You might call Dr. David Bearman an expert on drug abuse, considering he has spoken before Congress on the issue approximately 50 times. He has also testified in court that a man is not responsible for his actions after a dozen reds and two quarts of beer.
“Take my word for it,” he said.
Dr. Bearman brought his considerable experience to a discussion on the history of medicinal cannabis Monday at the MultiCultural Center. His speech stretched from the use of medicinal cannabis in India in 1100 B.C. to the current state of California’s Proposition 215. Bearman, who taught the first course on drugs at UCSB and is a practicing physician in Santa Barbara, said that cannabis is an effective medicine for maladies ranging from Tourette Syndrome to migraine headaches and has few serious side effects.
“The worst side effect is getting arrested,” Bearman said.
Although Bearman debunked some cannabis lore, saying “No one ever found residue on George Washington’s wooden teeth,” he added one new item: “Queen Victoria used it for her menstrual cramps.”
The latter part of Bearman’s speech focused on Prop 215, which allows California doctors to prescribe cannabis for medicinal purposes. The proposition contradicts federal law, which lists marijuana alongside heroin and LSD as a Schedule I controlled substance, defined as having a high abuse potential and no medicinal benefits.
“I have treated quadriplegics with constant pain and muscle spasms, and cannabis is the only thing that can get them through the day,” Bearman said.
Bearman said he believes Prop 215 will remain the law in California but the federal government will make every effort to constrict the distribution of medicinal marijuana.
Responses from the crowd of 30 indicated that Bearman’s pro-cannabis speech was preaching to the choir.
“This basically reaffirmed my beliefs that our general attitude on the matter is messed up,” Xavier Ramirez, a junior political science major, said.