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The Top Ten "Reefer Madness" Stories of 2011

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Cross-posted from The NORML Daily Stash Blog

It's end-of-year retrospective time!  While my colleagues on the NORML Blog (go check out the new look that matches the new site) are going to bring you the biggest marijuana news stories of 2011, here at The NORML Daily Stash Blog we're going to bring you stories that may have fallen through the cracks of other drug policy 2011 remembrances.

Today we bring you the Top Ten "Reefer Madness" Stories of 2011.  "Reefer Madness", of course, is the 1936 anti-pot propaganda film showing young people becoming crazed and violent on the effects of "reefer".  Today, we use "Reefer Madness" as shorthand to describe the hysterical warnings by the anti-drug zealots as reported unchallenged by a complacent media.

Tomorrow we'll look at the Top Ten Cannabis Science Stories of 2011.  Thursday we'll cover the Top Ten "Stupid Stoner Stories" of 2011.  Friday we'll cover the Top Ten People in Marijuana of 2011.

Top Ten "Reefer Madness" Stories of 2011

10. Oregonian editorial board hypes fears of medical marijuana and teen pot smoking

(The Oregonian - "Seeing through the smoke" editorial) It's about time someone took action on the increasing number of medical marijuana dispensaries. ... Right now, anyone, including teenagers, can apply [for a medical marijuana card]. A study done by Oregon Partnership found, for example, that 35 percent of students at Wilson High School and 46 percent at Marshall High School knew someone with a card.

Unlike the Oregonian editorial board, I check sources (I work for NORML: I have to.) The survey they refer to was addressed at a Marshall High community town hall meeting. The poll was conducted by students as part of a project called "SMASH" in a "confidential, random, peer-to-peer" survey - meaning one high school kid asking another high school kid. We have no control group, no control for confounding variables, not even a mention of the survey size or the randomness of those polled (maybe the SMASH kids are more likely to "randomly" speak to their friend, for instance, or stood in the hall and talked to anyone passing by who would answer.)

But besides all the methodological issues arising from trusting the polling data of high school kids talking to their friends, it's important to note what their survey actually said:

PERCEPTION: Students surveyed believed that 8 out of 10 students smoke marijuana

REALITY: 7 out of 10 students DO NOT smoke marijuana

Kids surveyed thought 77.3% of others were smoking marijuana.  76.07% of kids never smoked marijuana, another 12.27% smoked it once or twice a month.  So, kids think 3 out of 4 other kids smoke pot when 3 out of 4 kids actually don't.  Where, oh, where could the kids be getting the message that youth cannabis smoking is out of control, when, in fact, Oregon's 12th grade monthly cannabis use rates have declined 14% (before | after) since 1999, when medical marijuana got underway in Oregon?

9. Papa John's Pizza supports driver who reported medical marijuana patient to police

You would think that pizza delivery companies would understand who their customers are and that a great number of them smoke marijuana.  If you're a pizza delivery company in Colorado, you'd understand that many of the marijuana smokers in your delivery area may be legally using cannabis for medicinal purposes.  But apparently Papa John's pizza in Colorado doesn't care too much about its drivers violating the privacy of its customers who are medical marijuana patients.

(9News) The man was smoking medical marijuana just before the pizza arrived on Friday evening. The delivery driver smelled the marijuana and called the cops. The Papa John's employee, who was not identified, was concerned because the customer's 9-year-old daughter was in the house.

8. The annual scaremongering about marijuana-laced Halloween treats begins now

L.A. County Sheriff's Department Sgt. Glen Walsh said parents should definitely inspect the candy their children bring home after trick-or-treating.

Walsh said a pungent smell or an odd taste can serve as indicators on whether the food contains marijuana. As for the potency of the marijuana-laced prodcuts, Walsh said the level of THC, the chemical found in marijuana, can vary from zero to over 90 percent.

OK, so watch closely, parents.  You don't want your kid getting a candy with 0% THC in it.  But if you find any of that 90% THC stuff, you can send it my way for proper disposal.

How stupid is this?  First off, if there is a person out there who would intentionally hand THC-laden treats to children, they are a criminal.  They'd be just as likely to poison Halloween treats or put pins or razor blades in them.. which is an urban legend with no truth to it whatsoever.

Second, if you are a person who uses THC-laden treats for medical or recreational purposes, why are you handing out a $20 "Buddafinger" when you could pass out a 20-cent "Butterfinger"?  You want to be so sure some kid you don't know and won't see gets high that you'll spend 10 times more on Halloween candy?

7. Portland Reporter Anna Canzano: A medical marijuana-hating sheriff's best friend

[Oregon Sheriff's Association President] Tom Bergin said at the rate Oregon is going, he believes Oregon is three times sicker than California. Why? Well, more than 90 percent of cardholders say they're using pot to treat pain -- not glaucoma or cancer -- as the bill was initially marketed.

Here are the facts from the state's medical marijuana program registry:
  • There are 49,220 medical marijuana patients
  • There are 44,756 patients who indicate chronic pain as a qualifying condition
So Canzano, Bergin, and every prohibitionist who scoffs at people in serious pain treating it with a non-toxic herb pull out their calculators and exclaim "90% of cardholders are using it for pain, not glaucoma or cancer!"  (The number is actually 90.9%.)What Canzano distorts lies in the word "not".  Under Oregon law, a registry cardholder can qualify under more than one condition.  The state even puts "A patient may have more than one diagnosed qualifying medical condition" right there on the website where you got the numbers to crunch.  Are we to believe people with cancer and glaucoma don't suffer chronic pain as well?

6. Florida Woman Sues Over Being Arrested for Sage

A woman in Florida who was arrested for felony marijuana possession is suing for wrongful arrest. She might just have a case, she was charged with marijuana possession even though the bag they caught her with turned out to be Sage. 49 year old, Robin Brown says a Broward County Sheriff's deputy caught her while she was bird watching back in March of 2009. He used his field kit on the herb she had in a bag, and said that in the field it tested positive for marijuana. The deputy sent the 50 grams of substance to a state crime lab.Her lawsuit says that she was arrested before the test was performed. Her arrest was ordered by the Assistant State Attorney, Mark Horn, in June of 2009. She was arrested at her place of business, Massage Envy in Weston. She said that she was arrested in front of co-workers and her customers and subjected to a full body cavity search during her overnight stay in jail. When her lawyer discovered the herbs had not been tested a second time, he used the courts to force the tests which determined what Ms. Brown was contending all along, her sage was completely marijuana free.

5. Teen dies after plastic fumes scar lungs, media blames synthetic pot

The boy smoked the fake marijuana out of a plastic PEZ candy dispenser. The chemicals in the drugs caused extensive damage to his lungs. Brandon was put on a respirator in June and had a double lung transplant in September.

So, we're to assume here it was the K2 that scarred the boys lungs and not the freakin' fumes from the melting plastic of a PEZ dispenser?!?

Tonya Rice told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review newspaper Brandon was put on a respirator in June after smoking Spice fake cannabis, which is said to be ten times more dangerous than cocaine.

Not to be cruel or insensitive about the boy's death, but he didn't suddenly die from the acute effects of K2 use.  He used it in June, fell very ill, was given a double lung transplant, and died from an infection because of his lowered immune system in October.  So, to compare, we have cocaine, which can give you a heart attack by overdose and kill you the minute you snort / smoke / inject it, versus a synthetic cannabinoid smoked through plastic, requiring a double lung transplant, leading to a fatal infection four months later in the hospital that kills one boy.  We're not trying to say K2 is safe - it isn't - but it's not "ten times more dangerous than cocaine".

4. CASA's Joe Califano blames marijuana for Arizona shooter

I haven't seen press reports or talking heads discuss their concern about how easy it has been for this mentally ill young man to get marijuana. And there has been no mention of the potential of marijuana to spark latent psychosis and exacerbate schizophrenia and other mental illnesses.

So as we continue to think about this killer and his deranged mind, we should be asking this question: Is Jared Loughner an individual whose psychosis was prompted or exacerbated by the use of marijuana?

Gee, Joe, what do you think we ought to do?  Make marijuana illegal?  Lock up people who use it?  Break down their doors at night and shoot their dogs?  Use helicopters and infrared to eradicate the plant wherever it's grown?  Throw billions at American and Mexican law enforcement for armor and weapons to fight its traffickers?  Train dogs to sniff it out?  Drug test employees, high schoolers, even middle schoolers to detect its use?

The facts are that 1% of the population exhibits schizophrenia, whether it is 1979 and 60% of high school seniors have tried marijuana or it is 1992 and 33% have tried it.  A study of 186 UK mental hospitals found no increase in schizophrenia or psychosis admissions, despite use rates of cannabis increasing greatly during that decade.

3. UK Daily Mail: Cannabis 'kills 30,000 a year'

Cannabis 'kills 30,000 a year'

Oh, dear.  From zero deaths* in 5,000 years of human use to '30,000 a year'.  That sounds serious.  Let's read on...

More than 30,000 cannabis smokers could die every year, doctors warn today.

Wait, "could die"?  We've gone from the active headline verb "kills" to the lede adverb "could"?  Usually you bury that wiggle room somewhere in paragraph umpteen.  Continue...

Professor John Henry, a leading authority on the drug, said the change - due to take place this summer - had undermined doctors' efforts to highlight the risks.

He said: "Cannabis is as dangerous as cigarette smoking - in fact, it may be even worse - and downgrading its legal status has simply confused people."

"May be" worse?  Where are the wards full of cannabis smokers?  Britain actually has some level of health care worthy of a civilized (civilised) people.  You'd think the National Health Service would bring these figures up.  It sounds like quite a cost to the government.

2. American Cancer Society says marijuana use can lead to amputation

Although it is rare, severe shutdown of blood circulation to the arms or legs has been reported in young people who smoked marijuana. In some cases, it was so severe that amputation was required.

In all my years beating back reefer madness, this is a first.  I have never heard a story of someone's marijuana use leading to amputation.  I have covered stories of people who use marijuana for their already-existing amputation, since it is a superior medication for "phantom" pain, and I've covered one double-amputee diabetic's eviction for her medical marijuana use, though.

1. Butt-chugging, vodka tampons, drinking bleach, and other parent-frightening urban legends

(KPHO) [School Resource Officer Chris] Thomas spends his days patrolling the halls of a Valley high school. He's heard first hand how kids are getting tipsy.

"What we're hearing about is teenagers utilizing tampons, soak them in vodka first before using them," Thomas said.

"This is definitely not just girls," Thomas said. "Guys will also use it and they'll insert it into their rectums."

Rather than the traditional beer bong you'd find at a college party, kids are sticking the tube elsewhere to get wasted.

They're calling it "butt chugging."

Rrrighttt... young teenage males, typically the most homophobic and self-conscious creatures on the planet, are dropping trou in front of their peers and inserting plastic tubes up their ass to chug beer.  And the vodka tampons?  Huffington Post reports that "the practice remains unverified despite multiple reports of incidents in the U.S. and elsewhere" and that a blogger "conducted her own informal trial to see whether the purported method worked", where she notes the alcohol dissolves the glue and consistency of the tampon so much it couldn't be inserted and that even if it were inserted, the burn you'd feel on your sensitive lady parts would not make this an enjoyable drunk.  Plus, the idea that it would help teens avoid detection with no alcohol on their breath is false, as alcohol metabolizes in your breath no matter how you ingest it.