Six days after The Huffington Post published my latest article, browsers had logged in 156 comments. The post was titled Marijuana Legalization Proponents Deny Health Harms Just Like the Tobacco Industry Did; 153 of the 156 comments proved the point.
Just 30 people made 80 percent (125) of the comments. Contributing the most were truthaboutmmj (19); kevin hunt2012 (12); Andrew swanteni (9); Blows Against the Empire and ConnieInCleveland (6 each); RMForbes, SchumannFu, and Volteric (5 each); JohnThomas, Tomaniac, and WowFolksAreDumb (4 each); average dude, FlyingTooLow, JD Salinger, Matthew Fairbrother, McMike55, moldy, Paul Paul, and susierr (3 each). Eleven people contributed 2 comments each; 28 contributed 1 each. Only one person, Jan Beauregard, PhD, a Virginia psychotherapist whose specialties include addictive disorders, agreed that marijuana has health harms. She contributed three comments.
Clicking a link in a commenter’s name will take you to Huff Post’s Social News and a collection of all the comments that person has made about Huff Post stories. Commenters apply for a spot on Social News by linking it to their Facebook accounts, which magnifies Huff Post’s reach. Call it Huff Post squared. Huff Post cubed occurs if commenters also link Social News to their Twitter accounts. Huff Post awards badges to commenters based on the number of comments they make on Huff Post’s stories and the number of Facebook Friends and Twitter Followers they have. The more comments, friends, and followers, the higher level badges they earn. WowFolksAreDumb, for example, who must hold some kind of record, has written more than 10,000 comments since joining Social News in May 2012 and has earned four badges–Level 2 Networker, Level 2 Superuser, Level 1 Crime Solver, and Moderator.
Huff Post has brilliantly tapped into social media to expand its audience exponentially. But this brave new world comes at a cost. Few editors live in this world. Opinions triumph over facts. Quantity trumps quality. Truth loses.
Juxtapose this with two major problems of current science: 1) the public cannot access most published studies and 2) scientific disciplines are so specialized that public access would hardly matter. A PhD is needed to understand the complexity of new knowledge scientists are developing today, and a PhD in one discipline does not guarantee understanding of knowledge developed in another. Scientists can’t speak each other’s languages anymore, so specialized have various disciplines become. An astronomer couldn’t explain the genome to you any better than a geneticist could explain the cosmos.
Without access to comprehensible science, science illiteracy rules, particularly in the area of the science that underlies addictive drugs. Perhaps the most puzzling argument that runs through many of the comments about my post is one that rejects later work which contradicts earlier studies. WowFolksAreDumb, for example, writes, “According to Dreher 1994, there are no prenatal or neonatal differences between babies from mothers who did use cannabis during pregnancy and babies from mothers who did not.” In addition to the 2012 study I wrote about, more than 50 other studies about the harmful effects of marijuana on the developing fetus have been published since 1994, but WowFolksAreDumb claims the 1994 study negates them all. Maxpost, Midnight Toker, goes a step further. He interprets Dreher’s study to mean: “Pregnant women SHOULD smoke DOPE!!!”
Commenters attacked all the studies I wrote about, particularly the study indicating a link between marijuana use and testicular cancer. Steve Hager dismissed it this way: “I believe the testicular cancer study involved 6 people, maybe it was only 3. Worthless, really.” That study actually involved 163 young men diagnosed with testicular cancer and a control group of 292 healthy men of the same age and ethnicity and asked them about their drug use. The investigators found that compared to those who had never used marijuana, men who had used the drug were twice as likely to have testicular cancer. It’s difficult to understand why Mr. Hager couldn’t trouble himself to check how many people were involved in the study since I provided links to both the account of it published by Science Daily and the abstract of the study itself. Both clearly state the number of research subjects.
The collision of social media with current, complex science produces a chasm where scientific truth can be manipulated easily – and aggressively. I emailed Dr. Beauregard to thank her for supporting the marijuana science I had written about. She emailed back, “I have found many of the same facts, but the comments are more than I can stand and the backlash is horrific. I only posted a few things and have had literally over 50 people email me with hostile, emotional comments based on personal experience as a user.”
And that, in a nutshell, is the heart of the problem. When it comes to marijuana, users dominate not just Huff Post, but the Internet as well. They relentlessly assault anyone who reports that a marijuana study might show a detrimental effect. Few have time to put up with this, not therapists like Dr. Beauregard who treats marijuana addiction, not scientists who conduct the studies, not writers who report the science. With marijuana, what takes place on the Internet is a shouting match; those who shout loudest win.
After this experience, I’ve learned something else about the drug: marijuana not only makes you lie, it makes you rude.
March 18, 2013–Every day new scientific studies come across my desk warning of harms marijuana poses to users. That’s why it is particularly frustrating to see leading legalization organizations insist that marijuana is fundamentally harmless. A case in point is Ethan Nadelmann’s Drug Policy Alliance, the organization that takes credit for persuading states to legalize pot for medical and now recreational use. On its website, the Alliance features prominently 10 Facts About Marijuana, but science gives the lie to these so-called facts. Read more in our new article on the Huffington Post.
December 19, 2012–National Families in Action asks legalization states to regulate marijuana better than alcohol or tobacco. Read Huffington Post article here.
September 10, 2012–As the November election nears, voters in three states (Colorado, Oregon, and Washington) will decide whether to legalize the production, distribution, and retail sale of marijuana. On today’s Huffington Post, National Families in Action’s president and CEO, Sue Rusche, asks: “Can Our Experience with Tobacco and Alcohol Teach Us How to Protect Children from Pot if Marijuana is Legalized? Read it here.
August 27, 2012–A new study reinforces the need to protect adolescents from a commercial marijuana industry that will come after them, like the tobacco and alcohol industries do, if marijuana is legalized.
The study, reported today by the Associated Press, involved more than 1,000 people in New Zealand who were interviewed and tested several times, beginning at age 13 and ending at age 38. Those who used marijuana persistently by age 18 experienced an average IQ drop of 8 points at age 38. Reducing use or quitting did not fully restore the drop in IQ. Those using marijuana frequently after age 18 did not experience a drop in IQ.
The study was published online today by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
August 1, 2012–Voters in Colorado, Oregon, and Washington will decide whether to legalize the production, distribution, and retail sale of marijuana in November. If any state legalizes, for the first time in history a vast commercial marijuana business will emerge.
Researchers predict that, depending on the federal response, over time legal marijuana’s price could drop by as much as 80 percent. Users and dealers from other states would be likely to buy the cheaper pot, bringing a windfall of taxes to the legalization state and pressuring other states to legalize to retrieve their share of taxes.
True, if a state legalizes marijuana in November, marijuana will remain an illegal drug under the U.S. Controlled Substances Act (CSA). But Congress can change that and national polls now show that half the population supports legalizing marijuana. In fact, a bill with 20 co-sponsors has been introduced that would remove marijuana from the CSA so that states could move forward with legalization.
If legalization occurs, profit motives will quickly trump public health concerns. Like the tobacco and alcohol industries, a commercial marijuana industry will target society’s most vulnerable people, children, as potential life-time customers. Research is showing how to limit the tobacco and alcohol industries’ marketing efforts to children; can we prohibit similar efforts before a commercial marijuana industry emerges?
With the help of experts who work to prevent underage drinking and smoking, National Families in Action developed 12 provisions that states should include in regulations to govern a commercial marijuana industry. Our provisions address such questions as:
- Should that industry be allowed to sell marijuana edibles – marijuana infused chocolate chip cookies, fudge, and brownies – like medical marijuana dispensaries sell?
- Should marijuana retail shops be located near schools?
- Should use be allowed on the premises of marijuana retail outlets?
- Should the industry be allowed to advertise? On TV? At sports events? On the Internet? At points of purchase?
- Could an increase in use among youth automatically trigger legalization repeal?
- Should a marijuana industry, like the tobacco industry, contribute to a dedicated fund to treat addiction and other health problems marijuana causes?
National Families in Action calls upon responsible leaders to develop contingency plans for regulations that will prohibit a commercial marijuana industry from marketing its products to children if voters legalize the drug. We offer our provisions as a way to begin.
Introduction (Slides 1-3)
June 14, 2012–This presentation was given originally on March 13th, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia, to the director and board members of National Families in Action, which is conducting a public education campaign about marijuana legalization called “But What About the Children?” Since the presentation, some slides have been revised or omitted to reflect the most accurate and up-to-date information available. The presentation consists of an introduction and three sections.
The research and analysis presented here is the collective work of a class of 16 students from Carnegie Mellon University’s John Heinz III College, School of Public Policy & Management. These students all participated in a course called Policy Modeling Workshop, taught by drug policy expert Professor Jonathan P. Caulkins. Since Spring 2010, this course has offered students the opportunity to dig into timely marijuana-related issues and ultimately present their findings to key drug policy decision makers. In 2010, the students analyzed California’s Proposition 19, and in 2011, the class focused on medical marijuana. This year, the course centered on the legalization of marijuana for recreational use by comparing and contrasting the content and implications of the state marijuana proposals for 2012. As the culmination of the course, pairs of students presented the work of the class to the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), the director of Congressional Affairs from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), drug scholars at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), and Congressional representatives.
Section 1. Overview of Current Initiatives and Likelihood of Passage (Slides 4-18)
Section 2. The Impacts and Implications of Marijuana Legalization (Slides 19-38)
Section 3. How Do the Initiatives Stack Up Against the Twelve Provisions? (Slides 39-74)
Complete Presentation (Slides 1-74)
June 12, 2012–The legalization of marijuana for recreational use is being proposed by direct voter referendum in Colorado and Washington in November, 2012. Part of the discussion that is missing on legalization is just what effect this would have on children. Will it be similar to alcohol and tobacco…both legal products?
California voted down Proposition 19 to make personal marijuana use legal in 2010…but may be headed to a vote again in 2012.
Proponents say that state regulation will prevent underage use of marijuana, but statistics show that states have not done a very good job of keeping alcohol and cigarettes from youth under the legal age of possession. (See Commerce Trumps Age Limits, below.)
Substance Abuse 411 talks to Sue Rusche, President and CEO of National Families in Action, about this looming crisis and what safeguards should be put in place if indeed voters legalize marijuana and turn it into the next commercial industry whose profits will depend on addicting people, especially young people. Click here to listen.
June 11, 2012–Pictured here are chocolate chip cookies infused with marijuana, just one example of “marijuana edibles.” A new industry has emerged to supply marijuana edibles to patients eligible for medical marijuana, now legal in 17 states and the District of Columbia. If voters approve ballot measures to legalize the production, distribution, and retail sale of marijuana for recreational use, not only will smokeable varieties of the drug be sold in retail outlets, but also food products like these. How will we keep them out of the hands of children? Other marijuana edibles include:
Marijuana Caramels and Fudge
Marijuana White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies
And Marijuana Cookbooks
June 11, 2012–The Marijuana Penalties Act of 2012 (Tracking Number 1518) and the Repeal Cannabis Prohibition Act of 2012 (Tracking Number 1524) both failed to collect enough signatures to be placed on California’s 2012 ballot. Two other initiatives continue to collect signatures. They are:
- The Medical Marijuana Regulation, Control, and Taxation Act (Tracking Number 1571), which legalizes the production, distribution, and sale of medical marijuana and prohibits state and local law enforcement agencies from helping federal agencies enforce the Controlled Substances Act and other federal laws.
Number 1544 had until June 4 to collect more than 500,000 signatures; no word yet from the Secretary of State as to whether proponents succeeded. Number 1571 has until July 13 to collect the required number of signatures to place the initiative on the state’s ballot.