I am the author of Just Say Yes: A Marijuana Memoir, published on April 20 this year. In this book, I chose to organize the major events of my life around a marijuana spine. I thought it was high time that someone came out as a longtime recreational user for whom cannabis has proved not ruinous - but life-enhancing. I felt called to offer the events of my life as a testimony to that.
Recently I was attacked in a long article (1100 words!) in Huffington Post entitled Catherine Hiller is Not Your Average Marijuana Legalizer - She's More Dangerous. So I am a "dangerous" woman. I have to admit, part of me was flattered. But I was also outraged that my book had been willfully misconstrued.
The author of the article writes, and I'm going to quote him at length here:
Her message is unlike what you'll hear from drug liberalization advocates: It's far more dangerous. What differentiates Catherine Hiller from most marijuana legalization or decriminalization advocates is that her stories and interviews seem to actually encourage heavy marijuana use, even by young people. The majority of organizations touting a pro-marijuana agenda have a policy statement like that of the Students for Sensible Drug Policy: that the organization "neither condones nor condemns drug use." Hiller's message seems to be distinctly different -- that long, sustained marijuana use from an early age is certainly okay and possibly even desirable.
Well, the author gets part of it right: many people realize that sustained marijuana use is certainly okay and possibly even desirable. Here my great age is an advantage: I can testify to 50 years of daily use (but not during my pregnancies) and no ill effects.
But I do not encourage young people to toke up. Has my attacker even read my book? I write, on page 106:
Now here I must interject a note from 2015. Recent studies indicate that young people's brains continue to mature until their early twenties and that pot may damage executive function development. If this research holds true, of course it was wrong of me to share joints with my kids when they turned 18. However, I haven't noticed lack of executive function in any of them.
The author of the piece goes on:
Hiller's lifestyle could be described as a game of Russian roulette with an 11-chamber revolver (a six-chamber revolver if you're an adolescent). Hiller's round didn't end messily, and so she's pressuring you to pull the trigger.
What universe does he live in where smoking pot can kill you? This is silly talk, dangerous talk, ignorant talk. He continues:
The problem with Hiller's message is that it fails to reflect the statistical realities of marijuana use. . . . Some studies find that one in eleven people (9 percent) who initiate marijuana use develop a substance use disorder serious enough to be called addiction.
Let me remind you that my book is a memoir. The book, as all memoirs, is intensely personal and particular. How could I reflect the "statistical realities" of marijuana use? Should 9% of me - maybe my right forearm - be addicted? That's just crazy talk! Memoirs do not reflect statistical realities but personal truth.
I have a chapter acknowledging the "Downside": fatigue, red eyes, short-term memory loss. I've tried to be as honest as possible.
But on balance, I stand for joyful and responsible recreational use. I do not think teenagers should smoke pot. I do not think most of us should drive high. And it's a complete mistake to go to class stoned.
I'm happy to say that almost all the comments on the article came to my defense. One person pointed out that the author is supported by a foundation funded by a pharmaceutical company.
Now I see why the author considers my message harmful. Because my message certainly is dangerous . . . to the pharmaceutical industry, whose profits it imperils.
Actually, I used to write for a large pharmaceutical company. I loved writing those pieces, and I did about 40 of them, but when I told my boss about my book, I stopped getting assignments. While I was sad to lose a great client, their decision made perfect sense. Marijuana is a grave threat to their business model. Medical marijuana is cheap, effective, and cannot be patented.
So, granted, my message is dangerous to the big drug companies.
But to the public at large? For whom the choice is often between drinking alcohol, which makes many people violent, and smoking weed, which makes many people dreamy?
Come on. Let's get real here. The biggest danger posed by cannabis is the possibility of arrest, incarceration, and a lifetime of reduced opportunity. When you consider the benefits marijuana confers (mild euphoria and wide-ranging medical effects), the criminalization of this miracle plant is just plain wrong.
Bottom line (literally): I'm proud to be the dangerous woman recently denounced in this space!