Big Lies from the King of the Whopper

Adam wrote and asked me to take on the OpEd in the Washington Post: Cutting Marijuana Use Calls for More Than Tough Policing by Joseph Califano

The increased potency of today’s marijuana and the greater knowledge we have of the dangers of using marijuana justify the increased attention that law enforcement is giving to illegal possession of the drug.

And so it begins. In the first three words he invokes the Big Lie of today’s marijuana prohibitionist: increased potency.
Let me say this simply and clearly. There is absolutely no evidence that increased levels of THC in marijuana have any impact on the smoker other than needing to smoke less pot for the same effect. Oh, they’re all using the lie. Some are more obvious about it than others. But I’m still waiting for a single bit of evidence.
So let’s see what else Joey has to say.

As has been true of tobacco since the 1960s, we’ve learned a lot about the dangers of marijuana since the 1970s.æ The drug adversely affects short-term memory, the ability to concentrate and motor skills.

Uh, Joe. We knew about that back in the 70s. In fact, it was a matter of considerable amusement. The interesting thing is that in the decades since, there’s been no indication that any of this has long-term detrimental effects. This is like saying one of the “dangers” of eating desserts is a short-term sugar rush. Well, duh!

Recent studies indicate that it increases the likelihood of depression, schizophrenia and other serious mental health problems.

Now this is an oversimplification of a complex set of studies with questionable methodology that have, at best, shown a link, not causation. Most of it is explainable through self-medication and other factors. Also, the “serious mental health problems” part is a real joke, since the questionnaire that determined that showed that over 8% of the population had “serious mental health problems.”

Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, has repeatedly expressed concern about the adverse impact of marijuana on the brain, a matter of particular moment for youngsters whose brains are still in the development stage.æ Volkow has stated: “There is no question marijuana can be addictive; that argument is over.æ The most important thing right now is to understand the vulnerability of young, developing brains to these increased concentrations of cannabis.”

Well then, let’s see if Nora Volkow is a reliable source, or just another prohibitionist using the Big Lie. Check this out:

Volkow, here to speak to people working in the drug-addiction field, said many scientists used to believe marijuana was not addictive.

But she said the pot consumed by the Baby Boom generation had much less of the active ingredient THC – which interacts with receptor proteins in the brain that translate pleasure responses – than the types now available.

“It is this chemical that can lead to the addiction,” she said. “When people were taking marijuana in the past, they were consuming a very weak drug.

And we have a winner! Yep, it’s the Big Lie again. Pot is not physically addictive, but it does have the potential for dependency. However, that dependency is weak — much weaker than alcohol, tobacco, or caffeine, and it’s very easy for most people to quit (dependence is often not due to marijuana, but other psychological factors).
Nora Volkow also claimed that drug addiction normally ranges from 20-30 percent of those who use it, yet there have been over 95 million Americans who have used pot and only 3.1 million used it regularly over the past year (just over 3%) — and there’s no evidence that the 3.1 million are addicted.
Back to Califano:

The next question is how to make public policies, including law enforcement approaches, more effective in discouraging marijuana use.æ Availability is the mother of use, so doing a far better job of reducing availability is high on the list.æ Beyond that — and recognizing that reducing demand is key to that goal — we should use the increased arrest rate as an opportunity to discourage use.

Now he’s just delusional. Reducing availability of marijuana? How? Despite 30 years of oppressive laws, there has been no significant reduction at all. And increasing the arrest rate as an “opportunity to discourage use”? What, is he high?
A picture named califano.jpgNo, but he is an old-fashioned temperance whore. And, as I indicated in the title, he is the King of the Whoppers.
Califano is head of the Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA). This is a huge organization with big funding and tons of connections within the Government’s Drug War Community. And when they release a report, they get lots of coverage in the media. But the major media is starting to be gunshy — they’ve been burned so many times. Several times, the New York Times has had to print retractions because of CASA’s intentionally false use of numbers from flawed studies.
CASA is the laughingstock of the scientific community. They reported, for instance, that 25% of alcohol sold was consumed by minors. Patently false – a result of not making elementary adjustments to survey data. When confronted with the evidence, Califano actually defended his organization’s use of bad numbers.
In one case, Califano’s organization actually inflated the numbers by 1,790 percent in order to make their point.
Big Lies. Big Liar.

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