It often seems as if the mainstream media is just waiting for something — anything — bad to turn up about the effects of marijuana, despite the long, fruitless search for damning evidence.
Smoking pot is bad because it’s illegal and it’s illegal because it’s bad, goes the circular logic; with this conclusion reached beforehand, then it’s just a matter of waiting for the research to roll in.
Unfortunately for the prohibitionists, just about every unbiased scientific study ever done on the herb shows it to be remarkably safe and amazingly non-toxic.
Especially when compared with other psychoactive substances, and even everyday palliatives such as aspirin and related painkillers — Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs), which cause 7,600 deaths per year
— pot looks pretty damn safe with a grand total of zero overdose deaths in history.
The difference is even more stark with other “recreational” substances such as tobacco (435,000 deaths per year), alcohol (85,000 deaths per year), prescription drugs (32,000 deaths), and illicit street drugs (17,000 deaths).
But you won’t be seeing much about that in our “fair and balanced” mainstream media, because that apparently doesn’t generate as many sales and click-throughs as trumpeting scare stories about pot.
When it comes to the financially struggling yellow journalism industry, returning to the same, tired, old marijuana scare stories — no matter how flimsy and ridiculous — seems to be a habit they just can’t break.
Latest case in point: The worldwide corporate media’s hysterical anti-pot headlines last week, as pointed out by NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano
For anyone who missed the appalling display of ignorance and misinformation, here’s a sampling, courtesy of NORML:
Cannabis more damaging to adolescent brains than previously known
via Emax Health
“New research shows that teens who consume cannabis daily can suffer anxiety and depression. Smoking marijuana can have long-term irreversible effects on adolescent brains, and is more harmful to teens than previously known.”
Teen marijuana use affects brain permanently: study
via CBC News
“The findings suggest daily marijuana use by teens can cause depression and anxiety, and have an irreversible effect on the brain.”
Pot damage on teens worse than thought
via UPI wire services
“Daily consumption of marijuana in teens can cause depression and anxiety, and have irreversible long-term effect on the brain, Canadian researchers say.”
Cannabis brain damage worse in teens than thought: study
via The Canadian Press
“The effects of daily cannabis use on teenage brains is worse than originally thought, and the long-term effects appear to be irreversible, new research from McGill University suggests.”
Sure sounds as if they finally found that silver bullet they’ve been seeking so long — the one that’ll stop marijuana law reform in its tracks and show that pot is a bad, bad thing. Right?
Hold on a second before you flush the weed and start busting up your bongs. This should probably come as no surprise, but the mainstream media’s alarmist coverage of this stor
y is so inaccurate, so badly flawed, as to be beyond useless — it is dangerous.
Now, you’d never guess it by reading the pseudo-reporting linked above, but there are three really important things about this new “scary” scientific study about marijuana and teens that you should know:
1. No adolescents — or any human beings whatsoever! — actually participated in the study.
2. No actual marijuana was consumed — by human beings or animals — in the study.
3. No permanent brain damage was reported in the study.
You don’t have to take my word for it; these three crucial facts are all easily verifiable, right here:
A quote from the above:
“We tested this hypothesis by administering the CB(1) receptor agonist WIN55, 212-2, once daily for 20 days to adolescent and adult rats…
“Chronic adolescent exposure but not adult exposure to low and high doses led to depression-like behavior in the forced swim and sucrose preference test, while the high dose also induced anxiety-like consequences in the novelty-suppressed feeding test … These (findings) suggest that long-term exposure to cannabinoids during adolescence induces anxiety-like and depression-like behaviors in adulthood…”
So, to summarize, investigators administered daily doses of a highly potent synthetic cannabinoid receptor agonist (not marijuana!) to both adolescent and adult rats for 20 days. Days later, researchers documented altered serotonin production in younger rats.
As Armentano points out, there is no apparent reason the researchers would conclude this change would be permanent; after the initial 20-day period, they do not appear to have ever tested the rats’ serotonin production again.
But somehow, when this inconclusive study of of the supposed depression-like and anxiety-like behavior in certain rats passed through the looking glass of the mainstream media, it became damn near “proof” that “marijuana hurts teenagers.” Sigh.
Again: No teenagers were involved in the study. No humans at all were involved in the study. There wasn’t even any god-damned marijuana
involved in the study. But you’d never know that from credulous newspapers such as the San Diego Tribune
“A study of Canadian teenagers [inaccurate!]… found that smoking the illicit drug [inaccurate!] is harder on young brains than originally thought. Writing in the journal Neurobiology of Disease, researchers at McGill University in Montreal said daily consumption of cannabis in teens [inaccurate!] can cause significant depression and anxiety and have an irreversible [inaccurate!] long-term effect on the brain.”
The truth is, even a cursory reading of the study shows that, even as flawed as it is, it never said anything remotely like that.
I’ll join Paul Armentano in asking: Why does the mainstream media consistently get the story wrong when it comes to marijuana?
Why must journalistic standards of truth and objectivity go out the window when it comes to pot?
What must we as informed citizens do to convince the gatekeepers of information in our society to report the actual facts about cannabis?