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Marijuana Abuse By Youth Linked to Bad Journalism 

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Richard Cowan, former NORML National Director and author of 5 Important Things To Consider Before Buying CBD.


Last month CNN carried a report, “Marijuana abuse by youth with mood disorders linked to suicide attempts, self-harm and death, study finds”


The arguments for the legalization of marijuana are not based on the assumption that marijuana is harmless, so I have never felt it necessary to defend the plant, but I do think we need to understand the relationship between science, journalism and freedom.


Let’s start with the word “Linked”. My headline that “Marijuana Abuse By Youth Linked to Bad Journalism” was making an ironic point, but obviously I did not mean that marijuana abuse by youth was caused by bad journalism, but maybe it is.


Over the decades that I have been involved in the marijuana legalization movement I have had “youths” tell me that when they found out that they had been lied to about marijuana, they thought they had been lied to about coke, heroin, and meth, etc. But I certainly don’t think that this article is a threat to youth. Whew!


But it does have some familiar themes.




“Heavy use of marijuana by teens and young adults with mood disorders –– such as depression and bipolar disorder — is linked to an increased risk of self-harm, suicide attempts and death, a new study has found.”


Okay, but is marijuana making their problems worse, or are they self-medicating? Is marijuana “cause” or “effect”? What is the “Link”?


Because it is impossible to do controlled studies with adolescents with various levels of marijuana use and varying THC potency levels, such studies must be retrospective, and cannot be random. Adolescents who use marijuana illegally and do not have problems certainly exist. We also have anecdotal evidence that some adolescents benefit from cannabis use. And remember the context.


A Mayo Clinic report says, “Antidepressant drugs are often an effective way to treat depression and anxiety in children and teenagers. However, antidepressant use in children and teens must be monitored carefully, as rarely there can be severe side effects.”


Certainly, cannabis is not the only cause of “depression”, etc among adolescents, so it is entirely possible that an adolescent might be depressed for other reasons and then self medicate with cannabis. What is the link then?


Inevitably?? This is followed by a warning about “Today’s high potency weed”… 




The average THC content in marijuana has certainly risen over the decades because the Iron Law of Prohibition and the incentives created by taxation by weight with legalization, but it is not inherently more dangerous. The difference between 10% THC and 20% THC is one toke. There is no lethal dose, unlike alcohol or opiates, so “potent pot” is an artifact of prohibitionist propaganda. And a great excuse for funding MORE RESEARCH!!


Oh, and bad journalism.


In small towns there is usually a very symbiotic relationship between law enforcement and the local newspaper.


Recently, The Norfolk Nebraska Daily News carried a story, “Parents urged to keep THC edibles out of children’s hands to avoid deadly consequences”. Norfolk https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norfolk,_Nebraska

has a population of around 24,000, so it was news when “the Colfax County Sheriff’s Office found 30 edible THC packages and more than an ounce of marijuana during a traffic stop. Edible presence has become more prevalent in Nebraska in recent years.”


“While such treats as gummies and chocolate bars look just like packages found in any convenience store, law enforcement agencies are urging parents to take a closer look to keep edibles that otherwise look harmless out of the hands of their children.


Neither cannabis nor products containing it have been legalized in Nebraska, but the topic has been a key debate point among state legislators over the past year. Law enforcement agencies do know this — tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) edibles may appear harmless but can be especially dangerous to children, said Capt. Michael Bauer with the Norfolk Police Division.”


Most of the article was accurate in its warnings, but with some major exaggerations:

“Overconsumption can lead to drowsiness, confusion, nausea and paranoia. Other risks include psychosis, panic attacks and, in some cases, uncontrollable vomiting or seizures.”


“The sheriff’s office wanted to publicize this drug seizure as a way to inform parents and school staff.


“If a child finds a bag of THC-infused gummy bears and eats a handful of them, the child is likely to suffer from an overdose of THC and could die,” Messerlie said.


“Colfax County experienced an overdose death a few years ago and additional deaths that were suspected overdoses.


“Educating parents, teachers, and professionals to the dangers of THC ingestion is the key to keeping children safe, he said.


“It’s a fine line between glorifying the use of drugs and warning children and adults about their effect. The best way to keep children safe is to keep these items out of their hands and keep them out of the state of Nebraska.


Law enforcement wages that war on a daily basis.”


Yes, indeed. Welcome to the Drug War where prohibitionist propaganda is “saving the children.”