The Fox News show “Fox & Friends” rehashed some marijuana myths in a fear-mongering segment that included their “medical expert” Dr. Marc Siegel.
Siegel said that fatal car accidents in Colorado involving marijuana have doubled since legalization in 2013.
Siegel did not cite his source, but he was most likely referring to a report by the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (RMHIDTA).
Forbes noted in 2016 how RMHIDTA has long-opposed marijuana legalization and how RMHIDTA included this disclaimer in their report:
A footnote in the introduction (on page 11) warns, “This report will cite datasets with terms such as ‘marijuana-related’ or ‘tested positive for marijuana.’ That does not necessarily prove that marijuana was the cause of the incident.”
Forbes explained why “marijuana-related” crashes can be a contradiction:
One reason “marijuana-related” crashes are not necessarily related to marijuana is that people can test positive for THC, marijuana’s main psychoactive ingredient, even when they are not impaired.
Siegel also said that THC “impairs judgement” because it stays in your system for “days and days.”
However, the Associated Press noted in 2016:
There is no science that shows drivers become impaired at a specific level of THC in the blood. A lot depends on the individual. Drivers with relatively high levels of THC in their systems might not be impaired, especially if they are regular users, while others with relatively low levels may be unsafe behind the wheel.
A study published by the American Public Health Association in January 2017 stated:
On average, MML [medical marijuana laws] states had lower traffic fatality rates than non-MML states. Medical marijuana laws were associated with immediate reductions in traffic fatalities in those aged 15 to 24 and 25 to 44 years, and with additional yearly gradual reductions in those aged 25 to 44 years… Both MMLs and dispensaries were associated with reductions in traffic fatalities, especially among those aged 25 to 44 years.
Siegel and Fox News co-host Ainsley Earhardt pushed the myth that marijuana kills brain cells.
This myth was debunked by the U.S. government, noted MIT’s website back in 2000:
Government experts now admit that pot doesn’t kill brain cells. This myth came from a handful of animal experiments in which structural changes (not actual cell death, as is often alleged) were observed in brain cells of animals exposed to high doses of pot.
Many critics still cite the notorious monkey studies of Dr. Robert G. Heath, which purported to find brain damage in three monkeys that had been heavily dosed with cannabis.
This work was never replicated and has since been discredited by a pair of better controlled, much larger monkey studies, one by Dr. William Slikker of the National Center for Toxicological Research and the other by Charles Rebert and Gordon Pryor of SRI International.
Neither found any evidence of physical alteration in the brains of monkeys exposed to daily doses of pot for up to a year.
Human studies of heavy users in Jamaica and Costa Rica found no evidence of abnormalities in brain physiology. Even though there is no evidence that pot causes permanent brain damage, users should be aware that persistent deficits in short-term memory have been noted in chronic, heavy marijuana smokers after 6 to 12 weeks of abstinence. It is worth noting that other drugs, including alcohol, are known to cause brain damage.
Not mentioned by Siegel or the Fox News hosts are the benefits of medical marijuana (cannabinoids), cited by the National Cancer Institute:
Cannabinoids may be useful in treating the side effects of cancer and cancer treatment.
Other possible effects of cannabinoids include:
Blocking cell growth.
Preventing the growth of blood vessels that supply tumors.
Relieving muscle spasms caused by multiple sclerosis.
National Institute on Drug Abuse stated in 2015 how marijuana can kill cancer cells:
[R] recent animal studies have shown that marijuana can kill certain cancer cells and reduce the size of others. Evidence from one animal study suggests that extracts from whole-plant marijuana can shrink one of the most serious types of brain tumors. Research in mice showed that these extracts, when used with radiation, increased the cancer-killing effects of the radiation.
A JAMA Internal Medicine study from 2014 found that states with medical marijuana laws had much lower rates of opioid overdose deaths from 1999 to 2010.
A study published in Health Affairs in 2016 also found that — in states with medical marijuana laws from 2010 to 2013 — “prescription drugs for which marijuana could serve as a clinical alternative fell significantly.”
(Sources: Fox News via YouTube, American Public Health Association, MIT, National Cancer Institute, National Institute on Drug Abuse via The Daily Caller, JAMA Network, Health Affairs, Forbes, The Associated Press)