Alex Berezow, a regular contributor to USA Today‘s opinion page, is the editor of Real Clear Science and the author of Science Left Behind. So you would expect that when he addresses Barack Obama’s recent remarks about cannabis, he would bring a scientific perspective to them. Well–kind of.
Responding the Obama’s comment that “I don’t think [marijuana] is more dangerous than alcohol,” Berezow (USA Today, 2/5/14) wrote:
The science isn’t settled on the issue. The long-term effects of marijuana use are largely unknown. His speculative statement, therefore, lacks scientific credibility.
Really? That’s what science says? Because the Centers for Disease Control says “there are approximately 88,000 deaths attributable to excessive alcohol use each year in the United States.” Whereas the British Medical Journal (9/18/03) says, “Although the use of cannabis is not harmless, the current knowledge base does not support the assertion that it has any notable adverse public health impact in relation to mortality.”
It’s true that more research has been done on the health effects of alcohol than on cannabis. But to assert that science might someday discover tens of thousands of annual marijuana-related deaths that have somehow so far escaped medical notice is like saying that someday science might discover proof of Bigfoot in the remaining wilderness areas of the Northwest: They’re both far-fetched hypotheticals that have nothing to do with science.
Of course, making unscientific claims about Bigfoot can maybe get you published in the Weekly World News. Making unscientific claims about cannabis gets you a column in USA Today.