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July 22, 2009

Groping for Insight

Marijuana’s appeal and the remarkable resilience of its modern market, even in uncertain financial times, are very much in the news. Last week, pot was featured in articles in the still-proud New York Times Magazine and the Insight section of the struggling San Francisco Chronicle. Both reported a melange of opinions from the usual "experts," which tempted me to compare a few of them to what I've learned during seven years spent interviewing self-medicating pot smokers seeking my agreement that their use is "medical."

That experience allows me to point out how key comments by those experts unwittingly reveal their own ignorance. One such was NIDA Director Nora Volkow’s comparison of whiskey and beer in trying to make a rhetorical point; the potency of alcohol has nothing to do with that of marijuana and the effects of each drug on cognition are so different as to invalidate any comparison. Smoking pot allows a rapid, accurate titration of its potency, thus protecting users against overdose, while oral preparations do not. Volkow’s ignorance, although shocking, is understandable: prevention of any research that might be favorable to pot use is the mission of her agency by Act of Congress. That also explains her ignorance of another easily demonstrable finding: that pot smokers’ alcohol consumption and use of other problematic agents were consistently diminished whenever they began self-medicating with inhaled cannabis.

Bruce Mirken of the Marijuana Policy Project provided an example of unwitting expert ignorance by the other side with his characterization of the recent surge in LA pot dispensaries as “an absolute freaking disaster" in the Insight article. What was actually revealed was Mirken's displeasure at learning that his cherished beliefs about “medical” and “recreational” use weren’t reflected by the behavior of the pot users he claims to represent, while his follow up statement shows that he has yet to understand that in the modern world, the markets for all popular products, are subject to manipulation by criminals.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at July 22, 2009 04:53 PM