Monday, July 12, 2010

Marijuana, Accutane, and the Suspension of Science By the Cultural Left


Townhall columnist Hugh Hewitt attempts to argue against Proposition 19 by painting Prop 19 proponents as ignorant, and the younger demographic that tends to support it as impulsive risk-takers.  I'll more fully explore the health risks and benefits of cannabis in another post, but for now, I'll just point out that, as he says, "Anyone with a bookmark to Google can quickly access the studies that detail the known long term and serious side-effects of chronic marijuana use," but they can also see all the counter studies that show no greater mortality for cannabis users, and that cannabis (even smoked) does not cause cancer.

He then goes onto compare cannabis to Accutane, a cancer treatment that can be prescribed for severe acne.  Some users of Accutane experienced serious side effects; the drug has always been known to cause birth defects, but it was also potentially linked to depression and Crohn's disease.  He asks if young people would have used Accutane had they known the risks, and compares this to their supposedly impulsive, risky recreational cannabis usage.  Mr. Hewitt does not seem to have done any basic research on Accutane, or isotretinoin, as it is more properly called (Accutane being one trade name for the same substance); birth defects have been documented and warned against since the drug's approval in the early 80s, as have reports of depression and suicide related to isotretinoin.  The drug has not been pulled from the market by the FDA; rather, due to lawsuits (mostly related to birth defects), as of 2009, the makers of Accutane have stopped producing it, although it is still available in generic form.

Mr. Hewitt is acting as if there is no history or data on long-term cannabis use.  Surely, yes, there are things we have yet to discover, but cannabis sativa is one of the earliest psychoactive substances known to man, having been used for the last 5000 years recreationally, socially, religiously, and medically.  It's only the last 80 years or so that it has been summarily banned in almost every country.  The Netherlands and other countries with widespread decriminalization have not experienced a public health catastrophe.  In short, comparing Accutane to cannabis is a straw man.

Isn't it odd how the conservatives complain about a "nanny state" when it comes to so many things, but have to make up false comparisons to justify protecting the public from what they don't like?

1 comment:

  1. Apparently the poster here has done much more research into canabis than Mr. Hewitt would ever think about doing. I applaud your efforts.