Surprise – Kevin Sabet still doesn’t support marijuana

On Tuesday, we reported on the large study that proved that marijuana use did not impair lung function. Ed Dunkle in comments said “I wonder how Kevin Sabet is going to spin this.”

Well, it didn’t take long.

Is Marijuana Good For You? by Kevin Sabet in The Fix.

He was clearly not happy, but basically, his response appears to be something along the lines of ‘Oh yeah? Well, it’s still probably not as good for you as breathing clean air.’ He even tried to double down on the tired old lung cancer bit:

(In case you’re wondering, the evidence linking marijuana and lung cancer are mixed, with a recent study stating that “cannabis smoking increases the risk of developing a lung cancer independently of an eventual associated tobacco exposure.” Other studies have failed to find such a link.)

The study Kevin refers to is neither recent nor much of a study. Dr. Donald Tashkin, clearly one of the leading scientists in this field (if not the top) dismissed it out of hand:
He notes that a much smaller, recent study from New Zealand did claim to find a link, but only in very heavy users. He says, “The authors’ interpretation of their data can be faulted because of the small numbers of their subjects exhibiting such heavy use, which rendered their estimates of risk imprecise.”

Such scientific impreciseness doesn’t seem to bother Kevin Sabet, who promotes the extremely flawed small lung cancer study from New Zealand, while merely mentioning that “other studies failed to find such a link” instead of admitting that the largest study in the world, conducted in the U.S. and funded by NIDA conclusively found no cancer link and a slight inverse link.

Kevin Sabet is clearly no friend to science or medicine.

However, he found his own expert:

Mark Gold, perhaps the most distinguished professor in the country on drugs and the brain and body, told me, “It is possible, but not proven, that cannabis smoke may be less toxic than cigarette smoke, but it is not better than clean air.

Ah, he got a distinguished professor to agree that clean air is good. Congratulations. And who is this Mark Gold, anyway? Where did Kevin find this expert?

Well, it turns out that Kevin has just gotten a job at University of Florida, and he tweets: “…Just appointed as Assistant Professor at their College of Medicine under the great Mark Gold. Staying in Cambridge, MA though.”


Bonus: Check out the nonsense from Bob DuPont in Sabet’s article.


I tweeted:

@KevinSabet Why do you continue to promote the discredited NZ study on lung cancer and downplay the comprehensive U.S. study funded by NIDA?

Sabet tweets back:

@DrugWarRant I’m not promoting, I listed both sides and I’m sticking to the science. The jury is still out on it.


Let’s look at what he said again:

In case you’re wondering, the evidence linking marijuana and lung cancer are mixed, with a recent study stating that “cannabis smoking increases the risk of developing a lung cancer independently of an eventual associated tobacco exposure.” Other studies have failed to find such a link.

He includes a quote from the discredited New Zealand study, but lumps the Tashkin/NIDA study in “other studies have failed to find such a link.”

How is the jury still out? What jury? Kevin’s jury? Comparing those two disparate studies as if they were merely “both sides” isn’t science.

Update 2: As Howard says, remember that these arguments have no impact on legalization. Legalization arguments are about the damage of prohibition.

As I noted in the original post about the lung study, even if marijuana was extremely damaging to the lungs, that wouldn’t justify prohibition.

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56 Responses to Surprise – Kevin Sabet still doesn’t support marijuana

  1. darkcycle says:

    Oh JOY!!! There are Comments! I just posted this for a quick “conversation starter”

    I do not think the study suggests that marijuana is “good for you”. And I must say, it probably took you a good five minutes to find an “expert” to tell you breathing clean air is preferable to smoke, but that wasn’t the point, was it? The study simply found no adverse results on lung capacity from smoking marijuana, and contrary to expectations found a larger usable lung volume from some smokers. Unless I read this research completely wrong, nobody suggested that pot was “good for you” And Robert Dupont… ” Furthermore, he asks, “What other health-related advice is justified when a large minority of people who take that advice suffer terrible — often fatal — consequences?”” Is Robert DuPont suggesting that marijuana use is fatal? Where are the bodies? Show me the death certificates that list cannabis as the cause of death, I defy you. Is anybody going to believe that?
    And wait a munute…. Isn’t Mark Gold your BOSS? Pathetic suckup.:

  2. Matthew Meyer says:

    Gold is an expert on drugs, but he thinks Columbus brought tobacco to the New World?

    Sabet also writes, “Interestingly, this latest study shows that the heavy breathing in done by the occasional marijuana smokers may help them—but only in the short run, since more frequent use seems to wipe out any benefit.”

    “Short run” contrasts with “frequent use”?

    What a hack.

    And the Disqus comment thread is closed to me. (Edit: with Javascript enabled it’s OK.)

  3. claygooding says:

    “”But to say that marijuana smoke is now good for you, as some have suggested, is both disingenuous and dangerous.””

    Some,,,,try 21 million people.

  4. As we at LEAP have said for a decade now, make the other guy defend prohibition as a basis for any debate. How much harm any drug causes (aspirin to heroin) will always land you in the ‘he said – she said’ & progress in convincing parents will remain minimal.

    Ou target is always the parent.

    • darkcycle says:

      Hiya Howard! Good to see ya here! I just can’t resist taking a swing at Sabet, it’s too satisfying…

      • claygooding says:

        me too dark,,and it felt so good,I went back and hit his only supporting commenter.

      • Duncan20903 says:

        There’s nothing wrong with proffering gratuitous insults an ad hominem attacks on such people as long as it’s done strictly for recreation. Gosh, it’s hard to think of many things that are more fun than insulting prohibitionists. Just as long as we remember to limit it to recreational use. When it’s time to do serious work neither is appropriate, IMHO.

    • Matthew Meyer says:

      That’s a good tip, Howard, thanks.

      Reminds me of something Russ Belville wrote recently, that people have to fear prohibition more than they fear drugs.

      I wish it didn’t have to be about fear, but maybe that’s how this stuff works.

    • allan says:

      yeehaw, look who rode in and sat his Misty right down on the couch…

      One of the lessons I learned whilst working with the LEAPsters was just what Howard said… and what we MAP letter writers worked hard at getting across. And in case you weren’t aware, Howard is a force in the lte ranks, now at number 7 and closing in quick on the sixth spot –

      And Howard… you mention LEAP w/ a “we.” Are you a LEAPster again? Cause that would be way cool.

      “An unjust law is itself a species of violence. Arrest for its breach is more so.” – Mohandas K. Gandhi

      • Duncan20903 says:

        He’ll never catch Mr. Sharpe. Bob’s the friggin’ Michael Phelps of LsTE.

        • allan says:

          yeah, Robert has some secret energy source, he took off and nobody could catch him once he hit light speed. Kirk only runs on rocket fuel…

          I pedal…

  5. Dante says:

    “Interestingly, this latest study shows that the heavy breathing in done by the occasional marijuana smokers may help them—but only in the short run”

    Yeah, the short run. I’m over 50. Heavy user. No lung problems at all.

    In 20 or 30 years, this stuff will probably kill me.

  6. Francis says:

    It’s weird how Sabet missed the opportunity to promote vaporizers or edibles as a smoking alternative and harm-reduction strategy. I mean, his primary motivation IS the safety and well-being of his fellow man, right?

  7. Cannabis says:

    What happened to Kevin’s gig in Pennsylvania?

    • Duncan20903 says:

      He realized PA isn’t a safe haven for kiddie diddlers anymore.

      No, I’m not trying to imply that Mr. Sabet is a kiddie diddler but you have to admit it’s very suspicious. First that football coach gets busted for kiddie diddling. Mr. Paterno gets fired for hiring a kiddie diddler, and then Mr. Sabet moves out of PA. Coincidence? I’ll let you be the judge.

      I wonder, does NAMBLA sell gift memberships? I’d like to show Mr. Sabet just how much I like him.


      Posthoc Ergopropterhoc

      • claygooding says:

        correlation is causation?

        • Matthew Meyer says:

          literally, “after this, therefore because of this.”

          basically, yeah.

        • Duncan20903 says:

          Mr. Sabet seems to think so. Also please recall that I specifically denied any intention of implying that one thing was related to the other. Is it my fault that you have no problem picturing Mr. S as a kiddie diddler and let me trick you into drawing the inference?

  8. Duncan20903 says:

    Their entire argument is built on a platform consisting of nothing other than bald faced lies, half truths, and hysterical rhetoric. Why in the world would you expect their arguments to make any sense???

    Oh wait, my bad. I’ll bet Pete was being rhetorical. Never mind.

  9. kaptinemo says:

    (Pounding the table) Again and again and again I can’t emphasize this enough: this has to go to f—king COURT!

    The liars have to be nailed on the stand and made to look like the mendacious and (public) intelligence-insulting fools they are before this ever stops. There has to be a ‘Nuremberg Moment’ where the liars (and thus the policy based on those lies) are confronted with the horrible mess they’ve made, in graphic, shocking detail, to get past this American version of ‘Holocaust Denial’.

    Until that happens, the likes of Sabet will always be able to spout their BS with impunity.

    • claygooding says:

      And I will always be available,,as long as I live,to furnish Sabet with a good character witness and reference,for any job he tries to take from now on,,just like a felony conviction for marijuana,I will be there to help him through life. Unless he changes occupations and careers and moves into a line of work that is not connected with the war on drugs.

    • stayan says:

      Part of the reason the prohibs are so desperate to uphold the status quo.

      Once cannabis is legalised (and hopefully everything else), how are you (as a prohibitionist) going to justify (before a court of law) a policy that condemned millions of people jail, destroyed entire communities & destablised entire countries (among other atrocities) without being regarded with absolute scorn?

    • Cliff says:

      … and “just following orders” will not be an acceptable excuse.

  10. dt says:

    In his first paragraph, Sabet says: “Heavier use, such as very frequent use, as well as occasional tobacco use, however, did show a decline a lung function.”

    Wrong. It doesn’t look like the study found a decline in lung function for heavy users; it found lung function that was below moderate users’ higher level but still above baseline. The abstract says “with very heavy marijuana use, the net association with FEV1 was not significantly different from baseline, and the net association with FVC remained significantly greater than baseline.” (It looks like higher is better for both those variables.)

    Don’t let them say this study found lung function deficiencies for very heavy users, because based on the abstract and quotes from the scientists in the New York Times write-up, it appears to have found no such thing.

  11. Duncan20903 says:

    I think Mr. Sabet hired this guy to make people think that Mr. Sabet isn’t a lunatic. Compared side to side our friend Kevin looks positively reasonable.

    Decriminalizing Marijuana Can Be Harmful to Your Health

    • allan says:

      bore-ing! That’s the trouble w/, anyone can write anything and be “published”… crikey mates, such blather. Whether I smoke herb matters as much as what brand of beer I drink. I mean Linda could have written that… and none of what he says is reason to prohibit.

      • Duncan20903 says:

        No doubt allan. I only linked it because of its sheer, purified absurdity. I’ve never before seen so many straw men crammed into such a tiny space (the writer’s head) before. He must have hired a tractor trailer to deliver them and a commercial compacter to get them in. Remember, I do have significant experience in observing straw men.

        I do understand that the Examiner allows anyone who isn’t illiterate to be published. Not that they are prejudiced against the illiterate. I’m sure as soon as speech to text software is ready for prime time they’ll be able to write for the Examiner as well.

    • darkcycle says:

      Hey Malcolm, I think you may be right about Sabet and those supporting comments. If it’s not him, at least I think he’s having friendly collegues place them. Isn’t it odd how those quotes are perfectly sized to be lifted whole and dropped into a C.V.? They are also nicely general and always praise the writer, not just merely merely support him.

  12. allan says:

    My bone-to-pick w/ Sabet comes in his tweeply to Pete:

    The jury is still out on it.

    Jury? Jury?? J U R Y?!?!? We didn’t get a jury Kevin, we haven’t even had our day in court, let alone get to present our case to a jury. It’s been a lynching all along, Kevin.

    As we like to say, Kevin, where ARE the bodies? Where are the doctors proclaiming the epidemic of cannabis harm, Kevin? For over 100 years, Kevin, virtually every major study done on cannabis – and this includes studies done by the DEA AND the freakin’ US Army – has called for no less than decriminalization. So give us a break, Kevin, and cut the crap.

    Oh, that bit with your new boss, Prof Gold? Dude… that kinda butt-kissing leaves a ring on your nose that never wipes off. In public too… tsk tsk tsk, Kevin.

    • Duncan20903 says:

      The Rastafari have been smoking pot constantly since at least 1930 when the Rastafarian pilgrims first landed in Jamaica. Even better, the Rastafari hardly ever use drinking alcohol or smoking tobacco and have a diet that would be the envy of any nutritionist. If we want to have studies of the long term effects of pot we’ve got an Island full of study subject with minimal confounds just waiting to give us the answers. But is it really hard to see that the prohibitionists don’t want the answers? For at least 43 years the lame “we just don’t have enough research to know!” has served their cause admirably. Why mess with success?

      The incidence of first contact schizophrenia in Jamaica
      Hickling FW, Rodgers-Johnson P.
      Faculty of Medical Science, University of the West Indies.


      Afro-Caribbean immigrants are reported to have a high rate of schizophrenia compared with other population groups.

      In a prospective first contact study of schizophrenia in Jamaica in 1992, 335 patients were examined using the Present State Examination.


      285 patients were evaluated as having a PSE ‘restrictive’ S+ diagnosis of schizophrenia, and 32 as having a ‘broad’ S?, P, or O diagnosis of schizophrenia. With a population of 2.46 million, this represents a first-contact incidence rate for ‘restrictive’ schizophrenia of 1.16 per 10,000 population, and an age-corrected (15-54) incidence rate of 2.09 per 10,000.


      Incidence rates for schizophrenia in Jamaica are lower than those reported in Afro-Caribbean immigrants in the UK and Holland, and within the reported range for other population groups worldwide.

      [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

  13. ezrydn says:

    Has anyone informed little Kevin that drinking pure water is better for you than having an after-hours drink? Probably not.

    • allan says:

      If we call him Kev, do we get to toussle his hair and treat him to a soda? What time did his mom say his bedtime is?

      • claygooding says:

        How about we tousle him. Or we could fold him on the dotted lines.

        • allan says:

          yeah yeah… one s… I prolly haven’t used that word since Opie was little and Mayberry didn’t have crack. Even if I used it way back then (tousle, the word, not crack, the drug).

          I did a poetry reading in Mayberry (Los Olivos, CA) back in the mid ’70s. 4 people showed up, my g/f got drunk and I figured out being a poet didn’t show much promise. I did write some fair poetry, still do on occasion.

          Good ol’ One Foot Sam
          says he lost the other un
          down around Vietnam
          he’s got no friends
          no next of kin
          VA says “sorry,
          check ain’t come in”
          man at unemployment says
          “where the hell you been?”
          but good old Sam
          he don’t get mad
          just takes off his foot
          and says it makes him sad
          how people do forget
          the scream of rockets’ roar
          and friendly little neighbor kids
          lyin’ dead on distant shore…
          maybe next time
          the President can fight the fuckin’ war

          – 1976 (inspired by the too many who sacrificed too much for so little…)

        • claygooding says:

          somehow a thumbs up don’t cover it

  14. claygooding says:

    Medical Marijuana: Federal Crackdown, Similar To That In California, Begins In Colorado

    The Associated Press reports that federal officials are beginning a California-style crackdown on medical marijuana businesses in Colorado.

    As CBS4 originally reported in December when rumors of crackdown were beginning to take shape, the crackdown will be focused on medical marijuana businesses that are within 1,000 feet of schools. They must shut down within 45 days or face federal penalties.

    Letters were sent out to 23 medical marijuana businesses in Colorado on Thursday, according to The Denver Post. This is the most aggressive law-enforcement action that the federal government has pursued in the state.

    This is a test,,it is only a test,,if a real nuclear attack occurs you will be told when to kiss your own ass good-bye.

  15. claygooding says:

    Using Pete’s Victim list a lot these days,,since the Ogden incident.

    Someone put up the article about it in the comments at the Fed crackdown article,so I posted it in a reply to it:

    While you are mourning the loss of this police officer,,m­ourn for these victims of the war on drugs,,bro­ught to you by the US government­,,,playing in your town soon:

    Drug War Victims


    • allan says:

      yeah, that whole parade is really telling isn’t it? Citizens and pets? Ho hum, who cares? And then… and then they have the nerve to say what we’ve been saying all along, out of control SWAT raids need to be scaled back. Duh…

      And yeah, Pete’s link is handy indeed. It was Zeke Hernandez’ story that first got my blood boiling and prompted me to join MAP’s lte squad. And then… being a serious MAP newshawk – – for a decade, I saw the names roll by as I trolled online news for drug policy articles… there are so many of those names stuck in my head, I can (and do) recite them… a sad, sad tale and a salient, toxic truth about our country about which most of the country has no clue.

      That list has prolly more to do with why I fight this battle than any other thing I can think of. I can live w/o herb. Living with those names in my head and not doing anything about it… that would make me crazy.

      • Hope says:

        Me, too, Allan.

        There was a lot of really bad stuff being done and caused by the government in the name of the War on Drugs. Esequial Hernandaz was the last straw for me.

        I had to say something. I had to point out a wrong, if I could, to whomever I could, and I had to find some people somewhere in the world that were not afraid to basically agree with me.

        The Drug War machine rumbled onward as it has since Tricky Dicky put it all in gear.

        So much loss and it probably all hasn’t been chronicled even nearly completely in any one place. Although Pete has done an admirable job at Drug War Victims.

        Alberto Sepulveda. Charity and Veronica Bowers. Ashley Villareal.Tarika Wilson. Kathyrn Johnston. Clayton Helriggle. Rev. Jonathan Ayers.

        These deaths are so offensive. They have to be stopped.

  16. Francis says:

    Er … what’s this New Zealand study that purported to show a link between cannabis and lung cancer? Please, please, please tell me it’s not a reference to the one described here:

    Investigators reported that light-to-moderate lifetime cannabis use “was not associated with a significantly increased risk [of lung cancer].” By contrast, researchers reported that the 14 subjects in the study with the highest exposure to cannabis (more than one joint per day for 10 years) had a 5.7 times higher relative risk of lung cancer compared to controls. Overall, subjects who reported having ever smoked tobacco experienced a nearly seven-fold increase in lung cancer risk. By contrast, subjects who reported having ever used cannabis did not experience a statistically significant increased risk of lung cancer compared to non-using controls.

    If that’s what he’s talking about, the study in question found no significant increase for light-to-moderate lifetime cannabis use. And it’s “finding” regarding cancer risk and heavy use was based on 14 subjects! Now I’m no scientist, but that seems like an awfully small number to base a conclusion on, particularly when that finding is inconsistent with several much larger studies. But hey, I’m sure Kevin’s citation of the NZ study was just a good-faith attempt to present “both sides.” I mean, that guy is all about balance.

    • Pete says:

      Yep, that’s the one.

      And here’s the full twitter exchange….

      Pete: @KevinSabet Why do you continue to promote the discredited NZ study on lung cancer and downplay the comprehensive U.S. study funded by NIDA?

      Kevin: @DrugWarRant I’m not promoting, I listed both sides and I’m sticking to the science. The jury is still out on it.

      Pete: @KevinSabet What jury? Comparing those two wildly disparate studies as if they were merely “both sides” isn’t science.

      Kevin: @DrugWarRant my PhD in drug policy taught me that believe it or not studies looking at the same issue can come to different conclusions.

      Pete: @KevinSabet Of course, studies can come to different conclusions, but that doesn’t make all studies equal in scope or methodology.

      Kevin: @DrugWarRant & before you blast all I do b/c I don’t agree with you on legalization, take time to read that I present all facts in the case.

      Pete: @KevinSabet Except you don’t present all the facts. Like showing the dramatic differences between the studies and limits of NZ study.

      Pete: @KevinSabet Facts would be: Comprehensive UCLA study shows no lung cancer; NZ study that has been questioned regarding sample size disagrees

      • darkcycle says:

        Awww…Kevin thinks we’re PICKING ON HIM? Well Boo-Hoo… go tell your Mommy, Kev.
        We (well, I, at least) will follow you around and destroy everything you do, both because we don’t agree with you on legalization, AND because YOU WANT TO LOCK US IN CAGES. The policies you directly support destroy lives, careers, and families. Your SWAT raids for a harmless PLANT kill people. There are people in cages currently being tortured (solitary confinement for extended periods of time is TORTURE, Kevin) because of your work. It’s PERSONAL. VERY personal. I have a family Kev, and if anything were to happen to them because of U.S. Drug policy, I would likely be blaming you. So don’t ever expect ME to back off. I’ll be after everything you do until I’m dead, Cannabis is fully legal for adults, or until I’m locked away where they don’t let me write. You see, I perceive you as a direct threat to my well being. And I’m a PTSD sufferer, so you REALLY don’t want to make ME feel threatened, I’m pro-active in dealing with threats. That’s why I’m out here, doing what I’m doing to your “work”. Toodles.

      • allan says:

        just a thought Pete… ya otter invite Kevin to post here. Your traffic numbers are laudable, you yourself are an articulate spokesperson and while we may eviscerate the man when he’s not among us, but I’m sure we’d all agree that we will be respectful if he dares to turn around and face the croud on the cowch (that would be a leather couch wouldn’t it?).

        “So… Mrs Sabet, can Kev come out and play? What? Oh no ma’am we won’t hurt him. And yes ma’am, we’ll have him home before dark.”

        • darkcycle says:

          I don’t say anything here that I wouldn’t say to the man’s face. And if I bludgeon him to death, it will only be with his own words. Although for just one day, I’d like to see Kevin subjected to the kind of treatment his policies subject cannabis suspects to every day. Someone ought to shoot his dog in front of his kids, metphorically speaking, of course.

        • allan says:

          aye darkcycle, not all however (just guessing) are so practiced at self restraint. I think it would be a hoot. We deserve a good challenge on occasion.

        • darkcycle says:

          On further thought, it’s probable my reaction to the man is a bit limbic. I spend rather a lot of time thinking about the injustice of the drug war, it makes me quite angry, and it’s a normal human response to want to put a face on it. I had a revulsion to John Walters that was positively visceral, but the current drug czar is just a seat warmer and an apparratchik. It’s hard to get mad at a hollow shell, and that’s how droopy-dog strikes me. Like he’s just sleep walking through the appointment. But the man who put the words in the drug czar’s mouth? The man responsable for distorting and cherry picking research, and twisting and ommitting to acheive a nefarious end? The man in the shadows directing the puppet? The Wormtoungue? That guy gets my fight-flight response going, and I can be intemperate to say the least. Give me a shot at addressing the man in a public forum, and I’m afraid I’ll likely do what I did there and wade in and begin flailing. I’m incapeable of restraining my impulse to simply attack anything that comes out of his mouth. It’s a shortcoming I can clearly see in myself. I’m gonna hafta get better at picking the points to address and sticking to the topic, as well as not going all pit-bull on anybody who comes in to challenge me. I tend to do that, alot. Thanks, Allan, but in retrospect I should remain at least professional. It’s not easy though.

        • Duncan20903 says:

          Can’t we at least give him a swirlie?
          DC I’m pretty sure it’s the limberick you mean. A drug rehab counselor of mine told me that addiction was a defect in the limberick part of the brain. That was one unique fellow. I hadn’t realized that they made socks in such a brilliant yellow color before I met him. His socks reminded me of the color of B-12 enhanced urine and of happy childhood days when I got to enjoy watching clowns perform at the circus. He was a pretty reasonable fellow for an evil clown. He said we could easily prove to him that we were “meant for drugs.” All a guy had to do to prove it was to spend 20 years living his life as dictated by Tyrone. If, at the end of 20 years he decided to do drugs that would be proof. Sure Tyrone, I just happen to have a spare 20 years in the hip pocket of my other pants. But he sure did make us laugh. Not with him, at him, and behind his back of course.

          Now, wasn’t there someone who wanted to know why I always refer to “treatment” with the word in quotes?

  17. kaptinemo says:

    The Drug Law Reformer’s Wiki entry:

    Sabetage: a derivation of Lysenkoism, in which established studies that disprove widely held misconceptions supporting entrenched bureaucratic and commercial enterprises are marginalized for personal profit. The process often requires the attempt to use false equivalencies and data cherry-picking to justify government policy based upon misinformation and falsehoods. (See: ONDCP)

  18. Karin Litzcke says:

    Wow – thank you for that reference, kaptinemo.

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