Jimmy Potseed

Reefer Madness

By Kyla Lee, Vancouver Criminal Lawyer

The Vancouver Sun recently published an op-ed piece, written by Dr. Patrick McGeer. He is an emeritus professor at the UBC School of Medicine and continues to conduct research in the field of neurology. Sounds like a smart guy. In his op-ed, he claims that cannabis legalization is harmful to Canadians. And he is wrong.

Not only has Dr. McGeer overlooked the numerous social benefits that will flow from legalization, but his article stinks of reefer madness. And it’s simply not supported by any scientific research. As a professional researcher and professor, I would expect more from the good doctor. But it appears that he is more interested in fear-mongering and scare tactics than publishing a reasoned and supported opinion.

So let’s break it down.

Dr. McGeer claims that his direct exposure to cannabis is limited. Well, that shows. He claims that of the 100 scientists he has supervised, the only two he had to dismiss were cannabis smokers who were unable to plan and execute their experiments. But he does not indicate whether it was the effect of having smoked marijuana that led to their dismissal, or just happenstance that the two people whom he dismissed were also marijuana smokers.

Nor does Dr. McGeer indicate how many of the other 98 scientists were marijuana users. I suspect he wouldn’t know, given his attitude toward it. His staff are probably afraid to speak openly about their use of the substance.

Aside from his anecdotal evidence about marijuana’s cognitive effects, Dr. McGeer makes a bold and unsubstantiated claim. He claims that the unanimous conclusion that marijuana has a deleterious effect on thinking.

The conclusion is anything but unanimous. There are plenty of studies showing how marijuana can have a positive impact on cognition. There are medical fields looking into the use of marijuana to improve cognition for those who have other conditions that can lead to cognitive impairment, like anxiety or ADHD or eating disorders or chronic pain.

What Dr. McGeer claims about cognition in his article is also completely unsubstantiated by any scientific research whatsoever. There are no studies referenced. There are no links to articles or information to support these bald claims. There is no support for what is clearly an opinion cast as scientific fact.

His conclusions about impairment are also inaccurate. Studies have failed to reach consensus about marijuana impairment and driving. The impairing effects of cannabis do not last days; smoked marijuana generally wears off after two to three hours, while marijuana that has been ingested in edible form typically lasts five to six hours.

What Dr. McGeer is likely referring to here is the storage and release of THC in the body, which can last days or even weeks. However, the THC stored in and released by fat cells has not been scientifically determined to be linked to impairment. The presence of THC in the body does not equal impairment.

As as driving lawyer, I was particularly surprised by Dr. McGeer’s claim that marijuana is the drug most frequently found in the cars of fatal accidents. I suppose this may be true if a comparison were done of all drugs found in vehicles. But the presence of a drug in a vehicle does not equate to the presence of a drug in the body, use of the drug, or impaired driving by that drug. And I wonder whether Dr. McGeer is including alcohol in that statistic.

Which statistic, I note, is unsubstantiated. Like the rest of his nonsensical claims about cannabis in the article.

I would have expected better from a highly regarded emeritus professor, at a top-notch university. And I would have expected better of the Vancouver Sun than to publish an article that essentially amounts to reefer madness.

Dr. McGeer suggests that Canadians just say no to cannabis after legalization. Canadians would be better off to just say no to nonsense like this.

Follow Kyla Lee on Twitter @IRPlawyer

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