Lies and the Lazy Reporters Who Repeat Them

Lies and the Lazy Reporters Who Repeat Them
Posted by CN Staff on May 06, 2004 at 14:58:54 PT
By Bruce Mirken, AlterNet
Source: AlterNet 
On May 5, newspapers and news broadcasts around the country carried alarming stories about a new study of marijuana, published in that day's issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. "Stronger marijuana makes more addicted," screamed the Los Angeles Daily News. "Abuse and dependence rise as pot becomes more potent," headlined the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Rising marijuana potency, the stories claimed, was leading more Americans to become addicted to the devil weed.
Small problem: The theory that pot that is more potent is getting people hooked is almost certainly wrong. But none of the newspaper stories gave the slightest hint that might be the case. The government-funded study on which the stories were based, "Prevalence of Marijuana Use Disorders in the United States," was conducted by scientists from the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. It compared survey data from 1991-92 to 2001-02, indicating an increase in marijuana "abuse" or "dependence," as defined by the DSM-IV, the American Psychiatric Association's official diagnostic manual for mental disorders. The study's authors hypothesized that the most likely cause for this increase is "increased marijuana potency." As the Atlanta Journal-Constitution story, picked up by the Daily News, put it, "It's not your parents' marijuana." Wire stories used by most other papers took roughly the same line, though in less shrill language. None of these stories chose to mention a salient fact: The "potent pot" hypothesis is pure speculation. As Mitch Earleywine, University of Southern California associate professor of psychology and author of "Understanding Marijuana" (Oxford University Press, 2002) notes, there is no scientific evidence that marijuana that is more potent leads to greater levels of dependence. Indeed the JAMA article makes no claim that any such evidence exists. Second, as the JAMA article notes, under DSM-IV criteria, people can be classified as marijuana "abusers" if they experience "legal problems related to marijuana use." The FBI Uniform Crime Reports arrest tabulations show that marijuana arrests skyrocketed from about 300,000 in 1991 to well over 700,000 in 2001. What may be simply the results of shifting law enforcement priorities were presented in both the study and in news reports as the dire effects of "potent pot." Strikingly, the JAMA article fails to identify which abuse/dependence criteria increased, and by how much. That alone should have led an inquisitive reporter or two to ask if there might be an alternative explanation to the "potent pot" theory. But the journalists covering the story failed to ask this most basic question even though the study contained a giant red flag: The increased "abuse" occurred almost entirely among young blacks and Hispanics. There was no similar increase among whites in the same age group. Young blacks and Hispanics have no special access to high-potency marijuana, and there is no evidence that THC affects black and Hispanic brains differently than those of whites. But people of color are well documented to be at disproportionate risk for arrest for drug crimes. None of this was discussed in the Journal-Constitution story, or in the AP, Reuters and Scripps-Howard wire stories that were reprinted across the country. Indeed, what is striking about all of these stories is their similarity to the National Institute on Drug Abuse's press release. None of these esteemed newspapers or wire services chose to quote even a single expert or advocate skeptical of the government line. None of them seems to have considered the possibility that our government might spin the data in order to match its Drug War policies. For shame. Bruce Mirken is a recovering journalist who, after years of covering health issues for Men's Health, AIDS Treatment News and the San Francisco Examiner, now serves as Communications Director for the Marijuana Policy Project.Source: AlterNet (US)Author: Bruce Mirken, AlterNetPublished: May 6, 2004Copyright: 2004 Independent Media InstituteContact: letters Website: Articles & Web Site:Marijuana Policy Project Marijuana Propels Abuse Rates Boomers are Going To Pot
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Comment #6 posted by mayan on May 06, 2004 at 18:41:09 PT
The Net Rules
It's a shame that folks have to get online to find the truth. If that's what they have to do, they will. Why do mainstream sources site government stats anyway? It's not like you can believe one word they say. The internet reigns supreme.The only way out...NBC: FDNY Chief of Safety Reported Bombs Both Within the Towers and on the Planes on 9/11 Official Scrapped Tape of 9/11 Controllers' Statements: International Inquiry - Toronto - May 25-30:
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Comment #5 posted by kaptinemo on May 06, 2004 at 15:54:13 PT:
And let us not forget
"More potent pot"... measured against *what* baseline? Dessicated, widely different junk from the 1970's left in evidence lockers to oxidize? NIDA's own schwag-weed? What is the *baseline*?There isn't one, and never has been. Ever. So how do we measure potency without a yardstick? I'd be leery of touching any statistic provided by antis; clearly, demonstrating the decided lack of scientific rigor their 'studies' possess, in all likelihood they pulled it out from where the sun doesn't shine...
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Comment #4 posted by warhater on May 06, 2004 at 15:25:57 PT:
No Analysis or Research
Not in this era. They just regurgitate the press release. The only trustworthy news sources are on the internet and in foreign countries. Reporters call it the "Access of Evil". If you don't spew the party line they cut your access to officials. The American news media has been high jacked.
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Comment #3 posted by dongenero on May 06, 2004 at 15:15:21 PT
Nice work
Now, there's a journalist on the ball. Kudos Mr. Mirken So many of the hacks covering the release of this garbage just regurgitate whatever is fed to them and then collect their paycheck. Shame.
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Comment #2 posted by RasAric on May 06, 2004 at 15:13:19 PT
From League of International Anti-prohibitists
The French Interior Minister has condemned as "intolerable" the Dutch system whereby anyone caught arriving at an airport with "small quantities" of drugs -- generally defined as under three kilos -- is not arrested. The drugs are confiscated, end of story.U.S.A.
Anti-drug boss John Walters has launched a campaign of spots in Spanish aimed at Latino adolescents, to be aired in the states with the greatest Spanish-speaking population density. Heroin, cannabis and cocaine consumption is in fact highest in this ethnic group. 
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Comment #1 posted by E_Johnson on May 06, 2004 at 15:10:42 PT
Recovering journalist
Right on dude. I'm a recovering editor. I know the feeling.
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