Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Pot, and scientific Lysenkoism

Lysenkoism is named after the director of the Soviet Institute of Genetics under Stalin, Trofim Denisovich Lysenko. He insisted against all scientific evidence that organisms could inherit acquired traits because the CCCP's ideology - and scary Dictator - demanded it. It has become short hand for the scientific process pimped out to the service of ideology.

Two of the classic propaganda memes of the 'war against drugs' had brief resurgencies in the last month: 'Pot is much more potent and dangerous than it was in the good ol' days' and 'Pot will drive you crazy' have both made the news recently, among others.

All are the products of selective applications of the facts - ranging to intentional distortion. Slate dismantles the DEA's highly political rhetoric to the effect that pot is 30 times higher than it was 30 years ago:

A couple of weeks later in the Detroit News, Walters gave even more alarming numbers about regular pot, claiming that "today's marijuana is 10 to 14 percent [THC]. And hybrids go up to 30 percent and above."

Walters' figures are grossly distorted. For starters, his figures for "today's sinsemilla" actually come from 1999. He ignores data from 2000 and 2001. That's presumably because sinsemilla potency spiked in 1999 at 13.38 percent (which, incidentally, rounds off to 13 percent, not 14 percent). But the most recent full-year figure available, 2001, shows a potency of 9.55 percent. Yes, sinsemilla's THC count has been increasing, but its average over the past decade is only 9.79 percent. More important, the potency of sinsemilla has little to do with quotidian reality for most pot-smokers. Sinsemilla comprises only 4.3 percent of the University of Mississippi's sample over the years. It's prohibitively expensive for casual (and young) users: On the East Coast, the very best stuff is $700 an ounce.

The pot that most people, especially most kids, smoke is nowhere near as powerful as sinsemilla: The THC content of all pot last year was 5.32 percent; during the past decade, it averaged 4.1 percent. In other words, the marijuana that most kids smoke is about 5 percent THC—not 14 percent and certainly not 30 percent.

Then there's a recent report in Science Daily suggesting there may be a link between THC and a type of skin disease people with AIDS or otherwise severely damaged immune system's are susceptible to.

Fox news turned this into the headline: Study: Marijuana Use May Cause Skin Cancer.

Ever get the feeling you're being manipulated? Because if you don't, that just means
you aren't paying attention.

Hat tip to Koby

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