National Geographic Article Fails to Provide Unbiased and Accurate Information
The Science Seeks to Unlock Marijuana’s Secrets article originally appeared in National Geographic’s June 2015 issue
National Geographic magazine provides insight into subjects that readers can one day look back on and enjoy. However, a recent article titled “Science Seeks To Unlock Marijuana’s Secrets,” proves that not even National Geographic is above spreading marijuana lies. Author Hampton Sides is aiding the spread of marijuana lies by giving his readers false information. Sides’s article portrays such a distorted picture about marijuana that it begs to be discredited by well-researched information.
We find it disappointing that National Geographic is failing to put out factual information. It’s become a pattern we’re all too familiar with: marijuana advocates spinning their story on national media sources, and getting away with it. The media makes no effort to seek out the “other side” (credible experts with no conflict of interest).
In this blog, a concerned parent outlines Mr. Side’s claims then offers a counterpoint to his marijuana lies:
Marijuana Lie: “For nearly 70 years the plant went into hiding, and medical research largely stopped. In 1970 the federal government made it even harder to study marijuana, classifying it as a Schedule I drug.”
Response: Over 20,000 research studies have been conducted on marijuana, which doesn’t support the claim that medical research has been thwarted. Older research was based on the marijuana of decades earlier when THC levels were between 1 and 3%. Today’s marijuana holds THC levels of 18.7%. Some retail pot contains 30 percent THC or more. This is why we rely on more recent research to inform our understanding.
Marijuana Lie: Reefer Madness. Marijuana, the Assassin of Youth. The Killer Weed. The Gateway Drug?
Response: Meta analyses of marijuana and the harms to which regular marijuana use exposes adolescents are well documented. Terms like Reefer Madness have more in common with today’s high THC marijuana than with the marijuana of decades earlier. Those dated references were the result of embracing the use of fear tactics, which were subsequently found ineffective, rather than science to discourage marijuana use. Today, sound public health alcohol and drug policies are based on science and research-based evidence, not scare tactics. And scare tactics were not limited to marijuana, but also to other drugs that were considered harmful or addictive. A six-year study, by researchers from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience at King’s College London (to be published in Lancet Psychiatry) reported that one in four new cases of psychotic conditions such as schizophrenia could be the direct result of smoking extra-strong varieties of cannabis. Daily users of skunk were reported to be five times more likely to suffer psychosis than those who never touch it. Psychiatrists said there is now an “urgent need” to educate the public.
Marijuana Lie: There’s never been a death reported from an overdose…
Response: Today we know that there is such a thing as “marijuana intoxication”. Tragic and gruesome accounts of individuals with extreme blood levels of THC (no other drug on board) are being reported. A sampling of some recent cases include:
The 18 year old that stabbed himself 20 times had a THC level of 38.2 nanograms (over 5 nanograms is considered impaired for driving.
The 19 year old college student who jumped from the 4th floor of a motel after consuming more than six times the “recommended” amount of a marijuana cookie.
The husband who shot his wife after consuming part of a marijuana cookie. The wife had called 911 because the husband was asking her to shoot him. Instead he shot her.
The 23 year old college graduate who, after consuming marijuana edibles, attempted to climb the outside of his apartment building to get to his apartment and plunged to his death.
Marijuana Lie: Marijuana is not a “gateway” drug…
Response: The adverse side effects of marijuana, according to the current state of science, links marijuana to addiction and, similar to nicotine and alcohol use, may be associated with an increased vulnerability to other drugs, the definition of “gateway”. Regular marijuana use among adolescents showed it lowered IQ into adulthood by as much as 8 points.
Marijuana Lie: The quote from Vivek Murthy, the U.S. surgeon general, who “recently expressed interest in what science will learn about marijuana, noting that preliminary data show that for certain medical conditions and symptoms it can be helpful.”
Response: Murthy’s exact comment, when asked whether he supported marijuana legalization was: “We have to see what the science tells us about the efficacy of marijuana. We have preliminary data that indicates that for certain conditions marijuana can be helpful so we have to use that data to drive policy making.” I wouldn’t disagree with that statement except that, again, he should have clarified the form of marijuana to which he was referring. The Department of Health & Human Services felt compelled to release a statement following Vivek’s response, “Marijuana policy — and all public health policies — should be driven by science. Marijuana should be subjected to the same, rigorous clinical trials and scientific scrutiny that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) applies to all new medications. The Federal Government has and continues to fund research on possible health benefits of marijuana and its components. While clinical trials for certain components of marijuana appear promising for some medical conditions, neither the FDA nor the Institute of Medicine have found smoked marijuana to meet the standards for safe and effective medicine for any condition to date.”
We want to thank this California parent for giving us permission to publish parts of her letter to the National Geographic Magazine editors.