Cannabis and Cannibalism: The Return Of Reefer Madness In The Media?
As I told staff this morning in an email, last night and this morning have been surreal being inundated with media requests for interviews on two totally disparate topics related to cannabis:
-Chicago moving forward with cannabis decriminalization for possession
-Media headlines (and some experts’ claims) that cannabis might have caused a guy to kill and chew his victim’s face off
Talk about one topic being ‘good’, the other one being ‘bad’ (if not totally bizarre)!
It is one thing for the media to report on the toxicological results from the autopsy of the guy who did this strange and gruesome maiming in Miami last month, but to read a professor of psychiatry at the University of Miami pop off to the Associated Press that maybe it was the strain of cannabis that might have caused this guy to become a cannibal strikes me that this professor is totally incorrect beyond belief and that her comments as an ‘expert’ are going to be repeated in any future news stories, radio and TV shows on the matter of cannabis’ safety.
Time.com’s Maia Szalavitz has an excellent look at past media-hyped ‘drug scares’ here.
A NORML supporter contacted the organization this afternoon with his email to the U of Miami professor Patricia Junquera M.D. quoted in the AP piece, and my reply to both of them can be found below.
Hello Dr. Junquera and Mr. X,
Thanks for your email.
Self evidently cannabis does not cause people to become violent in general, and it specifically does not cause people to mutilate others.
Humans have been using cannabis en mass for at least 3,000 years. Federal data from the US indicate that 40 million consumers use cannabis annually; 7-8 million are regular consumers. Cannabis is consumed billions of times a day across the earth safely with little-to-no credible or verifiable ill effect on the individual, let alone to induce savage violence towards others.
To say such, or to insinuate in a media interview that a strain of whole-smoked cannabis (there are over 500 strains of cannabis commercially available in the US) could possibly cause violence in humans is not only unsupported in the medical, sociological and demographic literature, such ignorance surely smacks of a new and even more perverse version of ‘Reefer Madness’.
As DEA chief judge Francis Young ruled in NORML v DEA:
“In strict medical terms marijuana is far safer than many foods we commonly consume. For example, eating 10 raw potatoes can result in a toxic response. By comparison, it is physically impossible to eat enough marijuana to induce death. Marijuana in its natural form is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man. By any measure of rational analysis marijuana can be safely used within the supervised routine of medical care.
Like most all drug compounds that are psychotropic, cannabis can be abused. But what cannabis has not shown historically throughout the entire scope of humanity is the capacity to encourage a human being violent towards anything more than a bag of Doritos or a container of ice cream that will not readily open.
Of all the hundreds of thousands of ‘drug’ compounds humans interface with annually—botanical and pharmaceutical—cannabis maybe one of the safest bar none.
-Allen St. Pierre
Dear Dr. Junquera:
I think that the reason the scholarly world often gets criticized is because of the fantastic and unfortunate conclusions its members often draw. There are a number of fields where no matter how well versed a person is that without practical, first hand knowledge it still only amounts to mere opinion.
I find it so hard to believe that as a representative of your profession that you would have the face to actually try to explain how marijuana may have affected Rudy Eugene in causing him to act so unbelievably violent.
I often try to stay away from making assumptions. However, I can say, without any doubt whatsoever, that it is obvious that you have never used marijuana. You have no idea how ignorant you sound to the rest of the world that have experienced the effects of sativa and indica.
You also have no idea what kind of impact your ignorant statements can make! You are only adding fuel to the fire in a country where so many have already made up their minds that marijuana is dangerous. This type of mentality is what continues to criminalize marijuana and perpetuates this comical idea of a lawless land if it were to become legal. Thousands are currently detained because they were apprehended using, buying, or selling marijuana and this is causing a terrible burden upon our penal system and economy. A drug that is actually less dangerous than alcohol! Yes, this is true, it is less dangerous than alcohol and if you ever tried marijuana you would realize this.
I cringed when I read this article (referenced below). I know that so many people will take your assessment and conclude that marijuana can potentially turn you into a savage and even worse yet, maybe even a cannibal!
You have a responsibility to choose your words wisely, especially when speaking to the media, because many may think that because of your various degrees and position that you actually know what you are talking about!
Statements, such as the ones you made, takes away from the little progress we have made pursuing the legalization of marijuana.
I hope next time you find yourself in this position that you will think twice before you make another irresponsible comment.
Thank you for your time.
Another Pot Advocate
I almost attended University of Miami several years ago but I decided to go elsewhere. I now feel better about my decision. Thanks.
“It could have been the strain of marijuana that increases the dopamine in the brain, such as sativa,” said Dr. Patricia Junquera, assistant professor at the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.
There are two strains of marijuana called sativa and indica. The sativa increases dopamine and gives you energy while decreasing pain threshold. Indica is a “sleepy high,” she explained.
“People don’t really know what the amount of either is in each little packet of marijuana,” she explained. “And we can’t differentiate between the two in the blood, much less in a dead person.”
She also suggested that if Eugene had a mental disorder, “the marijuana could have increased even further the dopamine levels and aggravated the situation. So that can’t be ruled out.”
June 28, 2012