Susan Shapiro claims to have been a cannabis addict for decades, and has turned this former addiction into a career, including books, articles and so on.
For instance, the Chicago Tribune published this bit of op-ed agit-prop today:
I know the dark side. I’m ambivalent about legalizing marijuana because I was addicted for 27 years. After starting to smoke weed at Bob Dylan concerts when I was 13, I saw how it can make you say and do things that are provocative and perilous. I bought pot in bad neighborhoods at 3 a.m., confronted a dealer for selling me a dime bag of oregano, let shady pushers I barely knew deliver marijuana, like pizza, to my home. I mailed weed to my vacation spots and smoked a cocaine-laced joint a bus driver offered when I was his only passenger.
(click here to continue reading So you think marijuana isn’t addictive – Chicago Tribune.)
Here’s the thing: I don’t doubt Ms. Shapiro had a problem with addiction; I don’t doubt her anecdotes, but I’m skeptical that this reefer madness essay should be the underpinning of national anti-drug policy. Especially since so many of her citations don’t hold up to even the quickest of fact-checks.
Mr. Armentano make points such as:
Many of Shapiro’s claims regarding pot’s risk potential are unsupported by the scientific literature. For instance, she expresses concerns that some cannabis products possess greater THC content today than in the past while ignoring the reality that most consumers regulate their intake accordingly. (When consuming more potent pot, most consumers typically ingest lesser quantities.) Further, THC itself is a comparatively nontoxic substance, having been approved as a medicine by the Food and Drug Administration in 1986 and descheduled by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in 1999 (to a Class 3 drug from a Class 2) because of its stellar safety record.
The author further asserts that cannabis “contributes” to 12% of traffic fatalities in the United States. But the purported source of this claim alleges nothing of the sort. In fact, the study in question solely assessed the prevalence of cannabis or its inert metabolites in injured drivers. (These metabolites, the authors state, may linger in the blood for up to a week following ingestion and should not be presumed to be a measurement of drug impairment.) The study’s authors make no claims in regard to whether these drivers were under the influence of pot or whether their driving behavior was responsible for an accident.
Further, studies evaluating whether marijuana-positive drivers are more likely to be culpable in traffic accidents find that the plant typically plays little role in auto fatalities. According to a 2012 review paper of 66 studies assessing drug-positive drivers and crash risk, marijuana-positive drivers possessed an odds-adjusted risk of traffic injury of 1.10 and an odds-adjusted risk of fatal accident of 1.26. This risk level was among the lowest of any drugs assessed by the study’s author and it was comparable to the odds ratio associated with penicillin (1.12), antihistamines (1.12) and antidepressants (1.35). By contrast, a 2013 study published in the journal Injury Prevention reported that drivers with a blood alcohol content of 0.01% were “46% more likely to be officially blamed for a crash than are the sober drivers they collide with.”
(click here to continue reading Marijuana policy should be based on fact, not on an ex-pothead’s experience – LA Times.)
or on the IQ question:
Shapiro also repeats the specious claim that cannabis use lowers intelligence quotient. But a review of a highly publicized 2012 study purporting to link adolescent pot use to lower IQ later in life determined that once economic variables were factored into the assessment, cannabis’ actual effect was likely to be “zero.” The findings of a previous longitudinal study from Canada that tracked the IQs of a group of marijuana users and non-users from birth similarly concluded, “Marijuana does not have a long-term negative impact on global intelligence.”
One other minor point: even in Shapiro’s anecdotes, one gets the sense that if our national drug laws were more sane, she wouldn’t have to go to shady neighborhoods in the wee hours of the night to score, instead she could have just bought something that wasn’t oregano at her local organic cannabis dispensary.Footnotes:
- I wonder if the Chicago Tribune plans on running the rebuttal in tomorrow’s paper? Probably not [↩]