Marijuana and Mass Media Don’t Mix

I’ve often had debates with people that tend to mention how horrible marijuana is.  When I ask them for facts and evidence, the discussions becomes a lot less “lively”.  It often ends up with either a change of subject or accusations that I’m a hippie.  This is just one more in a long string of examples of “beliefs” that people have about things that just can’t be defended. 

The Huffington Post recently published an article entitled, “Reefer Inanity: Never Trust the Media on Pot“.  The text talks about the media coverage of the potential harmful effects of marijuana.  An excerpt:

When cigarette smoking barreled through the population, lung cancer rose in parallel; when smoking rates fell, lung cancer rates fell. This is not the case with marijuana and psychotic disorders; if it were, we’d be seeing an epidemic of psychosis.

But readers of the AP, Bloomberg, The Washington Post, and Reuters were not presented with this information. While CBS/WebMD mentioned the absence of a surge in schizophrenia, it did so by quoting an advocate of marijuana policy reform, rather than citing a study or quoting a doctor. This slants the story by pitting an advocate with an agenda against a presumably neutral medical authority.

The selective presentation of information is a hallmark of standard mass-media.  Reports that contradict a conservative view are often buried altogether.  For example, here’s an article from WebMD: Heavy Marijuana Use Doesn’t Damage Brain.  Another article, Illegal drums can be harmless, report says indicates the same.  The BBC recently published an article, Drug Classification Rethink Urged.  While I’m not sure about the grammar used in the title, the accompanying graph is very information.

Clearly, most people aren’t getting the whole picture.  There are certainly good reasons not to smoke pot (or use alcohol or sugar to excess), but people should be given the means to make a more informed decision.

Of course, that content (and the studies on which it’s based) are unlikely to grace the headlines of newspapers in the U.S.  It seems that the people who could benefit from a little THC the most are those that most vocally oppose its use.

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