How the Media Lies About Cannabis

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—– Original Message —–
From: "Cher" <cneufer@neo.rr.com>
To: <opn@ohiopatient.net>
Cc: <northohio@norml.net>
Sent: Monday, March 10, 2008 2:38 PM
Subject: OPN: Fw: [affiliates] How the Media Lies About Cannabis

> Colleagues,
>
> According to recent media headlines, a new study proves that smoking pot
> poses a greater cancer risk than smoking tobacco. Yet the study in
> question
> actually says no such thing. So how¹s this happen? I explore the issue
> below.
>
> Regards,
> —
> Paul Armentano
> Deputy Director
> NORML | NORML Foundation
>
> —————————————————————————-
>
> Outrageous Anti-Pot Lies: Media Uses Disgraceful
> Cancer Scare Tactics
>
> By Paul Armentano, AlterNet
>
> Posted on March 10, 2008, Printed on March 10, 2008
>
> http://www.alternet.org/story/78886/
>
> On Tuesday, January 29 — three days prior to the
> publication of a forthcoming study assessing marijuana
> use and cancer — Reuters News Wire published a story
> under the headline: "Cannabis Bigger Cancer Risk Than
> Tobacco." Mainstream media outlets across the globe
> immediately followed suit. "Smoking One Joint is
> Equivalent to 20 Cigarettes, Study Says," Fox News
> declared, while Australia’s ABC broadcast network
> pronounced, "Experts Warn of Cannabis Cancer
> ‘Epidemic.’
>
> If those headlines weren’t attention-grabbing enough,
> one only had to scan the stories’ inflammatory copy —
> much of which was lifted directly from press
> statements provided by the study’s lead author in
> advance of its publication.
>
> "While our study covers a relatively small group, it
> shows clearly that long-term cannabis smoking
> increases lung-cancer risk," chief investigator
> Richard Beasley declared. Beasley went on to speculate
> that pot "could already be responsible for one in 20
> lung cancers diagnosed in New Zealand" before warning:
> "In the near future we may see an ‘epidemic’ of lung
> cancers connected with this new carcinogen."
>
> The mainstream press, always on the look out for a
> good pot scare story, ran blindly with Beasley’s
> remarks. Apparently not a scribe among them felt any
> need to confirm whether Beasley’s study — which
> remained embargoed at the same time it was making
> worldwide headlines — actually said what was claimed.
>
> It didn’t.
>
> For those who actually bothered to read the study’s
> full text, which appeared in the European Respiratory
> Journal days after the global feeding frenzy had
> ended, they would have learned the following. Among
> the 79 lung cancer subjects who participated in the
> trial, 70 of them smoked tobacco. These individuals,
> not surprisingly, experienced a seven-times greater
> risk of being diagnosed with lung cancer compared to
> tobacco-free controls. As for the subjects in the
> study who reported having used cannabis, they — on
> average — experienced no statistically significant
> increased cancer risk compared to non-using controls.
>
> So how’d the press get the story so wrong? There are
> several reasons. First, beat writers based their
> stories on a press release rather than the study
> itself. Unfortunately, this is a common practice used
> by the mainstream media when writing about
> cannabis-related science. More often than not, media
> outlets strive to publish their reports prior to a
> study’s publication — a desire that all but forces
> reporters to write about data they have never seen.
> (Likewise, as a marijuana law reform advocate I’m also
> frequently asked by the press to comment on studies
> that are not yet public, though I typically choose not
> to.)
>
> Second, the media chose to selectively highlight data
> implicating cannabis’s dangers while ignoring data
> implicating its relative safety. In this case, the
> study’s authors (and, by default, the worldwide press)
> chose only to emphasize one small subgroup of
> marijuana smokers (those who reported smoking at least
> one joint per day for more than ten years). These
> subjects did in fact, experience an elevated risk of
> lung cancer compared to non-using controls. (Although
> contrary to what the press reported, even the study’s
> heaviest pot smokers never experienced an elevated
> comparable to those subjects who reported having "ever
> used" tobacco.) By contrast, cannabis consumers in the
> study who reported light or moderate pot use actually
> experienced a decreased cancer risk compared to
> non-using controls. (Bottom line, the sample size in
> all three subgroups is far too small to draw any sound
> conclusions.)
>
> Finally, the mainstream media failed to employ its own
> institutional memory. For example, some 18 months
> earlier The Washington Post and other newspapers
> around the world reported, "The largest study of its
> kind has unexpectedly concluded that smoking
> marijuana, even regularly and heavily, does not lead
> to lung cancer." That study, performed by researchers
> at UCLA, assessed the potential association between
> marijuana smoking and cancer in over 2,200 subjects
> (versus only 324 in the New Zealand study), and
> determined that pot smoking was not positively
> associated with cancers of the lung or upper
> aerodigestive tract — even among individuals who
> reported smoking more than 22,000 joints during their
> lifetime.
>
> Prior large-scale population studies have reached
> similar conclusions. For instance, a NIDA (US National
> Institute on Drug Abuse) sponsored study of 164 oral
> cancer patients and 526 controls determined, "The
> balance of the evidence does not favor the idea that
> marijuana as commonly used in the community is a
> causal factor for head, neck or lung cancer in adults"
> and a 1997 Kaiser Permanente retrospective cohort
> study of 65,171 men and women in California found that
> cannabis use was not associated with increased risks
> of developing tobacco-use related cancers — including
> lung cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer,
> colorectal cancer, or melanoma. In fact, even the
> prestigious National Academy of Sciences, Institute of
> Medicine says definitively, "There is no conclusive
> evidence that marijuana causes cancer in humans,
> including cancers usually related to tobacco use."
> (Tellingly, when I referred various reporters to these
> prior studies, I was consistently told that this
> information was irrelevant because they were assigned
> to write "only about this study.")
>
> In short, had the mainstream media even taken the time
> to consult their own prior marijuana coverage, they
> would have immediately begun asking the sort of
> probing questions that the public normally expects
> them to. Of course, such hard and steadfast rules
> governing professional journalism seldom apply to the
> media’ coverage of pot — where political ideology
> typically trumps accuracy and where slipshod reporting
> hardly ever even warrants a public retraction. Writing
> in the journal Science nearly 40 years ago, New York
> state university sociologist Erich Goode aptly
> 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 latter findings contradict the
> original pathological findings, they tend to be
> ignored or dismissed."
>
> How little has changed.
>
> Paul Armentano is the Deputy Director of NORML and the
> NORML Foundation.
>
> © 2008 Independent Media Institute. All rights
> reserved.
> View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/78886/
>
> ——————————————————————————-
> The views above and/or any links to any outside websites do not
> necessarily
> reflect the views of the Ohio Patient Network, its members or its Board of
> Directors.
>
> —————————————————————————————————————————
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