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Saturday, March 6, 2010

Recycling Reefer Madness: Why It Still Doesn’t Work

Recycling Reefer Madness: Why It Still Doesn’t Work | NEWS JUNKIE POST


Steve Elliott
By Steve Elliott
NEWS JUNKIE POST
Mar 6, 2010 at 3:46 am



It happens with an all-too-familiar regularity: Another “scientific” study that attempts to draw some connection, however tenuous, between smoking pot and schizophrenia.
Just this week, the findings of a study allegedly indicating that smoking marijuana can “double the risk” of psychosis received heavy publicity. Of course there were the inevitable “sky is falling” reactions on the part of faux-horrified commentators who already decided, years ago, that they were against pot and are all too happy to trumpet what looks like confirmation of their prejudice.

Problem is, those findings are in conflict with previous reviews and ought to be interpreted with caution – but you won’t be reading that in mainstream news outlets.
Here’s something else you won’t see in the mainstream media. There is absolutely no empirical evidence – none – indicating that rising rates of cannabis use have resulted in parallel increases in rates of mental illness.
It would stand to reason, wouldn’t it? Considering modern rates of usage, if marijuana really produced psychosis, the streets would be choked with non-functional, burned out potheads. It doesn’t. They aren’t.

“I’ve said it for years now,” film director John Holowach, responsible for the documentary High: The True Tale of American Marijuana, told me. “If pot and mental illness were linked, the two should rise and fall with one another, but they don’t.”
It’s not merely anecdotal evidence that says so. Widespread marijuana use by the public has not been followed by a a proportional rise in diagnoses of schizophrenia or psychosis, according to the findings of an important study published last year in the scientific journal Schizophrenia Research.

Researchers noted that the “incidence and prevalence of schizophrenia and psychoses were either stable or declining” during the period studied, 1996 to 2005.
“This study does not therefore support the … link between cannabis use and incidence of psychotic disorders,” the study concludes. “This concurs with other reports indicating that increases in population cannabis use have not been followed by increases in psychotic incidence.”

The results of another clinical trial published last year indicate that the recreational use of marijuana does not affect brain chemistry in a way that is consistent with the development of schizophrenia.

Any correlation that might exist between schizophrenia and usage of marijuana can be easily explained by the schizophrenia occuring first – resulting in self-medication by the patient in a poignant attempt to alleviate the symptoms. (Studies have shown many schizophrenics report cannabis relieves their symptoms.)

But even if the claims were true – even if marijuana use somehow, in a tiny percentage of users, was correlated with mental problems – that would serve as an argument against cannabis prohibition, not for it, as pointed out by Paul Armentano at NORML.
We as a society don’t institute alcohol prohibition because of its proven connections with mental illness, domestic violence, automobile accidents, and liver disease. And the reason we have alcohol legal and regulated isn’t because it’s harmless.

The regulations surrounding alcohol are there because we recognize, in some situations, that drinking may pose a risk.

Even if marijuana is, at some point, proven beyond a doubt to cause harm, mental or otherwise – and, mind you, that certainly hasn’t happened yet – the rational reaction to those findings would be to regulate pot similarly to alcohol.

Steve Elliott edits Toke of the Town, a Village Voice Media site devoted to cannabis news, views, rumor and humor. Steve invites you to follow him on Twitter and Digg.


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