Thursday, September 24, 2009

5 Media Lies About Marijuana

5 Things the Corporate Media Don't Want You to Know About Cannabis

By Paul Armentano, AlterNet
Posted on September 23, 2009
Printed on September 23, 2009

http://www.alternet .org/story/ 142815/

Editor's note: Come see Paul Armentano and many other top marijuana
experts and advocates in discussion at NORML's 38th national conference
taking place this week from September 24–26 in San Francisco. Click
here to learn more http://www.norml. org/index. cfm?Group_ ID=7877.

Writing in the journal Science nearly four decades ago, New York State
University sociologist Erich Goode documented the media's complicity in
maintaining cannabis prohibition.

He observed: "[T]ests and experiments purporting to demonstrate the
ravages of marijuana consumption receive enormous attention from the
media, and their findings become accepted as fact by the public. But
when careful refutations of such research are published, or when later
findings contradict the original pathological findings, they tend to be
ignored or dismissed."

A glimpse of today's mainstream media landscape indicates that little
has changed -- with news outlets continuing to, at best, underreport the
publication of scientific studies that undermine the federal
government's longstanding pot propaganda and, at worst, ignore them all

Here are five recent stories the mainstream media doesn't want you to
know about pot:

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

Over the past few years, the worldwide media, as well as federal
officials in the United Kingdom, Canada and the U.S. have earnestly
promoted the notion that smoking pot induces mental illness.

Perhaps most notably, in 2007 the MSM reported that cannabis "could
boost the risk of developing a psychotic illness later in life by about
40 percent" -- a talking point that was also actively promoted by U.S.
anti-drug officials.

So, is there any truth to the claim that pot smoking is sparking a
dramatic rise in mental illness? Not at all, according to the findings
of a study published in July in the journal Schizophrenia Research.

Investigators at the Keele University Medical School in Britain compared
trends in marijuana use and incidences of schizophrenia in the United
Kingdom from 1996 to 2005. Researchers reported that the "incidence and
prevalence of schizophrenia and psychoses were either stable or
declining" during this period, even the use of cannabis among the
general population was rising.

"[T]he expected rise in diagnoses of schizophrenia and psychoses did not
occur over a 10-year period," the authors concluded. "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."

As of this writing, a handful of news wire reports in Australia, Canada,
and the U.K. have reported on the Keele University study. Notably, no
American media outlets covered the story.

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

Everyone knows that smoking pot is as damaging, if not more damaging, to
the lungs than puffing cigarettes, right?

Wrong, according to a team of New Zealand investigators writing in the
European Respiratory Journal in August.

Researchers at the University of Otago in New Zealand compared the
effects of cannabis and tobacco smoke on lung function in over 1,000

They reported: "Cumulative cannabis use was associated with higher
forced vital capacity [the volume of air that can forcibly be blown out
after full inspiration] , total lung capacity, functional residual
capacity [the volume of air present in the lungs at the end of passive
expiration] and residual volume.

"Cannabis was also associated with higher airways resistance but not
with forced expiratory volume in one second [the maximum volume of air
that can be forcibly blown out in the first second during the FVC test],
forced expiratory ratio, or transfer factor. These findings were similar
amongst those who did not smoke tobacco. … By contrast, tobacco use
was associated with lower forced expiratory volume in one second, lower
forced expiratory ratio, lower transfer factor and higher static lung
volumes, but not with airways resistance."

They concluded, "Cannabis appears to have different effects on lung
function to those of tobacco."

Predictably, the scientists' "inconvenient truth" was not reported in a
single media outlet.

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

Does smoking pot kill brain cells? Drinking alcohol most certainly does,
and many opponents of marijuana-law reform claim that marijuana's
adverse effects on the brain are even worse. Are they correct?

Not according to recent findings published this summer in the journal
Neurotoxicology and Teratology.

Investigators at the University of California at San Diego examined
white matter integrity in adolescents with histories of binge drinking
and marijuana use. They reported that binge drinkers (defined as boys
who consumed five or more drinks in one sitting, or girls who consumed
four or more drinks at one time) showed signs of white matter damage in
eight regions of the brain.

By contrast, the binge drinkers who also used marijuana experienced less
damage in 7 out of the 8 brain regions.

"Binge drinkers who also use marijuana did not show as consistent a
divergence from non-users as did the binge drink-only group," authors
concluded. "[It is] possible that marijuana may have some
neuroprotective properties in mitigating alcohol-related oxidative
stress or excitotoxic cell death."

To date, only a handful of U.S. media outlets -- almost exclusively
college newspapers -- have reported the story.

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

Alarmist claims that experimenting with cannabis will inevitably lead to
the use of other illicit drugs persist in the media despite statistical
data indicating that the overwhelming majority of those who try pot
never go on to use cocaine or heroin.

Moreover, recent research is emerging that indicates that pot may also
suppress one's desire to use so-called hard drugs.

In June, Paris researchers writing in the journal
Neuropsychopharmaco logy concluded that the administration of oral THC in
animals suppressed sensitivity to opiate dependence.

Also this summer, investigators at the New York State Psychiatric
Institute reported in the American Journal on Addictions that
drug-treatment subjects who use cannabis intermittently were more likely
to adhere to treatment for opioid dependence.

Although a press release for the former study appeared on the Web site on July 7, neither study ever gained any traction in the
mainstream media.

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

Sure, many of us already knew that the federal government's $2 billion
ad campaign targeting pot was failing to dissuade viewers from toking
up, but who knew it was this bad?

According to a new study posted online in the journal Health
Communication, survey data published by investigators at the Annenberg
School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania found that
many of the government's public-service announcements actually
encouraged pot use.

Researchers assessed the attitudes of over 600 adolescents, age 12 to
18, after viewing 60 government-funded anti-marijuana television spots.

Specifically, researchers evaluated whether the presence of
marijuana-related imagery in the ads (e.g., the handling of marijuana
cigarettes or the depiction of marijuana-smoking behavior) were more
likely or less likely to discourage viewers' use of cannabis.

Messages that depict teens associating with cannabis are "significantly
less effective than others," the researchers found.

"This negative impact of marijuana scenes is not reversed in the
presence of strong anti-marijuana arguments in the ads and is mainly
present for the group of adolescents who are often targets of such
anti-marijuana ads (i.e., high-risk adolescents) ," the authors
determined. "For this segment of adolescents, including marijuana scenes
in anti-marijuana (public-service announcements) may not be a good

Needless to say, no outlets in the mainstream media -- many of which
donated air time to several of the beleaguered ads in question -- have
yet to report on the story.

Paul Armentano is the deputy director of NORML, the National
Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, and is the co-author of
the book Marijuana Is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink
(2009, Chelsea Green)?

http://www.alternet .org/media/ 142815/5_ things_the_ corporate_ media_don% 27\
t_want_you_to_ know_about_ cannabis/

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