Santa Barbara is home to many interesting people, but no doubt Dr. David Bearman will be getting a lot of attention in the coming years. He is one of the leading experts on medical marijuana and recently published Drugs Are Not the Devil’s Tools. This two-volume set is an exhaustive look at our nation’s failed drug policy and the promising future for cannabis. Dr. Bearman will be speaking this Wednesday, November 4 from 6-7:30 p.m. at the UCSB MultiCultural Center. In advance of that lecture, I spoke with Dr. Bearman about his book and his experience.

David Bearman, M.D.

How Cannabis Became Illegal

I was surprised to learn that cannabis was regularly prescribed by doctors for a wide variety of ailments well into the 1900s. In fact “Hemp was the #1 agricultural product during those days and had been for close to 1,000 years,” according to Dr. Bearman. Then along came William Randolph Hearst and his newspaper empire. It seems that Hearst was anti-Hispanic, perhaps due to Pancho Villa taking away his over 1 million-acre ranch in Mexico around 1910. While Hearst is widely credited with starting the Spanish-American War, he also started a war on marijuana. He demonized the drug in his papers and tied its use to minorities like the Hispanic community.

Dr. Bearman’s new book states that the real death blow to cannabis came at the hands of Harry Anslinger, director of the federal Bureau of Narcotic and Dangerous Drugs. It seems that marijuana had been off the radar screen until Anslinger married Andrew Mellon’s daughter. Mellon, you see, was the DuPont family banker, and the DuPont company was in the process of introducing nylon to the world. Hemp was a real obstacle as it was superior in quality and something the DuPont family did not have control of. Acting on DuPont’s behalf, Anslinger continually railed against marijuana with the backing of the Hearst papers. This effort resulted in the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 and dealt a mortal wound to the hemp industry.

Cannabis Reborn

Medical marijuana has paved the way for legalization, and Bearman has decades of experience in its benefits. Bearman’s research leads him to contend that “Cannabis is better for the patient than drugs currently used for ADD [attention deficit disorder] and asthma.” It has also led to a 30 percent improvement in autism patients. Medical marijuana has well-known benefits to cancer patients, and the list of benefits will grow as studies are done. As a Schedule 1 drug, it has not been widely studied in the U.S.

Hemp is also making a comeback. It is now legal to grow in 10 states, and the first crops are coming on now in Canada. Ethanol made from hemp makes a lot more sense than the corn-based version, as it is not a food. Hemp has a whole host of uses including rope, textiles, and upholstery. Other byproducts are competitive with those of the oil industry, which has also led to lobbyist meddling.

Talk on November 4

We are very fortunate to have such an authority in our community, and I would strongly urge you to attend Dr. Bearman’s talk on November 4. He will go into detail on the amazing properties of medical marijuana, legalization, and past discriminatory practices in U.S. drug policy. The talk will also attempt to answer tough questions. If medical marijuana is so effective, why haven’t more studies been done on it? How does cannabis help with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), ADD, epilepsy, etc.? Can driving under the influence be tested? Should it?

David Bearman is a passionate advocate for the medicinal use of cannabis. He is disappointed by the California Legislature’s approach, which he says does not come from a medical background. This will be a very challenging path as we head toward legalization, and if you are like me, you probably have questions. Having spent time with Dr. Bearman, I am confident he can answer just about anything related to these developments. Put this talk on the calendar for a fact-gathering evening.


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