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November 10, 2022 0 Comments

FACT CHECK: Marijuana in the News

With five more states on the ballot to legalize marijuana, more stories are being published about marijuana consumption than ever. Just to keep things in the arena of fact and far away from fiction, here are some headlines and the fact-check to keep things on track.

ARTICLE 1: Canadian Pediatrician says weed killed a young patient in ER

(This article originally appeared in Vice-Canada)

An emergency room doctor in rural Ontario is getting slammed for a viral tweet in which she claimed weed edibles kill children.

On Friday, Merrilee Brown tweeted, “In ER last night I treated someone for a cannabis induced psychosis from cannabis ‘edibles,’ in this case, a chocolate bar. She ate one piece of the 16 piece bar. That piece had 20g of THC equivalent to 20 joints! Edibles are often so concentrated that they can be fatal in kids.”

FACT-CHECK:

Several misleading and false claims here. There is no evidence that cannabis ingestion has ever killed anyone. Even the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) confirms that there are no reported cases of overdose from marijuana EVER.

For another, it doesn’t make sense that a single piece of the chocolate bar, which she said was a total of 225 grams, could contain 20 grams of THC. (THC doses in edibles are generally measured in milligrams.)

Rebecca Haines-Saah, a public health policy expert and professor at the University of Calgary, told VICE there’s no evidence to suggest weed directly causes psychosis or illnesses like schizophrenia. There have been studies that have shown links between cannabis use and the early onset of schizophrenia, particularly in people with pre-existing conditions or a family history of mental illness, but those links are far from concrete. Haines-Saah told VICE it’s far more likely the patient Brown treated was simply having a bad trip, including anxiety, paranoia, or hallucinations.

Bonni Goldstein, who has been a pediatrician for 28 years, including 13 as a pediatric emergency room physician, told VICE edible ingestion creates more of a psychoactive effect than just smoking because the THC goes through the liver and creates a metabolite called 11-hydroxy-THC.  She pointed to a case out of Colorado where doctors described an 11-year-old’s death from myocarditis (heart inflammation) as a cannabis-associated death because THC was in his system. But those doctors later admitted they couldn’t prove cannabis was the cause of death. Goldstein said THC and CBD are anti-inflammatories. “There’s nothing in the literature to support the word ‘fatal’ in this doctor’s tweet,” said Goldstein.

After negative backlash, the pediatrician did back peddle, claiming she may have misread the label and that she is “no expert” in cannabis.

So, this information is: FALSE

ARTICLE 2: Cannabis Ingestion can Induce Psychosis

Several articles claim that high content THC vaping can cause psychosis and schizophrenia in young people.

FACT-CHECK:

The THC found in marijuana causes most people to feel euphoric and relaxed. Some people say that they experience heightened sensory perception (colors seem brighter), laughter, an altered perception of time, and increased appetite. Others still may experience anxiety, fear, distrust, or paranoia. This might happen if someone over consumes THC. People consuming far too much THC might also experience temporary psychosis which might include hallucinations and delusions, These are unpleasant but temporary reactions are not the same as long term psychosis such as schizophrenia. Factors such as genetic disposition, age of first use, overuse of THC all influence the results of long term use. Most research and scientific evidence point to potential risk for psychosis in those with a preexisting genetic vulnerability or other vulnerability. There’s also consideration for causation and correlation. Many people who already have mental illness use cannabis to self-medicate. Meaning they had the conditions before they started consuming cannabis, not after.

In addition, research using longitudinal data from the National Epidemiological Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions examined associations between marijuana use, mood and anxiety disorders, and substance use disorders. After adjusting for various confounding factors, no association between marijuana use and mood and anxiety disorders was found. The only significant associations were increased risk of alcohol use disorders, nicotine dependence, marijuana use disorder, and other drug use disorders.

In addition, most experts now distinguish between the “new cannabis” — legal, highly potent, available in tabs, edibles and vapes — and the old version, a far milder weed passed around in joints. Levels of THC, the chemical that produces marijuana’s high, have been rising for at least three decades, and it’s now possible in some states to buy vape cartridges that contain mostly THC.

If you’re concerned, there are some steps you can take to eliminate any worry. First, since there’s a suggested genetic component in mental illness, find out if it’s common in your family to see if you are vulnerable. Most medical marijuana clinics will ask for your medical history and current conditions before approving you for medical marijuana.

So, we rank this information: FALSE IN THE MAJORITY OF USERS

SOCIAL MEDIA: Fake claims and unreliable sources

Social media is rampant with false information about cannabis. Here are a few that are blatantly false.

  1. Louisiana state representative Dodie Horton spoke about a 2014 satirical news article from The Daily Currant claiming that 37 people had died from “marijuana overdoses” in Colorado after legalization went into effect. FACT-CHECK: “No, they didn’t,” as Horton has now admitted. She blamed the misinformation on “a so-called ‘trusted’ source.” WE RATE THIS CLAIM: FALSE
  2.  
  3. A new group called the Marijuana Accountability Coalition claimed on social media, using misleading statistics that have now been debunked, that marijuana is devastating kids. FACT-CHECK: The most recent state and federal data shows that in the years since marijuana legalization, fewer teens are consuming. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) states that data shows only 1 in 7 teens state they have consumed marijuana in the last month, drastically lower percentages than 1990 statistics. WE RATE THE CLAIM THAT MORE TEENS ARE CONSUMING STREET CANNABIS: FALSE
  4.  
  5. Over the past year, one post about cannabis saw the most interaction on Facebook: “Bathing in Cannabis with CBD Bath Bombs! Great for Fibromyalgia & Improve Sleep.” The article, from lifestyle and recipe site Cannadish, exaggerated claims about CBD, stating it relieved the “[lack of] endurance, anxiety, depression, inflammation, [and] muscle spasms.” associated with fibromyalgia, a chronic neurological condition. FACT-CHECK: Posts by some CBD shops are full of false and sometimes ridiculous health claims. WE RATE SOCIAL MEDIA CBD CLAIMS LIKE THIS ONE: FALSE (side notes) CBD shop products are not as effective in treating the same conditions as medical marijuana that can only be purchased at a designated pharmacy. Medical marijuana can contain much higher levels of THC and CBD along with other cannabinoids.  Studies have shown that medical marijuana can help with symptoms such as aiding in sleep and reducing the pain of fibromyalgia and other similar conditions.
  6.  
  1. The Canadian Medical Association made the assertion that cannabis can be (and frequently, is) a vehicle for hard narcotics like fentanyl. FACT CHECK: “It’s never happened even once,” Dr. Ian Mitchell, an emergency physician at Royal Inland Hospital in British Columbia and a consultant at Medical Cannabis Resource Centre assures. “They’ve had samples sent off… it’s a physical impossibility to lace cannabis with fentanyl [to get high]. Burning it incinerates the fentanyl entirely.” WE RATE THIS CLAIM: FALSE

Conclusion

There’s a lot of fake news and false information out there. It can be confusing and misleading to those who are researching marijuana, medical marijuana, hemp, cannabis, and CBD shops. To make digging up the best information easier, here are a few tips to weed through the rubbish and get to the real facts.

  1. Be wary of police sources. “One way to know it [might be fake] is if it’s coming from police,” Mitchell advises. Conventional authorities have statistically had little issue with lying to dissuade cannabis use, so approach police sources with extra caution.
  2. Read beyond the headline. Pay attention when scrolling through content. Read through to the end. Especially on social media.
  3. Investigate the author. Most credible news sources have a byline. If you can see who’s produced it, give their name a click and see what other sorts of stories they’ve published.
  4. One of the best tools against disinformation is “lateral reading.” Check out the website, then search to see if reputable website are confirming the same thing. Confirm the information with multiple website and authorization or reputable sources.
  5. Look for scientific affiliations. With cannabis and its derivative products, look for affiliation with scientific boards. You can use tools like Google Scholar to see if any of these people are published in the field. Peer-reviewed research is a must.
  6. Be aware of your biases. Check your own biases, and be aware of what you bring to a story. Try to read as objectively as possible.
  7. Remember the golden rule. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably isn’t true.
Once you’ve finished your research, contact The Healing Clinics to start your healing journey. Just click the button below to get started!
Jane Bowlin-Burt

Jane Bowlin-Burt

Jane Bowlin-Burt is promoter and content creator of all things cannabis and the Marketing Director at The Healing Clinics.

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