Posts here at Big Jolly are political in nature and therefore debatable. Generally, out of respect to the authors, regular contributor or guest, I won’t offer a rebuttal as the marketplace of ideas should not be stymied. However, in regards to the legalization of marijuana the facts/claims need to be clearly and accurately articulated as the issue is relatively new and opinions are still being formed. To that end, this rebuttal is offered to correct some perceived misstatements and to add nuance to the argumentation in Mr. White’s post for the purpose of better evaluation and opinion formation.
“Other studies contradict Mr. Katz and Mr. Halls claims that marijuana is a gateway drug…Other studies by the National Institute of Drug abuse bolster the claim that marijuana is not a gateway drug”
“Truly the gateway drug idea itself is simply absurd. There is nothing intrinsic in marijuana that makes users more likely to use other drugs.”
These two points are related and discussed together. In an emerging field it’s not unusual to find contradictory studies. As long as the studies are peer reviewed arguing the specific studies are appropriate argumentation as they have scientific support to some degree. Studies are like the saying about statistics, “He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lampposts – for support rather than for illumination. ~ Andrew Lang.” You can find studies to support both sides of most scientific propositions. So the fact that Howie and Mr. White can both point to studies doesn’t do much for illumination.
What’s striking, though, is Mr. White refers to the National Institute of Drug Abuse for support that marijuana isn’t a gateway drug. This brings us to the claim that the gateway drug idea is simply absurd. Although Mr. White is correct in claiming “there is nothing intrinsic in marijuana that makes users more likely to use other drugs” the statement is misleading. Just because the individual components don’t “makeusers more likely to use other drugs” doesn’t mean marijuana use doesn’t “make users more likely to use other drugs.” Who published information in support of a gateway element to marijuana? None other than the National Institute of Drug Abuse (hereinafter NIDA). Specifically, NIDA points to the studies showing the cross-sensitization as a result of marijuana exposure.
Just because none of the components in marijuana makes “harder” drug use more likely doesn’t mean that marijuana itself doesn’t. When discussing cross-sensitization studies NIDA states, “These findings are consistent with the idea of marijuana as a “gateway drug.”” Does this mean that marijuana users will go on to use harder drugs? No, and NIDA acknowledges the same. However, it does lend some support to the concept of a gateway drug. Claiming otherwise isn’t accurately presenting the current state of the science.
“[D]eny life saving medicine to millions of Americans each year because of this outdated and factually incorrect theory.”
Let’s leave out the opinion of “outatdated an factually incorrect theory” and look at the claim of “deny life saving medicine to millions of Americans each year.” To assess this claim it’s necessary to look at exactly what medical marijuana is used to treat. In order to be “life saving medicine” the medicinal use needs to be directed at curative measures rather than symptom control. With that in mind, let’s look at what the studies on medical marijuana say the purpose of the marijuana is in treatment.
Looking at National Institute of Health publications, the studies looking at medical marijuana show treatment is for: treatment of chronic noncancer pain specifically neuropathic pain, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, and mixed chronic pain; chemotherapy-related nausea and vomiting; patient-reported spasticity scores and central pain or painful spasms when used for MS. Successful treatment in these areas would improve quality of life, but cannot be considered to be life saving medicine. Even turning to the states that approved medicinal marijuana doesn’t support the life saving medicine argument as the “conditions accepted by states that allow medicinal cannabis relate to relief of the symptoms of cancer, glaucoma, human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, and MS.” Emphasis added. Treating symptoms isn’t life saving, so these treatments are out when arguing life saving medicine. This leaves us with epilepsy as the condition that may support the claim.
In regards to epilepsy the same article notes CBD, not THC, can be used as an adjunct treatment to other antiepileptic treatment. Any given seizure has an extremely small chance of mortality. However, epilepsy prevalence is 2.2 million people. Out of this population, thirty to forty percent are uncontrolled seizures. Splitting the difference gives uncontrolled seizures prevalence at 770,000. This number is the cap, and would be further reduced by the nature of the seizures. Not all of the seizures will be tonic-clonic and therefore dangerous. Not all tonic-clonic seizures are without aura reducing the danger further. CBD doesn’t eliminate all the remaining seizures. While it’s not possible to completely eliminate the chance of death from seizures, the claim of marijuana as “lifesaving medicine to millions of Americans” doesn’t survive factual analysis.
“It is impossible to overdose on marijuana.”
This statement may or may not be factually accurate depending on how someone defines overdose. What’s not up for interpretation is someone can get marijuana poisoning. While the absolute number of marijuana poisoning events isn’t high, it is increasing. So far none of the instances of marijuana poisoning have been deadly, but the effects can be severe, with documented instances of respiratory arrest and ventilator use necessary. So while it’s potentially accurate to say it’s “impossible to overdose on marijuana” that’s a misleading argument.
“Mr. Katz claims that marijuana use poses a risk of triggering Schizophrenia, however what he fails to point out from the study he sites, or findings from other studies on this subject is that risk is only prominent in those who already have a genetic predisposition to Schizophrenia… Mr. Katz fearmongering obscures the reality of the findings.”
Both gentlemen seem to not understand schizophrenia. In order to be schizophrenia the disease must exist outside the presence of the effect of a substance, legal or illegal. This is directly addressed in DSM-V which states, “The disturbance is not attributable to the direct physiological effects of a substance (eg, a drug of abuse, a medication) or another medical condition.” However, there is support for marijuana leading to earlier onset of schizophrenia. While there’s no causal effect between marijuana and the incidence of marijuana, there is some evidence for marijuana hastening the onset of schizophrenia. Given how debilitating schizophrenia is, the only word to describe this is tragic.
I don’t like criticizing others ideas. The marketplace of ideas is what makes democracy great. However, the marketplace is only as good as the ideas proffered. In instances where misleading argumentation is being proffered, or flat out false facts being offered to support an idea in the marketplace of ideas, it’s important to set the record straight for the sake of the marketplace.
Take the dueling articles as you will. This is an attempt at informative writing rather than persuasive writing. But when forming your own opinion keep some things in mind. The evidence doesn’t support the claims that marijuana is lifesaving medicine for millions of Americans. That’s simply a blatant falsehood. It is possible to be harmed by over-consumption of marijuana. Don’t let the technicalities of what is and is not an “overdose” cloud the issue. Over-consumption of marijuana is harmful and potentially deadly.