I told you, keep your eyes peeled: Marijuana is once again being fingered as a serious health threat. The Federal Government last week released a report stating that marijuana use among teens can lead to depression and–gulp–suicidal tendencies. According to the report provided by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, “A teen who has been depressed at some point in the past year is more than twice as likely to have used marijuana as teens who have not reported being depressed—25 percent compared with 12 percent.” And “teens who smoke pot at least once a month over a yearlong period are three times more likely to have suicidal thoughts than nonusers.”

I reported on the increased attacks on cannabis consumption last year in a couple of posts (here and here) and I said then that I believe the heightened attention has to do with the explosion of medical marijuana dispensaries across California. Now, legality or no legality, it seems odd to place so many ill effects (unproven if I may add) to this mostly benign substance. But the Puritanical powers that be see pot smoking as public enemy number two, right after tobacco use.

What is important in this story is that we really need to distinguish between the concepts of correlation and causation. Correlation is a mutual relation of two or more things. It means that we tend to see a relationship among certain things. Causation, on the other hand, means one thing causes another. So the fact that smoking pot causes one to get high is a definite causation. But smoking pot causing one to become depressed and even suicidal is really stretching the truth. The adage in science and statistics is “correlation does not imply causation.” Period.

Although our Puritanical roots may lead our government to see nothing but the ills associated with marijuana use, as attested by research conducted by our Centers of Disease Control (CDC)*, British research shows something different. According to Bruce Mirken, communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project, an organization that advocates the decriminalization of marijuana, “This very week the British government’s official scientific advisers on illegal drugs issued a report saying they are ‘unconvinced that there is a causal relationship between the use of cannabis and any affective disorder,’ such as depression.

Like I said before, there is a real battle going on and it ain’t gonna be pretty. But if certain factions persist, you may see some changes in policy in the near future.

*I’d also like to point out that the CDC probably has data only on dysfunctional individuals who present with a variety of problems. I’m certain they have no data on the thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of totally functional citizens who consume cannabis on a regular basis. Why would they? It’s still illegal, isn’t it? Boing!

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