Reefer Madness

The White House puts a call out for “negative trends” of cannabis due to too much good news

Surprisingly, the White House is doing something stupid. Not the normal, effortless stupidity, but a level of stupidity they had to put time and thought into achieving.

Buzzfeed News found out that the White House has instructed a group of federal agencies involved in the Marijuana Policy Coordination Committee to start providing "data demonstrating negative trends" of cannabis legalization.

Okay, sure, we know there are potential issues associated with cannabis use. However, those of us who know anything about cannabis know that those issues tend to depend on the individual and not the plant.

Let's not pretend for one second like there's two sides to this argument.

The White House could save themselves a lot of time—and taxpayers a lot of money—if they took a minute to apply basic logic. Maybe the reason there's so much positive data on cannabis is because it's, well, positive.

In fact, there's a logical fallacy for the White House's claim: It's called a false equivalence. The argument for the "dangers" of cannabis is simply not as strong as the argument for the benefits. That's what's reflected in the data.

A summary of the committee's July 27 meeting states "the prevailing marijuana narrative in the U.S. is partial, one-sided, and inaccurate," echoing the misinformation pumped out by anti-cannabis fanatics.

So, in the interest of fairness, let's take a look at some of these "negative trends" our societal guardians have tried to warn us about. And, while we're at it, we'll keep an eye out for inaccuracy too.

The Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy, most notable for being led by political spectacle and failed Congressional candidate Seth Leibsohn, has been promoting a new documentary from DrugFree Idaho, Chronic State: How Marijuana Normalization Impacts Communities.

Keep in mind, Idaho has some of the strictest cannabis laws in the country. The documentary bookends dramatic music and b-roll of Colorado slums with the lush Idaho landscape warning Idahoans that their state could become an urban wasteland if cannabis is legalized.

While it wasn't easy, I watched the hour-long documentary and took some notes so you won't have to suffer the same fate. Here's the truth behind some of their claims and an assessment of their partiality.

Claim: Cannabis use decreases IQ

Verdict: Misleading

I'm not even going to verify it and agree with the documentary's that heavy cannabis use may decrease your IQ by seven points. According to Alan Kaufman, clinical professor of psychology at Yale's School of Medicine, your IQ has a fluctuation of five to six points at any given moment. Also, your IQ can increase with activities like going to class.

Claim: Cannabis in stronger today than it used to be

Verdict: True!

And it's glorious! Fortunately, the worst thing that happens when you get too high is anxiety followed by a nap. Higher concentrations don't mean cannabis is more dangerous now, but it does mean you get more bang for your buck.

Claim: Cannabis doesn't increase tax revenue by much

Verdict: True

Last year, 1.7 percent of Colorado's tax revenue came from cannabis. That's not enough to turn the fiscal tide of an entire state. Of course, $247 million sounds a lot more impressive and there's no doubt that that kind of money can be put to good use.

Claim: Cannabis legalization leads to higher poverty rates

Vedict: False

The documentary's evidence for this was entirely anecdotal, so I didn't expect much, especially from the all-white, suburban female cast without any credentials. Colorado's median income has risen from $59,496 in 2010 to $65,685 in 2016.

Their homeless rate, however, has increased 8 percent since 2013. Most of that, the documentary claims, is due to transients attracted to the clouds of cannabis smoke wafting over the Rockies. Homelessness among families with children has declined 57.4 percent since 2010.

Claim: Cannabis legalization leads to an increase in cannabis-related accidents

Verdict: Misleading

Fatal car crashes in Colorado are up 30 percent since 2014, too big of an increase to be accounted for by population increase their department of transportation said. Whether it's due to cannabis is left to be determined.

Dueling 2017 studies found that collision

claims increased by about 3 percent for states legalizing cannabis compared to their neighbors and that cannabis legalization in some states has had no impact on fatal accidents compared to states with similar traffic patterns and populations.

Claim: There are no long-term studies of cannabis' effects (on conditions like PTSD)

Verdict: True, and the reason why is BS.

I'm so glad they brought this up! Yes, the reason there are no long-term studies is because the federal government has stymied cannabis research for years.

We've reported on this at length. Sue Sisley of Scottsdale Research Institute has been trying to determine cannabis's affect on PTSD for nearly 10 years. If it weren't so difficult, we might have those long-term studies by now. But we don't.

Claim: Cannabis leads to psychosis

Verdict: Laughably false

Go ahead, let out a chuckle. The documentary described people blacking out, screaming at hallucinations and claiming God is ordering them to do something. At one point, one of the interviewees claims people are waking up from their weed naps in the streets and mugging people for their next fix.

In 15 years of smoking pot, I've never seen someone have a psychotic episode, no matter how much they've smoked. While cannabis may exacerbate pre-existing mental conditions, using it isn't going to turn you into a schizophrenic. I don't know what they're describing, but it's not cannabis.

Other than spotty claims and an almost comical sense of urgency, the documentary makes a pretty sad show of arguments.

One of my favorites was something along the lines of, "Why sell pot brownies and candies if you're not targeting youth?" Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't realize that because I'm a full-grown man I'm not allowed to enjoy candy that gets me high. My mistake.

Another was, "The only people making money off this are people in the industry!" Yeah, well, customers don't typically expect to make money when they buy something. That's kind of how industries work.

And finally, "Do you want your doctors and bus drivers to be high while they operate on you or drive your kids to school?" If people are irresponsibly using cannabis at work and putting others at risk, that's on the company that hired them, not cannabis.

So, there you have it, White House staff. Your search for "negative data" will probably yield results, but when you stack them up, it doesn't amount to much. Unless you couple your message with dishonestly, there's no way the negative side of cannabis come close to its benefits.

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