MLaw letter to Forbes magazine responding to anti-cannabis hit piece

Dear Mr. Kroll,

It is very nice of you to express to your commenters that you don’t understand their comments, or ask for elucidation of the points raised by them, assuming your concern is genuine.

You should be aware as a self-described drug news reporter that people who are distressed about the troubles and inequities caused by the 80 year the war on cannabis are often met with expressions of feigned concern regaring definition of argument terms and the like, as well as knowingly misused appeals to authorities by on-the-take professionals (whether writers or assistant professors) that are in no way intended to foster discussion about legalizing cannabis but are rather often attempts to shut down discussion, so I forgive the frustrations displayed some of the commenters on your opinion piece – I hope that you can also.

taffe-and-kroll

I, like other commenters, have assessed that your researcher is peddling calculated half-truths, misinformation, scare tactics and misrepresentations. I, along with some of your readers, find it to be disturbing that your editors would allow to this thinly veiled prohibitionist effort be published by Forbes, even as an opinion piece.

We must remember that while one is entitled to their own opinion – it is dangerous and duplicitous to allow misinformation to be articulated for the purpose of deceiving the readers of your publication – that is called propaganda, not opinion.

This is an intended hit piece that employs some of the most simple to expose but most often deployed fallacies in support of the anti-cannabis agenda, it is not an opinion piece supporting the truth, Mr. Kroll. What the assistant professor is doing in this propaganda piece is re-asserting the same old tired tactics of the ilk that are disseminated by one of our country’s most prolific anti-cannabis propagandists, Kevin Sabet and supported by the head of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Dr. Nora Volkow.

Kevin Sabet has made a 30 year career of propagandizing against cannabis – in other words, like your researcher, Taffe; he makes his living supporting the continuation of cannabis prohibition. This is to indicate that Taffe is an interested party, not an objective scientist, as he purports to be for the purposes of your opinion piece. Taffe is paid by NIDA, headed by prohibitionist Nora Volkow, an organization which can only and has only researched the negative effects of cannabis – NIDA is barred by its charter and by its funding sources (the federal government, i.e. our tax dollars) from researching the benefits of cannabis.

Taffe knows that he only looks at the negative effects of a drug about which the the National Cancer Institute has said; “Cannabinoids may inhibit cancer tumor growth by causing cell death and blocking cell growth.”

Taffe is aware that cannabis is medicine under our laws. In my state, Illinois, cannabis is a regulated medicine that can be prescribed to physically deteriorated Parkinson’s victims and wasting AIDs patients, sick humans with traumatic brain injuries, Alzheimer’s disease and Multiple Sclerosis, and children who are wracked with debilitating epileptic seizures. Taffe is aware of all of this as he spends his time and energies and our tax dollars exploring the alleged and overblown “addictive effects” of cannabis. As Brigadier General Smedely Butler said about war in general, and it is true about the war on cannabis as well, “war is a racket”, and Taffe is cleaning up, to the detriment of sick Americans.

Many citizens now realize that for law enforcers to have decided for us as a society, for our health researchers to have decided for us as a society, to not study the possible health benefits of cannabis, but to instead focus their efforts and our dollars on extending the bigoted and immoral war on cannabis, was quite possibly the most immoral, self-defeating and anti-scientific choice that we made as a country over the course of the last century.

After all of the needless suffering of our sick brethren and the thousands of needless arrests (about 700,000 young Americans arrested for cannabis possession every year over the past 30 years, mainly minority youths – in 2015, a cannabis possession arrest was made every 48 seconds), as these same arguments are employed over and over to frighten those credulous citizens who simply believed the lies that they have been told by anti-cannabis law enforcers for eight decades beginning with the disgraced Henry Anslinger, it is frustrating to the extreme to have to always bat down the tired propaganda memes, and for this reason I understand the frustration of the readers who have commented on your opinion piece.

While it is not difficult to speak to the calculated misrepresentations half-truths, and deceptive omissions employed by the likes of Taffe Sabet and others, it is chiefly tiresome and often useless to correct prohibitionists…but do it we must.

Taffe says Marijuana is addictive:
Our own government and other countries’ health researchers say quite clearly and consistently that cannabis is as addictive as caffeine – not addictive in the way that opioids, for example, are addictive. Jaffe knows this – as does every honest doctor in America – but he chooses instead to conflate the generally safe cannabis with dangerous and addictive substances such as heroin. Taffe’s choice is to be ambiguous for the intentional purpose of scaring your readers, not informing your readers.

Choosing to tell only a part of the story is termed an omission of materially relevant fact in our laws – an act that is deemed to be fraudulent in most jurisdictions.

Taffe says that 5-6% of high-school seniors use marijuana daily:
Taffe employs an intentional misdirection – and therefore a propaganda tactic. Taffe, and Sabet and Volkow and all prohibitionists know that there is no law currently being proposed or citizens’ initiative on any ballot anywhere that calls for allowing any person other than an adult to use recreational cannabis. Taffe knows that cannabis use by teens in Colorado has declined since the legalization of the substance. Taffe includes this for a single and duplicitous reason – to scare parents.

Attempting to frighten readers is scare mongering and scare mongering is not presenting an opinion, Mr. Kroll.

Taffe says Marijuana addiction is as “real” as any other:
See analysis of point one above.

Taffe says that there is no such thing as “psychological” versus “physical” dependence:
See analysis of point one above. Again, I do not stipulate that cannabis is non-addictive, but Jaffe is fully aware of the differences between heroin/alcohol/meth addiction and cannabis/caffeine addiction and to pretend or suggest that there is a similarity is expressing a misleading false equivalency.

Taffe might be a good researcher, but the argument that he presents is intended to deceive not elucidate.

Taffe says marijuana acutely impairs cognitive and other behavioral functions:
Again, Jaffe employs a logical fallacy in service of deception by failing to define how individuals are impaired by cannabis, for example, as in relation to individuals impaired by a legal drug, alcohol. We know, from our own government’s reporting, that every 2-hours, three people are killed in alcohol-related highway crashes – is Taffe actually asserting that cannabis impairs users to the socially harmful and dangerous extent that legal alcohol threatens public safety?

The obvious answer is, Taffe’s cagy non-definition of impairment has the propagandist’s chosen effect of conflating the generally benign substance cannabis with truly dangerous substances that impair users to the point of being dangerous to the public.

Taffe says that behavioral tolerance with chronic exposure is substantial:
Another bit of propagandist demonizing innuendo that suggests that weed smoking demons will forever need more and more of the substance, a conjecture disproven by the facts on the ground in the four states in our union where cannabis is legal for adults to use recreationally.

Taffe says that THC is detectable in the body for a very long time compared with many other drugs of abuse:
Taffe, here, is knowingly perpetrating an act of deception when he makes this statement.

The fact is, and Taffe knows this, that tetrahydrocannabinol is NOT water soluble, unlike cocaine or alcohol or heroin, and for this simple and easily understandable scientific fact cannabis remains detectable in the fat of cannabis users for weeks, up to a month, unlike alcohol or heroin or cocaine. This does not mean that cannabis is active for two to four weeks after ingesting the substance. Taffe knows, and so do all propagandists, that the substance is active and capable of effecting as user for 2 to four hours. To state with no qualifications that “THC is detectable in the body for a very long time compared with many other drugs” is a fraudulent act done in service of frightening your readers.

These two points belie the real truth that Taffe is concealing as a researcher; this is, that law enforcement has determined that no scientist in the US can research the benefits of cannabis – but any researcher who wants to further explore the so-called “dangers” of cannabis can make an entire well paid career out of that.

This fact is the entire point of the DEA ruling earlier this year that determined cannabis will remain a schedule one substance along with heroin. The regulators use the same catch-22 reasoning that they have used to successfully maintain cannabis prohibition for decades; “No scientific study has shown that cannabis is not dangerous or has health benefits, so we must prevent the further study of cannabis because we assert that it is ‘dangerous and has no medical value’.”

The scheduling prevents further medical study and no medical research prevents legalization – a remarkable bit of regulatory circular reasoning that is also remarkably anti-science and which has the remarkable additional knock-on effect of promoting inequality in our legal system.

Taffe says, trying to make specific predictions about an individual who uses marijuana from general findings (there is always a central tendency or average around which the distribution of data points or individual outcomes varies) is a fools’ errand:
This final point is both is an extension of the circular reasoning that I described above, but it also is framed as a scare tactic, a commonly employed scare tactic used by the prohibitionists Sabet, Volkow and here Taffe.

What Taffe, and other self-interested prohibitionists often do is close their self-justifying argument chains with the intentionally threatening conjecture; “well, it may be true that we may have not seen any evidence of all of the scary things that I have just put forth to denigrate cannabis and cannabis users; but, do we really want to take the scary step of legalizing cannabis to find out when its ‘too late’ that cannabis is really the devil’s weed that will harm America in unknown and not provable ways forever?” I would think Mr. Kroll, that you have more respect for your readership than to stand by this self-justifying appeal to the unknown and the irrational.

In America, minority youths are being arrested every 48 seconds for cannabis possession and children are experiencing relief from agonizing seizures by using cannabis medicine. Taffe, a health researcher, apparently has no time for these facts as he self-justifyingly defends his golden goose, the failed, anti-scientific and bigoted war on cannabis. Taffe is an interested party whose personal existence is guaranteed by extending the criminality of cannabis, very much like law enforcers who target minorities with cannabis arrests to justify their own law enforcement budgets.

Opinion pieces are intended to spur thoughtful and valuable dialogue with the goal of uncovering the truth. Taffe has no intention of having a dialogue as he proffers innuendo, misrepresentation and deceptive framing to ensure the closing of discussion and rational thought rather the opening of minds.

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