Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Hey Kids, Let’s Learn The Truth About Smoking Weed

Imagine, if you will, a web site that’s a cross between the movie Reefer Madness and the children’s magazine Highlights. That should give you a pretty good idea of what the DEA’s web site for kids is like. That’s right, those hep cats at the DEA are down with the drug scene. Much like The Fonz, they are cool in a far out, happening sort of way. Such a groovy web site surely must be chock full of accurate and totally truthful information in a format the kids will say is really rad. Nome sayin’? How could it not be? Isn’t it the DEA’s mission to inform and warn people about the dangers of (certain) recreational drugs? (That, and arresting them when they don’t heed the warnings.) In keeping with that objective, this site debunks the common myth that marijuana is relatively harmless (maybe that should be an episode on Mythbusters). And it does so in a kid-friendly way. Come on kids, how could you not trust kindly old Uncle DEA?

So let’s take a little look-see at what marijuana myths your friendly neighborhood DEA is debunking. First of all, some headlines: it’s just a plant—how could it be bad 4 me. Using a “4” like that makes it easier for the kids to relate to—it’s modern and edgy. And the use of all lower-case letters makes it very informal and downright friendly to kids of all ages. And then there’s totally lame (and dangerous and illegal) things to do on pot and the frightening extreme grades: from A to D in six months. Using words like “totally” and “extreme” will surely catch the kids attention because it’s speaking their “lingo.” I don’t know about you, but with titles like those I just can’t wait to hear the facts and have those nasty old myths debunked. And if I have anything to say about it, they will be good and rebunked before I’m through.

Did you know that the AMA (that’s the American Medical Association to you and me) has rejected marijuana as medicine? The always-helpful DEA even provides a link to the AMA web site that further explains their position on medical marijuana. But I guess you’re not really supposed to click that link, because if you do you’ll see that the DEA ever-so-slightly misinterpreted the AMA’s position on medical marijuana. What the AMA actually says is that more research is needed, and they go on to recommend how that research should be carried out. They further state that “The AMA believes that effective patient care requires the free and unfettered exchange of information on treatment alternatives and that discussion of these alternatives between physicians and patients should not subject either party to criminal sanctions.” Oops! Sounds like the DEA didn’t read the article they used as a reference. But who can blame them? After all, arresting medical marijuana users and their caregivers does occupy a fair amount of their time.

And I’ll bet you didn’t know that the American Academy of Pediatrics opposes the legalization of marijuana. If you follow the link provided you will see that this is indeed true. But if you read a little bit further you’ll find that, “The American Academy of Pediatrics supports rigorous scientific research regarding the use of cannabinoids for the relief of symptoms not currently ameliorated by existing legal drug formulations.” Golly, it seems that they too think medical marijuana research is important. Is mentioning that little detail something else that was overlooked by the DEA? Surely this oversight was not intentional.

Then there’s the U.S. Supreme Court, who the DEA tells us “rejected medical marijuana.” This too is true, although the court has not been very consistent in its decisions. Even so, I guess I didn’t realize that the Supreme Court was qualified to make medical recommendations. What’s that you say? They’re not? Could it be that they were just interpreting the current federal law and not really making a statement about the medicinal value of marijuana? Perhaps the DEA could explain that a little better. When they get the time.

And my personal favorite—Smoking marijuana not only makes you a criminal, but makes you violent as well. This is according to statistics provided by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health report from January, 2004. And their data do indeed show that the more marijuana kids in their survey smoked, the more likely they were to commit a variety of nonviolent and violent crimes. One possible conclusion that someone (i.e., someone who doesn’t understand statistics or who wants to intentionally misinterpret their meaning) might come to based on these statistics might indeed be that marijuana causes crime. But as we all know, a correlation between two variables does not imply a cause and effect relation. Either of the variables could be the cause or the effect, or neither of them could be either. The correlation statistic can’t tell you which is true. Based on my personal experience, I’d guess that it’s the other way around, that being a criminal is what makes you more likely to smoke, rather than smoking makes you more likely to be a criminal. And that perhaps people with violent tendencies may smoke to mellow themselves out a bit. Equally valid conclusions based on these statistics. And I’d further guess that you’d find the same correlation between crime and smoking cigarettes. (Or between crime and being a member of a minority.) But I don’t think anyone would suggest that smoking cigarettes makes you a criminal. But they could, which is what makes playing with statistics so much fun. See kids, we’re having fun! And learning that a good science and math education is important because it helps prevent people from playing those hilarious statistics tricks on you.

There you have it boys and girls, some myths badly in need of debunking finally having the bunk kicked out of them once and for all. And in a fun, far out, and solid kind of way. See, the truth doesn’t always hurt.

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