• by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director September 28, 2009

    I’ve written previously about the mainstream media’s propensity to under report and distort stories that challenge marijuana prohibition.

    Apparently my latest missive has hit a nerve — as it has quickly risen to become the most read story on Alternet.

    5 Things the Corporate Media Don’t Want You to Know About Cannabis
    via Alternet.org

    1. Marijuana Use Is Not Associated With a Rise in Incidences of Schizophrenia

    2. Marijuana Smoke Doesn’t Damage the Lungs Like Tobacco

    3. Cannabis Use Potentially Protects, Rather Than Harms, the Brain

    4. Marijuana Is a Terminus, Not a ‘Gateway,’ to Hard Drug Use

    5. Government’s Anti-Pot Ads Encourage, Rather Than Discourage, Marijuana Use

    Read the full text of the story here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director September 2, 2009

    Well, better late than never.

    Doubt cast on cannabis, schizophrenia link
    via CBC

    A British study has cast doubt on the supposed link between cannabis use and schizophrenia.

    … This latest study, led by Dr. Martin Frisher of Keele University, examined the records of 600,000 patients aged between 16 and 44.

    … Frisher and colleagues compared the trends of cannabis use with general practitioner records of schizophrenia and psychosis.

    They argue that if cannabis use does cause schizophrenia, an increase in cannabis use should be followed by an increase in the incidence of schizophrenia.

    According to the study, cannabis use in the United Kingdom between 1972 and 2002 has increased four-fold in the general population, and 18-fold among under-18s.

    Based on the literature supporting the link, the authors argue that this should be followed by an increase in schizophrenia incidence of 29 per cent between 1990 and 2010.

    But the researchers found no increase in the rates of schizophrenia and psychosis diagnosis during that period. In fact, some of the data suggested the incidence of these conditions had decreased.

    Over the past few years the mainstream media, as well as federal politicians, have enjoyed promoting the notion that smoking pot induces mental illness. Perhaps most notably, in 2007 the MSM touted that cannabis “could boost the risk of developing a psychotic illness later in life by about 40 percent” — a talking point that was also publicly promoted US anti-drug officials. Similarly, Canadian bureaucrats alleged — just two weeks ago — that marijuana users have a “seven-fold increase” in risk of developing schizophrenia.

    Given this environment, I held little hope that anyone in the MSM would bother to report on the Keele University study — which initially appeared online on the website of the journal Schizophrenia Research in late June and was reported on by NORML on July 2 — despite its obvious newsworthiness.

    And for nearly two months no one did. But kudos to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and a handful of British tabloids for just now bringing these findings to light (and even acknowledging that the MSM would have arguably provided far more prominence to this story had the findings demonstrated the opposite result.)

    For now, let’s score one for the good guys, and cross your fingers that the American press will also eventually take notice.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director July 1, 2009

    Much has made — by the mainstream media and others — of the claim that cannabis use causes certain types of mental illness, specifically schizophrenia and psychosis.

    Most notably perhaps, a team of researchers writing in the July 28, 2007 edition of the prestigious scientific journal The Lancet, boldly proclaimed that smoking cannabis could boost one’s risk of a psychotic episode by 40 percent or more.

    Naturally, this alarmist rhetoric received wall-to-wall coverage by the mainstream press. Even more troubling, the supposed ‘pot-and-schizophrenia’ link was one of the primary reasons cited by British PM Gordon Brown, ex-Home Secretary Jacqui Smith and others as the impetus for reclassifying cannabis (from a verbal warning to a criminal offense punishable by up to five years in jail) in the United Kingdom.

    Of course, there was a fatal flaw with The Lancet‘s argument — one that, oddly enough, every single MSM outlet failed to mention. Empirical data did not support the investigators’ hypothesis that smoking marijuana was associated with increased rates of schizophrenia or other mental illnesses among the general public — a fact that even the authors begrudgingly admitted when they declared, “Projected trends for schizophrenia incidence have not paralleled trends in cannabis use over time.”

    Which brings us to 2009.

    Two years after The Lancet‘s dire predictions, a team of researchers at the Keele University Medical School have once and for all put the ‘pot-and-mental illness’ claims to the test. Writing in a forthcoming edition of the scientific journal Schizophrenia Research, they compare long-term trends in marijuana use and incidences of schizophrenia and/or psychoses in the United Kingdom. And what do they find?

    “[T]he expected rise in diagnoses of schizophrenia and psychoses did not occur over a 10 year period. This study does not therefore support the specific causal link between cannabis use and incidence of psychotic disorders. … This concurs with other reports indicating that increases in population cannabis use have not been followed by increases in psychotic incidence.”

    Should we expect an apology — or even better, a change in policy — from the Gordon Brown regime any time soon? Or at the very least, will some sort of ‘correction’ be forthcoming from the mainstream news media?

    I wouldn’t hold my breath.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director May 12, 2008

    Feds: Teen use of pot can lead to mental illness
    via The Associated Press

    WASHINGTON (AP) —Depression, teens and marijuana are a dangerous mix that can lead to dependency, mental illness or suicidal thoughts, according to a White House report released Friday.A teen who has been depressed at some point in the past year is more than twice as likely to have used marijuana as teens who have not reported being depressed — 25 percent compared with 12 percent, said the report by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.

    “Marijuana is a more consequential substance of abuse than our culture has treated it in the last 20 years,” said John Walters, director of the office. “This is not just youthful experimentation that they’ll get over as we used to think in the past.”

    “It’s not something you look the other way about when your teen starts appearing careless about their grooming, withdrawing from the family, losing interest in daily activities,” Walters said. “Find out what’s wrong.”

    Gotta love Walters’ remark about hygiene — which he appears to have taken almost verbatim from Above The Influence’s hateful propaganda film, Stoners In The Mist.

    Seriously though, it goes without saying that this so-called White House ‘report‘ (I use the term euphemistically here, given that said ‘report’ is under five pages and consists mostly of bar charts rather than text) is much ado about nothing. In fact, the only newsworthy aspect of this supposed ‘study’ is that the lapdog mainstream media gave it any coverage at all.

    In short, there’s nothing to the Drug Czar’s marijuana and mental health claims that NORML Advisory Board member Dr. Mitch Earleywine and I haven’t previously addressed in our essay here:

    Pot Smoking Won’t Make You Crazy, But Dealing With The Lies About It Will
    via Alternet

    Perhaps the most impressive evidence against the cause-and-effect relationship concerns the unvarying rate of psychoses across different eras and different countries. People are no more likely to be psychotic in Canada or the United States (two nations where large percentages of citizens use cannabis) than they are in Sweden or Japan (where self-reported marijuana use is extremely low). Even after the enormous popularity of cannabis in the 1960s and 1970s, rates of psychotic disorders haven’t increased.

    Ironically, just two days prior to the Drug Czar’s much ballyhooed press conference, Britain’s Advisory Panel on the Misuse of Drugs refuted the notion that pot use causes mental illness, stating, “The evidence for the existence of an association between frequency of cannabis use and the development of psychosis is, on the available evidence, weak.”

    A 2006 review by the same commission previously concluded, “The current evidence suggests, at worst, that using cannabis increases lifetime risk of developing schizophrenia by one percent.” And more recently, a highly touted meta-analysis in the British medical journal, The Lancet, reported that there is a dearth of scientific evidence indicating that cannabis use causes psychotic behavior, noting, “Projected trends for schizophrenia incidence have not paralleled trends in cannabis use over time.”


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