Health & Wellness

Reefer Madness Today: New "Study" Makes Unsupported Claims About Cannabis

Prohibitionists: "This egg is your heart on weed!"
Prohibitionists: "This egg is your heart on weed!" / Photo by Klaus Nielsen from Pexels

If you’re a regular cannabis consumer, chances are you’ve dealt with a decent amount of unfair judgment from others. 

Since it was first demonized in the early 1900s, cannabis has been plagued with a stigma that persists to this day, and many non-consumers are holding onto it with a death grip.

The most recent installment of 21st century reefer madness haphazardly links the plant to an increased risk of heart attack – a claim as dangerous as it is unsupported, yet published by major news publications CNN and Fox News

It's got to make you wonder what other "science" is the mainstream media fumbling?

Reefer Madness in 2021: Major News Pubs Make Negative Unsupported Cannabis Claims

The 1936 propaganda film Reefer Madness launched a collective scare that would rank cannabis as a dangerous narcotic, a pure menace to society. Since then, the cannabis stigma has persisted, taking on new forms to continue surviving in the midst of increasingly legal weed.

CNN’s headline goes straight for the jugular, claiming “young adult cannabis consumers [are] nearly twice as likely to suffer from a heart attack.” Attention-grabbing titles like these make for great clickbait, although in this case, the content does not exactly match the initial sentiment.

The piece starts off strong, immediately preying on the reader’s emotions with, “Whether you smoke it, vape it or eat it as an edible, cannabis may be significantly increasing your risk of a heart attack.”

The article goes on to cite published research from the Canadian Medical Association Journal, which allegedly concluded that adults under 45 years old who consumed cannabis within “the last 30 days” suffered nearly double the amount of heart attacks than that of adults who didn’t use cannabis.

The publication elaborates, claiming the researchers analyzed data from over 33,000 adults aged 18-44 who were included in the CDC surveys in 2017 and 2018. 

The study revealed that 17 percent of those adults reported using cannabis within the past month, and 1.3 percent later had a heart attack. On the other hand, 0.8 percent of adults who did not consume cannabis also experienced heart attacks during the time period.

However alarming the headline might have seemed, there’s something not quite right with the overall picture.

“This is coming from a self reported survey...not an actual medical study. The sample size is incredibly small – 5,610 people,” said Brett Puffenbarger, renowned cannabis and hemp advisor who picked the study apart on LinkedIn

“The word ‘later’ clearly delineates that there could be no relationship since they may or may not occur simultaneously or as a result of use...that’s called correlation, not causation.”

Furthermore, the study doesn’t clarify how many of the participants consumed via smoking versus edibles versus vaping, although the article introduction implies that all forms of cannabis consumption puts consumers at a terrible, life-threatening risk. 

The article also sprinkles in an incredibly distinctive line, leaving readers to dig through the bullshit to get to the truth: “The study did not research how cannabis affects heart health.” This throws the study’s credibility right out the window.

Puffenbarger elaborated on his own opinion of the study, writing, “It’s a hyped up headline based on shoddy evidence, and pushed by a team of ‘journalists’ who are either lacking in the sufficient knowledge to understand how to break down data, or lacking in the journalistic integrity to actually push back against this sort of clickbait BS because they want the eyeballs this sort of stuff drives.”

Former CNN employee Mark Collins chimes in on Puffenbarger’s post, commenting, “The CNN I left was never this sensationalist. These headlines are foolish, to say the least. It’s a shame.”

Cannabis Does Have Potential Downsides

Of course, none of this is to say that cannabis is 100 percent good all of the time, or that no one has ever had an adverse reaction to the plant. And that reality is all the more reason to stay away from fear-mongering in a lame attempt to troll for clicks, and instead present the facts exactly as they are. 

“Cannabis does have risks. Cannabis can potentially be harmful. Cannabis isn’t perfect. But, it’s also never killed a single human. The risks are incredibly rare, and minor in most cases,” Puffenbarger wrote.

We in the cannabis industry have a moral obligation to tell the truth about our products: how they’re made, how potent they are, what they contain, and, most importantly, when to stay away from them entirely. 

If we don’t take that responsibility upon ourselves and get ahead of the criticism, these flimsy “studies” will continue to roll out, and anyone still on the fence about cannabis will be bullied back into collective stigmatization by loaded headlines like these. 

As Puffenbarger said in his post, this article definitely reminds us how necessary federal decriminalization and legalization are. Full legalization means an increase of credible studies that will help the general public finally understand cannabis in a much more nuanced way.

There are risks, but they are few and far between, and largely preventable. It’s time the stigma lifts entirely so we can begin to have honest conversations about a plant that has done so much good for so many civilizations throughout the world’s history. 

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