Is Marijuana as Safe as We Think?
January 15, 2019 9:54 AM   Subscribe

We don’t know that an increase in cannabis use was responsible for that surge in violence. Between 2013 and 2017, [Washington's] aggravated-assault rate rose seventeen per cent, which was nearly twice the increase seen nationwide, and the murder rate rose forty-four per cent, which was more than twice the increase nationwide.

If Legal Marijuana Leads to Murder, What's Up With the Netherlands? [The Atlantic]

All the Things the New Anti-Weed Crusade Gets Horribly Wrong [warning: Vice link]

Malcolm Gladwell is Wrong; Marijuana is Not a Gateway Drug [Daily Beast]

Results showed that for each year the boys used marijuana 52 times or more (“weekly use”), they had a 21% increase in the number of subsequent psychotic symptoms. Similarly, for each year of weekly use, the odds of experiencing paranoia increased by 133% and hallucinations by 92%. Importantly, the risk of psychosis following marijuana exposure increased even after at least a year of abstinence. [American Journal of Psychiatry]

The evidence is consistent with the view that cannabis increases risk of psychotic outcomes independently of confounding and transient intoxication effects, although evidence for affective outcomes is less strong. The uncertainty about whether cannabis causes psychosis is unlikely to be resolved by further longitudinal studies such as those reviewed here. However, we conclude that there is now sufficient evidence to warn young people that using cannabis could increase their risk of developing a psychotic illness later in life. [The Lancet. Tally ho!]
posted by mecran01 (55 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
 
Gonna flippantly guess that it's just that the police needed something to do now that they couldn't rack up easy arrests on weed charges so they actually followed up on other calls.
posted by Space Coyote at 10:00 AM on January 15, 2019 [67 favorites]


Malcolm Gladwell's gonna Malcolm Gladwell.... 🙄
posted by odinsdream at 10:03 AM on January 15, 2019 [30 favorites]


Yeah but what if the violent crime is withdrawal from suddenly crazy available fentanyl, or meth? Then there is the business of creating a false society and demanding a lifetime subscription, then calling young people who by action of mind altering substances, or basic, even gender orientation, sexual or political orientation; decide to drop the program. In many cases families declare kids who do not conform, and that is for all kinds of non conformities. Who is there backing these parents up with diagnoses? The for pay community. It is a lot easier for the system to scapegoat marijuana than their own malfunction.
posted by Oyéah at 10:11 AM on January 15, 2019 [7 favorites]


Vox.com: What Alex Berenson’s new book gets wrong about marijuana, psychosis, and violence "The book, Tell Your Children, has received a lot of media attention, but it’s essentially Reefer Madness 2.0."
posted by dnash at 10:16 AM on January 15, 2019 [11 favorites]


“Okay but have you tried CBD?”
posted by gucci mane at 10:20 AM on January 15, 2019 [17 favorites]


Between 2013 and 2017... What do any of these things have to do with the homicide rate in Washington state? Probably nothing!

Well, actually the opioid one actually might be related.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:20 AM on January 15, 2019 [46 favorites]


Malcolm Gladwell's been defending big pharma in The New Yorker since the late 90s. Frankly, I'm surprised it took him this long to turn his attention to marijuana.
posted by a complicated history at 10:22 AM on January 15, 2019 [16 favorites]


What do any of these things have to do with the homicide rate in Washington state? Probably nothing!

nice one, burying the real cause in plain sight:

Academic journal subscription prices increased by 25%
posted by philip-random at 10:34 AM on January 15, 2019 [41 favorites]


Between 2013 and 2017, the state’s aggravated-assault rate rose seventeen per cent, which was nearly twice the increase seen nationwide, and the murder rate rose forty-four per cent, which was more than twice the increase nationwide

I hate sentences like this. This is how you talk about numbers when you want those numbers to sound big, not when you want to accurately and effectively convey information. Is Washington now a significantly more dangerous place to be, or not? I can't help but think that percentage increases do not seem like a great way of measuring statistics like this. The lower 50% of states by population-adjusted murder rate could have much smaller changes than the upper 50%, and yet post much larger percentage increases, right?
posted by Sequence at 10:39 AM on January 15, 2019 [13 favorites]


Using Berenson's stringent methodology from the first link and as quoted, here are some selected possible alternative explanations for increases in violent crime in Washington State between 2013 and 2017:
  • The merger of open space timber programs into designated forest lands
  • Increasing reimbursements to small rural hospitals
  • Changing the bank account into which horse-racing-related fines are deposited
  • Exempting Design Build proposals from disclosure until the the highest scoring finalist has been selected
  • Creation of the Walla Walla Veterans' Home
  • Collecting Challenged School data in February rather than December
  • Renaming the Washington Civil Liberties Public Education Program as the Kip Tokuda Memorial Program
  • Requiring the Department of Ecology to categorize on its website the sources of information that it relied upon in support of significant agency actions
  • Applying interest and penalties only to the unpaid portion of property taxes as opposed to the full-year amount
  • Creating a liquor license for nonprofit senior centers to sell spirits by the glass and beer and wine at retail for on-premises consumption
  • The designation of Palouse Falls as the official state waterfall and/or Ostrea lurida as the official oyster of the state of Washington
  • Allowing midwives to provide medical aid to newborns up to two weeks of age
  • Permitting bachelor-degree-granting community colleges to offer honorary degrees
  • Requiring Homeowners' Associations to make their meeting minutes available
  • Farm internship programs
  • Only counting duplicate signatures on petitions once
  • The Joint Legislative Task Force on the Economic Resilience of Maritime and Manufacturing in Washington
  • Considering liquid organic fuels to qualify as green power
  • The Seattle University special license plate and/or the Breast Cancer Awareness special license plate
posted by solotoro at 10:40 AM on January 15, 2019 [37 favorites]


Betteridge's law probably does apply here for some interpretation of "we." I mean, I've met people who think weed is safer than aspirin.

A combination of correlation/causation fallacies and journalists who don't understand basic stats makes it really frustrating to read popular press articles about a set of drugs that really haven't been studied that well.

And as usual with Gladwell, the whole "conversation" is a series of deep thoughts-style questions: there are twenty-seven question marks in that article not counting the one in the headline or the one in the cartoon, and every single one is rhetorical, including the ones in quotes.
posted by aspersioncast at 10:55 AM on January 15, 2019 [3 favorites]


That psychotic break one is baffling to me. Marijuana could increase risk of a psychotic episode, but it could also be the other way around. People prone to psychotic episodes might be more likely to use marijuana.
posted by runcibleshaw at 10:57 AM on January 15, 2019 [10 favorites]


There actually are ways to model whether this is due to one specific measurable factor; unfortunately, Gladwell's methodology - or lack thereof - is just to connect it to legalization. This, of course, doesn't incorporate whether people were using marijuana prior to legalization (heh, what do you think?), or whether there are other factors that could explain it.

In other words, I'd call it lazy science if it were science. But it's not - it's just asking questions. While it's important to ask questions, it's also important to ask them in a way that doesn't create an answer in the asking.

Public health professionals are curious to see what effects, if any, legalization has on a number of areas. So that we can try to minimize the negative effects. Mucking things up with mock science fearmongering ain't gonna help.
posted by entropone at 11:01 AM on January 15, 2019 [5 favorites]


Yeah, the claim that pot leads to psychotic episodes seems totally off in my experience. I've met a hell of a lot of folks who ease their various mental illnesses with pot. To this non-expert, marijuana seems like a pretty common drug to self-medicate with, and is more likely to help than induce a psychotic break.
posted by Grandysaur at 11:07 AM on January 15, 2019 [4 favorites]


From Gladwell: "As the National Academy panel declared, in one of its few unequivocal conclusions, “Cannabis use is likely to increase the risk of developing schizophrenia and other psychoses; the higher the use, the greater the risk.”

From Aaron Carroll in the NY Times, The Reasonable Way to View Marijuana’s Risks: "Dr. Ziva Cooper is one of the authors of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s comprehensive report on cannabis. She says some have misinterpreted the report to state that the report’s committee concluded that cannabis causes schizophrenia. It did not. 'This was stated as an association, not causation,” she said. “We do not yet have the supporting evidence to state the direction of this association.'"

From the actual report, summary of conclusions: "There is substantial evidence of a statistical association between cannabis use and ... thee development of schizophrenia or other psychoses, with the highest risk among the most frequent users (12-1)"

Main report text, Chapter 12, Mental Health: "Chapter Highlights: Cannabis use is likely to increase the risk of developing schizophrenia and other psychoses; the higher the use, the greater the risk." (which Gladwell quoted correctly.)

BUT, also from that chapter: "CONCLUSION 12-1 There is substantial evidence of a statistical association between cannabis use and the development of schizophrenia or other psychoses, with the highest risk among the most frequent users."

For a study that presumably went through dozens if not hundreds of reviews, that's some confusing writing.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 11:20 AM on January 15, 2019 [8 favorites]


I've met people who think weed is safer than aspirin.

Uh, I don't get on well with weed, but at least it doesn't make my stomach bleed.
posted by ambrosen at 11:21 AM on January 15, 2019 [8 favorites]


Independent of the accuracy or relevance of any statistics, it makes perfect sense to me that massively disrupting black market drug trade with legal alternatives might cause some deaths.
posted by ropeladder at 11:27 AM on January 15, 2019 [5 favorites]


Most of these things seem like a case of spurious correlations to me.
posted by runcibleshaw at 11:29 AM on January 15, 2019


For example, smoking pot is widely supposed to diminish the nausea associated with chemotherapy. But, the panel pointed out, “there are no good-quality randomized trials investigating this option.” We have evidence for marijuana as a treatment for pain, but “very little is known about the efficacy, dose, routes of administration, or side effects of commonly used and commercially available cannabis products in the United States.” The caveats continue. Is it good for epilepsy? “Insufficient evidence.” Tourette’s syndrome? Limited evidence. A.L.S., Huntington’s, and Parkinson’s? Insufficient evidence. Irritable-bowel syndrome? Insufficient evidence. Dementia and glaucoma? Probably not. Anxiety? Maybe. Depression? Probably not.
Jesus Christ you disingenuous fuckstick. No reputable body of medical professionals is going to flippantly say "Oh, yeah, substance X totally makes symptom Y better" unless they have strong clinical evidence. Clinical evidence comes from large-scale, double-blind, longitudinal studies of large populations of patients, usually funded by a combination of federal grant money and private funding from whoever has the patent on the substance in question. Y'know, the exact sort of thing that was illegal in every part of the US until five years ago, is still against federal law and so bodies like the CDC can't study it because oh no the demon weed, and which no drug company has any financial incentive to subsidize because they can't monopolize its sales.
posted by Mayor West at 11:35 AM on January 15, 2019 [55 favorites]


I think reading HOA minutes could lead to stroke and intractible depression, and schizophrenia would probably be well developed in those who habitually read HOA minutes, and more just a symptom of the disorder. Smoking weed might contribute to emphysema or bronchitis, heavy use anyway.
posted by Oyéah at 11:40 AM on January 15, 2019 [5 favorites]


between 2013 and 2017, [Washington's] [...] murder rate rose forty-four per cent, which was more than twice the increase nationwide.
Oh for fucks sake. This kind of statistics abuse is bad, even for this jerk-store. Washington state's homicides and murder rates, year over year:
YEAR           DEATHS            RATE
2017            266              3.6
2016            216              2.9
2015            239              3.4
2014            211              3.1
2013            160              2.3
2012            217              3.1
...
2005            231              3.6
Congratulations, Mr. Gladwell, you've learned that favored trick of the desperate undergraduate: how to cherry-pick your data, by conveniently measuring change between a low statistical outlier on one end and a high outlier on the other end.

Well two can play at that game, sir. Marijuana went on sale recreationally in Washington in 2013. Looks to my untrained eye like that immediately caused murder rates to plummet from the previous year. QED. I'm gonna go write up my findings and have them published in the New Yorker, who apparently doesn't know any better
posted by Mayor West at 11:58 AM on January 15, 2019 [95 favorites]


I've met people who think weed is safer than aspirin.

The toxic effects of salicylates have been described since at least 1877.[5] In 2004 more than 20,000 cases with 43 deaths were reported in the United States (aspirin)

Have there been anywhere near 40 deaths attributed to marijuana in any recent calendar year?
posted by sammyo at 12:03 PM on January 15, 2019 [25 favorites]


Kadin2048: I don't know, journal prices make me want to commit violent acts sometimes. ;) #AcademicLife
posted by Canageek at 12:10 PM on January 15, 2019


I blame it on the dairy alternatives. If you replace the “o” in “soy” with “la,” you get “slay.” Coincidence?!
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:15 PM on January 15, 2019 [6 favorites]


marijuana is dangerous absolutely beyond doubt. so is working in your backyard, or if you're looking for a mental illness analogue, writing poetry. How many people have slipped into some form of mental illness as a result of worrying too much about a rhyme scheme or just obsessing over the "right" word? Do we have studies that back this up? If not, why not?

Not aiming to diminish the real dangers of marijuana. I've been a regular user for over four decades now and have certainly known some folks for whom it wasn't the best option. And not just because it made them uncomfortable, wasn't fun. I've been witness to genuine psychosis to which marijuana was a contributing factor. But so was stress, other drugs, malnourishment, childhood trauma, weird religion, and/or many other things.

Meanwhile, I can easily weigh in with far more experiences where marijuana was a profound positive, helped people out of mental ill-health, yadda-yadda-yadda. Anybody who wants to blame any consciousness altering substance for any particular horrible thing needs to spend a little time with somebody like Gabor Mate. I find him annoying in some ways and certainly don't agree with him on everything, but his basic ground level observation that some people use drugs while other people abuse those same drugs (which means the problem isn't the drug, it's what the individual brings to the drug) ought to be fundamental to all of our drug-danger discussions moving forward.
posted by philip-random at 12:32 PM on January 15, 2019 [5 favorites]


S.H.A.M.E Project: Malcolm Gladwell began as a college right-wing Reagan supporter, was trained by the tobacco-funded far-right National Journalism Center, and throughout his career has inserted pro-tobacco, pro-banking industry and pro-PHARMA messages into his books and articles.
  • During college, Gladwell received journalism training at the National Journalism Center, an outfit that worked with the tobacco industry “to train budding journalists . . . to get across our side of the story," according to an internal Philip Morris document.
  • In 1990, a Gladwell article in the Washington Post warned that laws banning cigarettes could “put a serious strain on the nation’s Social Security and Medicare programs.” For evidence, Gladwell cited an old “study” churned out by a think tank with known connections to Big Tobacco.
  • In his book The Tipping Point, Gladwell blamed children for getting themselves addicted to tobacco and absolved tobacco industry advertising campaigns of guilt. However, confidential Philip Morris documents bragged, “Marlboro’s phenomenal growth rate in the past has been attributable in large part to our high market penetration among young smokers . . . 15 to 19 years old.”
  • A confidential Philip Morris document from the mid-1990s named Malcolm Gladwell as one of the tobacco industry’s top covert media assets. This roster of “Third Party Advocates” was a who's who list of known corporate shills, including Bush press secretary/Fox News anchor Tony Snow, Grover Norquist, Milton Friedman and Ed Feulner, head of the Heritage Foundation. In journalism terms, a “Third Party Advocate” means “fraud.”
posted by Atom Eyes at 12:33 PM on January 15, 2019 [49 favorites]


Drug policy is always clearest at the fringes. Illegal opioids are at one end. They are dangerous. Manufacturers and distributors belong in prison, and users belong in drug-treatment programs. The cannabis industry would have us believe that its product, like coffee, belongs at the other end of the continuum.

This is so jaw-droppingly ignorant and dodgy that I don't know where to start.

What's an illegal opioid, exactly? What does he mean by manufacturers and distributors? Who, exactly belongs in prison? Has he ever heard of harm-reduction? What does he mean by "the cannabis industry," as if there is only one? How is he placing coffee at the end of the continuum given that it spurs pockets of medical, social, and religious disapproval? Who believes that cannabis is most directly comparable to coffee (rather than, say, alcohol?)
posted by desuetude at 12:38 PM on January 15, 2019 [8 favorites]


ugh, this was Gladwell Gladwelling at his most Gladwellish. A regrettable read.
posted by mwhybark at 12:52 PM on January 15, 2019 [10 favorites]


From that Atlantic piece:

If marijuana legalization accounted for increased murder rates, Amsterdam would be a much deadlier place to live. As it is, the homicide rate in the Netherlands is one-fifth as high as it is in the United States.

Sigh. Cannabis is not actually legal in the Netherlands. It's decriminalized for personal use, and there's a policy of toleration, so not exactly the same scenario.

...the Venn diagram of three great American maladies—opiate abuse, financial stress, and easy access to firearms

Ding ding ding.

Curiously, the Gladwell piece itself mentions "guns" and/or "firearms" exactly zero times.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 1:02 PM on January 15, 2019 [13 favorites]


Malcolm Gladwell's gonna Malcolm Gladwell.... 🙄

Obviously Gladwell needs to smoke weed for 10,000 hours before he purports to be an expert on the subject.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 1:54 PM on January 15, 2019 [39 favorites]


Malcolm Gladwell is Wrong; Marijuana is Not a Gateway Drug

It's ridiculous how this issue is treated as one for which there is a definitive answer across contexts. Given the right context, lasagna could function as a gateway drug.

The assumption that the various elements of human cultural life (e.g., marijuana use, use of other drugs, etc.) must have unchanging, law-like relations to each other is the polar opposite of the most extreme claims of social constructionism--and just as ridiculous.
posted by patrickdbyers at 2:08 PM on January 15, 2019 [2 favorites]




Yeah, the claim that pot leads to psychotic episodes seems totally off in my experience. I've met a hell of a lot of folks who ease their various mental illnesses with pot.

While I absolutely think this piece is utter codswallop, and I am someone who definitely believes in weed’s medication potential, I will say that, over the years, I’ve had two friends for whom smoking weed would result in a very extreme event of paranoia and agitation. I mean serious “try to keep him distracted and *do not* let him out of here” stuff. Sometimes scary.

That said, given that was two out of the hundreds of friends who consume weed without any negative reaction, I definitely think those numbers are utter bogosity.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:21 PM on January 15, 2019


After discussing my very very occasional THC use with my therapist on and off over the last few months, she recently sent me a link to Berenson's NYT opinion piece from a couple of weeks ago.

My response was, basically, "Huh. I'd love to see more actual scientific research into this."
posted by hanov3r at 2:30 PM on January 15, 2019


in a vacuum, asking the kinds of open ended questions that gladwell does about what we dont know about cannabis (and citing suggestive associations) might be ok. but this isnt a vacuum. this is a context in which the substance has been demonized for decades by the government on shoddy evidence and racialized fearmongering, and barred from being tested adequately, which is precisely why we dont know the answers he seeks. and, worse, it was used as way to incarcerate and extract fines from poor and minority communities in ways that most people find abhorrent today. that's why every discussion of the issue should begin and end with the assertion that legalization is in the interest of justice, even if further study is also warranted.

by omitting that context, gladwell's questions take on a whiff of bad faith.

(this, incidentally is just like what right wingers do when talking about racism. in a totally ahistorical way, they look around and say "the laws are equal for everyone now, and i had a bad morning, so really it's me and all the other white dudes who are the victims here!" by ignoring everything that came before, their argument is inherently worthless.)
posted by wibari at 2:38 PM on January 15, 2019 [15 favorites]


Reposting the moment I entirely abandoned giving Gladwell any benefit of the doubt
posted by thelonius at 4:06 PM on January 15, 2019 [4 favorites]


I just came here to point out that Malcom Galdwell is an intellectually dishonest fraud who misrepresents the issues that he writes about and is a tobacco industry shill, but I see that AtomEyes got there first. So instead, here’s something more relevant to the article being discussed:

@davelevitan (Thread)
Hey sure, I’ll join the pile-on as I read Gladwell’s big pot story. I’m two paragraphs in and I already went to the report he’s citing and found some bullshit.
He’s such a transparent fraud, I find it infuriating that he still gets commissioned. And I regret to say that people who read his books go down in my estimation, in the same way as people who earnestly believe that the Queen is a lizard, or that crystals cure cancer. I once read the first chapter of “Blink” and it was sooooo bad. All crappy anecdata, dressed up in this pseudo-authoritative tone. Just blatant snakeoil for the undiscerning.
posted by chappell, ambrose at 4:09 PM on January 15, 2019 [9 favorites]


Hey can we talk about the explosion in homelessness in this state? Could precarious employment and low housing affordability maybe be correlated with increases in violent crime?
posted by simra at 4:11 PM on January 15, 2019 [14 favorites]


I was kinda offended by the editors of The New Yorker printing REEFER MADNESS without any fact-checking. It's an egregious disregard of their reputation and credibility.

One fact that is certain is that the toxicity of cannabis is minimal compared to almost any other drug. Too much can make you ill, but it won't kill you. The other fact is that it's a versatile and effective pain reliever, and a decent alternative to opiates in some situations.

Malcolm's vague anecdotes about cannabis related to an increase in violence are bullshit. Cannabis usually makes people less violent. I've been to more than one drunken party where the solution to a belligerent guy picking fights is for his friends to quietly take him aside and ply him with cannabis into a stupor. Ugh, fun times, sigh. That's my anecdotal evidence.

Like any drug, there are problems with cannabis. Like alcohol and many other drugs, excessive use can interfere with cognitive functions. Scientists are doing some research on this, but the frame of reference is conflicted. Many people with mental health issues use cannabis to self-medicate, but the causation/correlation in this issue is rather blurred. In a perfect world, The New Yorker would hire an intelligent journalist to interview some neuroscientists studying the brain chemistry involved. I could guess that they would shrug and say: "Well, it's complicated..."
posted by ovvl at 5:29 PM on January 15, 2019 [4 favorites]


Yeah, the claim that pot leads to psychotic episodes seems totally off in my experience.

Really? In my own personal experience and collection of anecdotes, THC is well-known to be a trigger for e.g. psychedelic experiences turning bad or schizotypal symptoms in otherwise well individuals - though they tend to recover okay eventually of course. Of all of the assertions made I think "a link with psychosis" probably has the most real supporting evidence - though of course the direction of causation is tricky to sort out. If I'm not mistaken the vast majority of people with schizophrenia smoke tobacco, too, and it's usually assumed to be self-medication. With cannabis my personal bet is going to be that it's a little bit of both.

It's going from "cannabis" to "psychotic episodes" to

Berenson begins his book with an account of a conversation he had with his wife, a psychiatrist who specializes in treating mentally ill criminals. They were discussing one of the many grim cases that cross her desk—“the usual horror story, somebody who’d cut up his grandmother or set fire to his apartment.” Then his wife said something like “Of course, he was high, been smoking pot his whole life.”

that is just insanely irresponsible journalism (would be laughable journalism if it weren't insanely irresponsible).
posted by atoxyl at 5:43 PM on January 15, 2019 [5 favorites]


Malcolm Gladwell is Wrong

Now *there's* an evergreen headline.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:10 PM on January 15, 2019 [7 favorites]


There is definitely a correlation between marijuana use and subsequent development of psychosis, along with diverse factors like being born in winter, or having a father over 30. Cannabis doesn't cause schizophrenia, but it may be a factor in triggering psychosis in people already predisposed to such disorders. I interned at the New York State Psychiatric Institute a while ago before switching career tracks, and they were working to both assess and treat schizophrenic prodromes, and part of the assessment was questions on cannabis use.

Ultimately you have to study any drug for both efficacy and side effects to understand it.

Regular alcohol use is a statistically significant predictor of violent behavior. I believe Washington State changed it's liquor laws in 2011 to allow non state run stores to sell liquor which lead to more liquor sales, of we are looking for possible correlations.
posted by gryftir at 7:18 PM on January 15, 2019 [10 favorites]


This article is something The New Yorker should be ashamed to have published. It is literally a litany of "here is a speculation about something we have no research about based on an intuitive analysis of non-evidence". It is suggestion rather than proof. It is innuendo being masked as reporting. Purely speculative, purely inflammatory, purely without actual basis other than "hey, look at this and then look at that! They must be related!".

Even if anything in this article is eventually proven to be true, it is a shameful piece as written and I'm actually shocked to have read it on TNY website.
posted by hippybear at 8:14 PM on January 15, 2019


It's an egregious disregard of their reputation and credibility.

The New Yorker's reputation is: "has funny cartoons"
The New Yorker's credibility is: "N/A but see above: has funny cartoons"

For quite a while, the publication has been trying to punch above its weight class by hiring columnists like Mr. Gladwell to use big words and pretend appealing to high concepts to make their readership feel smart.

Mr. Gladwell's reputation is: "uses big words and appeals to high concepts to make his readership feel smart"
Mr. Gladwell's credibility is: paid shill of the tobacco industry for 25+ years

Get this garbage off the front page, metafilter.
posted by 7segment at 8:59 PM on January 15, 2019 [2 favorites]


That's remarkably ignorant!
posted by thelonius at 9:11 PM on January 15, 2019 [2 favorites]


You obviously have no clue what The New Yorker has been across decades and generations and the kind of actually valuable reporting it has done for possibly longer than you've been alive. Here's a skim off the top based on the most-requested articles, which don't in any way reflect the most important articles they've published, which i'm not going to research for you. If you think The New Yorker is about funny cartoons, you have never subscribed to and tried to keep up with reading the weekly onslaught that is The New Yorker.

Also, "funny". "New Yorker cartoon". What universe do you actually live in?
posted by hippybear at 9:12 PM on January 15, 2019 [13 favorites]


continuing to publish anything by Gladwell, after decades of evidence regarding his loathesome and mechanistic betrayal of the basic standards of journalism, would tend to reflect upon the journalistic standards of the New Yorker, my hirsute brother. It's an error on their part, and they should be censured for it.

Said censure seems to be underway here. I'm not sold that we should also celebrate their accomplishments in the context of such censure.
posted by mwhybark at 10:08 PM on January 15, 2019 [1 favorite]


Have there been anywhere near 40 deaths attributed to marijuana in any recent calendar year?
Well yes, actually, although usually as a factor in traffic fatalities,which I suppose you could argue is the fault of car culture in the US. viz. That's just one state though.

I'm absolutely positive that pot is better than alcohol, health-wise, but (and I say this as someone who's extremely pro-legalization) I really think it's weird when people don't hold it to the same standards as other drugs. Prescribe pot to literally millions of people for over a century while getting consistently more granular and exact with the dose and document the side effects, then we can compare it to aspirin.
posted by aspersioncast at 10:11 PM on January 15, 2019


Are you suggesting that aspirin was being given by Rx to large numbers of people in the early 1900s with careful controls about dosage levels and careful records being kept of side effects as traced directly to the medication?

That seems... unlikely to me. But I'd welcome being proven wrong.
posted by hippybear at 10:15 PM on January 15, 2019


lthough usually as a factor in traffic fatalities,which I suppose you could argue is the fault of car culture in the US. viz.

from the link:

At the same time, traffic fatalities in which drivers had enough marijuana in their bloodstream to be deemed legally impaired dropped sharply, from 52 in 2016 to 35 last year.

The reason for this seeming contradiction: Marijuana can remain in the bloodstream for weeks, so a positive blood test may not mean a driver was stoned at the time of a deadly crash.


so, there is no easy way to prove or disprove that marijuana was a factor in even one of those 40 deaths. It's a more or less meaningless statistic.
posted by philip-random at 10:29 PM on January 15, 2019 [1 favorite]


When I was young, I read a lot of books by the likes of Malcolm Gladwell and (Tory climate denier and post-Dawkinsian evopsych solutionist) Matt Ridley, and thought that they had some interesting points. It is with a shudder that I think that, had I been born a decade or two later, I'd have been at risk of becoming a lobster.
posted by acb at 1:00 AM on January 16, 2019 [4 favorites]


Frankly I am not interested in and certainly would not support handing cannabis exclusively over to the tender mercies of the pharmaceutical establishment, who would very likely either: (1) do whatever they can to show that it's toxic, because they can't patent it, or (2) only bother to test it in combination with drugs that they hold the patents on, or using weird patentable delivery mechanisms. Probably both.

Either way, they would, I am quite confident, be sure that any positive findings they might accidentally come up with wouldn't reflect favorably on any product that someone could buy without going through the channels that they so effectively control. Because why would they? They have established beyond all measure that they don't exist to heal the sick, make you feel better, or produce useful drugs; they exist to wring money out of sick and desperate people, and anything socially useful that happens is more or less an accident.

Drug enforcement in the US is broken, and cannabis legalization is part of the fix. But healthcare and the pharmaceutical industry is also irretrievably broken, and would be second only to the DEA on the list of "people who can't be trusted to act as gatekeepers to anything potentially beneficial to humanity".

That doesn't mean that you should trust whatever dumb hippie wisdom you find floating around online, telling you that cannabis oil is going to cure cancer or whatever. But I would, quite bluntly, probably not trust anything that comes out of any pharmaceutical company that stands to lose with cannabis legalization, which is virtually all of the big ones. We have example after example of companies fudging results, or suppressing studies, or just unconsciously failing to pursue avenues of investigation, that would be unprofitable. You just can't expect them to do anything that would harm their bottom line. Ever.

So while I agree that more research into cannabis and its derivatives is necessary, that's no reason to hold up legalization, first of all. The "we need to do more research" brigade is pretty clearly just foot-dragging at this point, and there seems to be a suspicious concentration of conflicts of interest, to the point where no benefit of the doubt is owed. (My guess? They want to slow things down so that they, or their corporate sponsors, can better position themselves to profit from national legalization.) Second, that research and investigation, if it is to be trusted at all, needs to be done by independent, disinterested parties, which the privately-funded, profit-motivated pharmaceutical industry absolutely, categorically is not.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:11 AM on January 16, 2019 [4 favorites]


What I remember from the biggest longitudinal study is that the association with weed and schizophrenia is strongest with early use and falls quite dramatically by the time you get to adulthood. Too late for me, oopsie, but I think there's good reason to advise young people to at least wait until they're 18 and to make the minimum age 21 so that it doesn't filter too much into high schools.

Ironically, though, I think prohibition made marijuana much easier than alcohol to get as a high school student, at least where I grew up. Grocery stores and bars in many college towns, unlike dealers, are very serious about checking ID.
posted by en forme de poire at 9:56 AM on January 16, 2019 [2 favorites]


Are you suggesting that aspirin was being given by Rx to large numbers of people in the early 1900s with careful controls about dosage levels and careful records being kept of side effects as traced directly to the medication?

No, that's why I wrote "consistently more granular and exact with the dose and document the side effects," which to be clearer should have read more like "and documentation of the side effects."

Aspirin has been the subject of literally thousands of medical trials for far longer than nearly any other medicine.

It's a more or less meaningless statistic.
On closer read that's probably true. And I doubt anybody's managed to overdose on weed yet, unlike e.g. caffeine, which . . . I mean there are Starbucks in schools.

while I agree that more research into cannabis and its derivatives is necessary, that's no reason to hold up legalization, first of all.
Sure. Again, I'm totally pro-legalization, and anti-FUD or concern-trolling about pot.

I really don't have a dog in this fight, I just spent the first 25 years of my life in circles where people would e.g. get their cat stoned or smoke while pregnant or eat five magic brownies and go for a drive, and all three of those things seem somewhere between probably unwise and actively shitty, to me. And all of them were sort of predicated on this idea that weed is this totally safe miracle drug because it's from the earth or whatever. And I have personal firsthand experience with long-term heavy stoners who are burned the fuck out, like seriously mentally degraded. And others who aren't, so maybe it's not really the weed, even though it seems like it.

Anyway, there's a paucity of independent clinical studies, and I'm on the side of there should be more.
posted by aspersioncast at 10:57 AM on January 16, 2019 [1 favorite]


Excessive use of any psychoactive substance, especially long-term, seems unwise.
posted by Chrysostom at 12:13 PM on January 16, 2019


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