Great Marijuana Hoax;” to Paul DeFelice's deposition about cannabis improving skiing and drawing, people volunteer epiphanies about how a good smoke changes their mind and makes life better.
The personal introspection cannabis supplies has more value to Grinspoon than psychotherapy. He dreams of smokers who understand that to reap the full rewards of cannabis, they must make an effort.
"It's not just like, 'Oh, this is the best chocolate I've ever had in the world,' That's like neuro-physiological. It's there," he says. "Whereas getting and making use of insight is something that isn't just there. You have to provide the emotional and cognitive setting for that kind of exploration."
Pot helps him meditate on his current writing projects or analyze his relationships. "I like to rethink interactions. It's happened that I have then written a note or called and apologized to somebody or corrected something that I said. It's not always hurting people's feelings but just realizing that I was wrong about something," he says.
Dr. Lester Grinspoon is not so naïve as to pretend that what he finds useful in cannabis anybody else will find useful.
"What I do defend is the notion that there are things that I can do on cannabis that I was never able to do without it," he says, figuratively passing the joint to the next generation of tokers who seek to further his life's work.