Having spent most of my career in the mental health field, and watched schizophrenia strip my clients of their reason, their hope, their dignity and their will to live, I can empathize with you. It is an ugly disease at best.

I cannot agree, however, that banning cannabis is the answer. We spend 50 billion dollars a year in a “war on drugs” that has filled our privately run prisons with people of color — and done virtually nothing to reduce drug consumption in this country. There are far more sensible solutions, beginning with education and medical supervision of recreational drug use.

The connection between cannabis and schizophrenia is not yet clear. It appears that certain individuals carry specific genes that may increase their susceptibility to the disease if they use cannabis — especially if they are heavy users and begin before they reach maturity. Some of these individuals (perhaps most) may have developed the disease even without cannabis use, but marijuana is linked to earlier onset. But there is an irony here: while THC, the cannabinoid that is associated with getting high may increase the odds that an at-risk person will develop schizophrenia, CBD — another cannabinoid— actually seems to delay the appearance of symptoms. More research is needed to sort all of this out.

In the interim, the best advice that we can give is threefold: (1) teenagers should avoid cannabis or use it only rarely — they appear to be at the greatest risk; (2) people diagnosed with schizophrenia should never use any non-prescription drug … it just isn’t worth it; and (3) if you have a history of schizophrenia in your family, avoid cannabis altogether.

Happily living on an island, writing about the human adventure with an emphasis on politics and “tikkun olam” (saving the world — mostly from ourselves).