Kerfuffle Over Marijuana Claim

A pro-pot group airs an ad stating marijuana is “less toxic” than alcohol, but a federal science agency disputes the assertion.

By | August 20, 2013

WIKIMEDIA, HUPU2Marijuana law reform has been in the air lately. Last November, Colorado and Washington voted to legalize recreational weed use in their states, and Illinois recently became the latest state to legalize the drug for use as a medicine. In a speech at the American Bar Association’s annual meeting this month, US Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the federal government would no longer seek harsh mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenders that had no ties to gangs, violence, or trafficking—though he drew the ire of medical marijuana proponents for failing to mention the drug specifically once during the speech. Now, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has weighed in on what appears to be a rising tide of pro-marijuana sentiment.

In response to an advertisement sponsored by the pro-pot group Marijuana Policy Project, which called marijuana “less toxic” than alcohol, NIDA wrote in an e-mail to watchdog group PolitiFact: "Claiming that marijuana is less toxic than alcohol cannot be substantiated since each possess their own unique set of risks and consequences for a given individual." PolitiFact, which fact-checks claims made by politicians, pundits, and special interest groups, surmised the claim that marijuana is less toxic than alcohol was “mostly true,” citing numbers from the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics. According to the CDC, more than 41,000 deaths were tied to alcohol in 2010 (almost 16,000 attributed to alcoholic liver disease and more than 25,000 to alcohol-related accidents and homicides), while zero were reportedly linked to marijuana. In addition, the CDC lists “1.2 million emergency room visits and 2.7 million physician office visits due to excessive drinking” on its website, as PolitiFact pointed out Thursday (August 15).

Just a few days before PolitiFact’s analysis of the “less toxic” claim ran online, NIDA released a statement on its own website, reaffirming its commitment to studying the effects of marijuana as a drug of abuse and addiction. “NIDA funds a wide range of research on and related to marijuana (cannabis); its main psychoactive ingredient, THC; and chemicals related to THC (cannabinoids),” the statement read. “This includes understanding patterns of use, its effects on the brain and behavior, and developing prevention and treatment interventions.”

Notably absent from the federal government’s marijuana research funding portfolio are studies that look into the supposed medicinal benefits of the smoked form of the drug. As The Scientist reported last year, several researchers who would like to study the medicinal properties of marijuana are stymied by the fact that the US government blocks access to federal stores of the drug and funding to conduct such research.

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Avatar of: Johnn


Posts: 1

August 21, 2013

NIDA wrote to a watchdog group, "Claiming that marijuana is less toxic than alcohol cannot be substantiated since each possess their own unique set of risks and consequences for a given individual."

Apparently the NIDA enjoys having the sword of Damocles hanging over their heads as they fail to mention that different Alcohols also possess their own unique set of risks and consequences for a given individual.

It's also too bad the NIDA also failed to mention the overwhelming positive evidence of proof towards the effective uses for marijuana medically. I believe that Alcohol can only be used for instrument or exterior sterilization and sedation purposes after procedures only.  Pre-procedure use would increase complications making it easy for stomach contents to go backwards into the esophagus and mouth or even the windpipe and lungs. Because the stomach contains acid, if any stomach contents do get into the lungs, they can cause a serious pneumonia, called aspiration pneumonitis. 

Hey - NIDA - Thanks for the smoke screen!

Avatar of: lenben


Posts: 1

August 21, 2013

The NIDA folks have a job that depends upon demonizing marijuana. The last thing they would ever want is to find the stuff is benign which would put them out on the street. This has nothing to do with science.

Avatar of: BillInLA


Posts: 5

August 21, 2013

"a federal science agency disputes the assertion."


Says it all.  I'm not a big fan of legalizing marijuana for everyone, but as Sanjay Gupta has been the latest to document, every government utterance on marijuana has been an abject, conspiratorial, right-wing, lock-the-druggies-up LIE.

Grant, you know this.  Do you get funding from the DEA or other right-wing nut elements in the federal bureaucracy? 

Avatar of: HairBrainman


Posts: 1

August 21, 2013

As little as 20 years ago, the American people would not have tolerated such obvious self-serving lies from a federal agency.  Now, it seems fear has replaced concern, and we are well on the way to becoming a second (or third!) rate system, based on human rights.  These selfish functionary creeps know that marijuana is not only harmless, but actually helps shrink tumors and is often the best choice for seizures and nausea.  I wonder how these lowlifes sleep at night, knowing how many lives they destroy?

Avatar of: Ed M.

Ed M.

Posts: 45

August 22, 2013

Of course pot is less toxic than alcohol.

Drink a gallon of scotch quicklty and you will die.

Smoke or eat or drink a liquid form of  a kilo or even a a bale of grass and you may become constipated or fall asleep, at worst.

Avatar of: karaptos


Posts: 1

August 22, 2013

"Notably absent from the federal government’s marijuana research funding portfolio are studies that look into the supposed medicinal benefits of the smoked form of the drug." Not that I dispute that there has been a lot of disinformation spread about concerning pot, or that pot contains many medicinally useful compounds, but deeply sucking smoke into your lungs and holding it for as long as you can does not seem to be an activity that promotes health.

Avatar of: Mel Frank

Mel Frank

Posts: 2

Replied to a comment from karaptos made on August 22, 2013

December 3, 2013

Karaptos: Obviously, you are not a current user.

Marijuana available today is, very generally, between 10% and 20% THC, which is potent enough so that a gentle puff or two, exhaled almost immediately, is enough to prompt the usual desired dose. There are also innumerable delivery systems, including smokeless vaporization devices, infusions, sublingual sprays, skin patches, and edibles that all can delivery cannabioids without the necessity of smoking at all.

Further, marijuana smokers actually have less a probability of developing lung cancer than non-smokers (see Dr. Tashkin's studys at UCLA).

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