The Media

Sad confession: I was taken by the media machine…

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I like to think of myself as rather well informed, and if not, at least well read. I read several news sites every day, listen to at least an hour of radio news every day, examine several blogs and podcasts and even click on television news now and then. However, I was taken by a media trick by the Bush administration last week when reading through headlines.

I was scanning headlines on news sites and saw the the FDA has come out against medical marijuana. Scanning through headlines now, the media reported as “F.D.A. Dismisses medical Benefit from Marijuana” (New York Times). I remember thinking at the time that the FDA must have finally found a study to contrict the medical evidence, likely from some hack or perhaps an organization with a predisposition against medical marijuana. In other words, I dismissed it any other story that pushes the Bush administration line on this issue.

I am under the assumption that someone that was also scanning the headlines might have also made the mistake that this was based on some new evidence or study on marijuana’s potential use in the medical setting.

As it turns out, the FDA’s press release and announcement were based on absolutely no new evidence on the issue of medical marijuana. As Syndney Spiesel reported in Slate last week, the FDA’s statement, written by a nameless official that won’t take responsibility for the release, reports the conclusion of evidence as fact without any new literature on the subject at all.

In fact, research on the subject has come to a complete standstill due to significant blocks on the subject by the bush administration. For Spiesel, this makes their rhetoric the product of not science or medicine, but rather politics:

However, in the seven years since the IOM report was issued, virtually no research on potential risks and benefits has been done, because the government has blocked such studies. So, we know neither more nor less about medical marijuana than we did seven years ago, whatever the FDA says. Why would the agency inaccurately claim that the science is settled when it isn’t? I hardly need to say it: This isn’t a medical or scientific conclusion. It’s a political one.

I know I should have been more careful before dismissing the article as more smoke blown into the air by the Bush administration, even if I didn’t believe the conclusion of the headlines.

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