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Open Letter on
Anti-Marijuana Propaganda

By Punkerslut
Addressed to the Partnership for a Drug-Free America

Photograph by Ravenhurst
Image: Photograph by Ravenhurst

Start Date: April 15, 2010
Finish Date: April 15, 2010

Link: Link: http://www.drugfree.org/Portal/drug_guide/Marijuana


     I came across your web page after searching the web for a balanced listing of resources on Marijuana. The short-term effects of Marijuana were most interesting: "Short-term effects of marijuana include problems with memory and learning...trouble with thinking and problem solving...and anxiety." This is from the "Drug Guide" page for Marijuana. In a study cited by the National Institute of Drug Abuse...

"Impairments depended on the frequency of chronic marijuana use, i.e., 'light' and 'intermediate' marijuana use (defined by use one to four and five to six times weekly, respectively) were not associated with deficits. Intermediate use was associated with superior performance in one condition ('fuzzy' concepts) of a Concept Formation test." [*1]

     Essentially, those who smoke Marijuana 71% to 85% of the week demonstrate superior performance in concept formation tests. In another study cited by NIDA, memory deficites with Cannabis users were strictly for individuals who used too little Marijuana. People who smoked Marijuana for roughly a month or more, up to their entire lives, showed no deficites in remembering. [*2]

     These are peer-reviewed studies, and they were good enough to make it into a paper published by the National Institute of Drug Abuse -- although both studies were quoted deceptively.

     Even though they are not wholly representative, there are plenty of case studies where individuals were benefited by using drugs. For instance, both John Lennon and Art Garfunkel smoked grass -- the astrophysicist Carl Sagan smoked Marijuana daily, just like the musician Louis Armstrong. Did these people have "problems with memory and learning"? Did they have "trouble with thinking and problem solving"? The exact opposite, and both Sagan and Armstrong cited their drug use as a strong inspiration in their life.

Photograph by Bart Everson
Image: Photograph by Bart Everson,
Released Under Creative Commons
"Attribution 2.0 Generic" License

     Next, "anxiety" is listed as an effect of Marijuana. I'm curious... Why did "anxiety" and not "mind-blowing enlightenment" make it on that list? First, it is possible that any drug could have the effect of causing anxiety, from prescription anti-psychotics to powerful pain-killers. And, even not using drugs can cause anxiety. There is nothing objective about this word "anxiety." A lot of people who disagree with you would actually describe its effect as "relaxing." Can it cause anxiety in some people? Of course, and in this way, it is just like any other drug.

     Under long-term effects, this was listed, "Studies show that someone who smokes five joints per week may be taking in as many cancer-causing chemicals as someone who smokes a full pack of cigarettes every day." This is interesting, but a reader is probably more interested in a different question. "Does smoking Marijuana cause cancer?"

     Yes, the burning of Marijuana produces chemicals that can cause cancer. This is true of virtually every organic substance, from rice to cabbage. It doesn't answer the question: "Does smoking it cause cancer?" It seems completely deceptive to state that something can contain chemicals that cause cancer, but then refuse to publish studies on whether it actually does cause cancer. In a study with over a thousand subjects, conducted in 2006 by Donald Tashkin, there was no association between Marijuana users and cancer. This was true for even the heaviest smokers of Marijuana. [*3]

     In another study conducted at the Case Western Reserve University in 2006, researchers combined 19 studies on marijuana and lung cancer, coming to this conclusion: "Observational studies of subjects with marijuana exposure failed to demonstrate significant associations between marijuana smoking and lung cancer after adjusting for tobacco use." [*4] In one study published in Cancer Prevention Research in 2009, Marijuana smokers had a reduced risk of cancer. Quoting the news outlet Alternet...

"...current marijuana users had a 48% reduced risk of head and neck cancer, and the reduction was statistically significant. Former users also had a lower risk, though it fell short of being significant. The investigators crunched the numbers several different ways for example, by amount of marijuana used or the frequency of use and the findings stayed the same nearly across the board, with moderate users showing the strongest and most consistent reduction in cancer risk." [*5]

     The question is "What tells us the truth about Marijuana and cancer more? Studies about the content of the smoke of Marijuana, or studies about people who smoke Marijuana?" Clearly the latter. When you say "the chemicals in the smoke of cannabis cause cancer," you're telling the truth -- just like a news agency that reports on crimes committed on by blacks, and never by whites. Yes, it is the truth, 100%, but it is twisted and made deceptive -- it's contorted to give an impression, a message, to give a certain mindset. So, yes, it may be technically true, that smoke contains some cancerous chemicals. But, the studies published so far show no link between smoking Marijuana and cancer.

     If you are interested in helping people know the real risk they face, then tell them the real facts. And not just a few that can be bent to serve some private agenda. But expose them all, and let people make up their own minds.

     Please, take some time to think this over and reconsider your description of the Marijuana page in your Drug Guide. I'll be patiently awaiting your response.

Andrew Carloff


*1. Pope HG, Yurgelun-Todd D. The residual cognitive effects of heavy marijuana use in college students. JAMA 275(7):521527, 1996, http://jama.ama-assn.org/ Link. Cited from NIDA InfoFacts: Marijuana.
*2. 25 Pope HG, Gruber AJ, Hudson JI, et al. Neuropsychological performance in long-term cannabis users. Arch Gen Psychiatry 58(10):909915, 2001, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/ Link. Cited from NIDA InfoFacts: Marijuana.
*3. "Study finds no marijuana-lung cancer link," by Marc Kaufman, published by the Washington Post, Friday, May 26, 2006, http://www.washingtonpost.com/ Link.
*4. "The association between marijuana smoking and lung cancer: a systematic review," Mehra R, Moore BA, Crothers K, Tetrault J, Fiellin DA., Department of Medicine, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio 44106-6003, USA, Arch Intern Med. 2006 Jul 10;166(13):1359-67. Published by the National Institutes of Health, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/ Link.
*5. "More Evidence That Marijuana Prevents Cancer," By Bruce Mirken / Marijuana Policy Project, August 21, 2009, published on Alternet.org, http://www.alternet.org/ Link.

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