Wednesday, April 10, 2019
Critically and skeptically examining the claims in support of medical marijuana
The third planned presentations from a student in my Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform seminar this coming week will, in his words, "marshal the tools of critical thinking and scientific skepticism against the mounting claims about medical marijuana." Here is how this student explains his plans and suggested background reading:
I have noticed worrying signs in the medical cannabis industry that bear all the hallmarks of pseudoscience and “alternative medicine.” For example, how many ailments fall under the ever-broadening curative umbrella of CBD? The ability to think critically and skeptically is the most useful skill we have as humans for discerning the truth, and it is most important to engage such skills when our biases most threaten our steady course. Remember the frequent allusions this semester to those who embrace medical legalization as a stepping stone to recreational use? Such people may be more inclined to jettison their critical thinking capabilities when it comes to scrutinizing claims in whose outcome one holds an interest.
I will provide a brief primer on thinking critically and skeptically, and then describe the signs of pseudo-scientific reasoning. Then, armed with this toolkit of sorts, I will explore the various claims about the benefits of cannabis as a medicine, including the current research, its blind spots, and its shortcomings. I will then critically explore the ethics and policy behind prohibition, comparing and contrasting cannabis with prescription drugs and alcohol; we shall see how the claimed justifications for cannabis prohibition stand up to critical scrutiny.
Links to Reading Matter
It is not vital that people read anything prior to the presentation, but here are some useful links for those wishing to get ahead of the game:
Steven Novella et al., The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe 57–140 (2018).
Of course, I understand that people might not have access to the above-mentioned book, in which case the following website will suffice (although I commend the book highly in its entirety to anyone interested in how we get at the truth of things).
"Logical Fallacies," The Skeptics Guide to the Universe (last visited Apr. 7, 2019).
Scott Gavura, "Medical Marijuana: Where’s the Evidence?," Science-Based Medicine (Jan. 11, 2018)
Steven Novella, "Marijuana Beliefs Outstrip Evidence," Science-Based Medicine (July 25, 2018)
Salomeh Keyhani, MD, MPH; Stacey Steigerwald, MSSA; Julie Ishida, MD, MAS; Marzieh Vali, MS; Magdalena Cerdá, DrPH; Deborah Hasin, PhD; Camille Dollinger, BS; Sodahm R. Yoo, BS; Beth E. Cohen, MD, MAS, "Risks and Benefits of Marijuana Use: A National Survey of U.S. Adults," American College of Physicians: Annals of Internal Medicine (Sept. 4, 2018)
Peter Grinspoon, "Cannabidiol (CBD) — what we know and what we don’t," Harvard Health Publishing: Harvard Health Blog (Aug. 24, 2018)