The Worst Argument Against Medical Marijuana

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NYT's Freakonomics Blog has a pro-con piece on marijuana decriminalization that includes this bizarre argument from USC professor Joel W. Hay:

There isn’t a shred of scientific evidence that marijuana is safe and effective for any medical condition. Moreover, THC, the active ingredient of pot, has been approved by the FDA and on the market in capsule form since 1985.

How could you even write something like that without seeing how silly it is? If we've been selling FDA-approved concentrated marijuana pills for almost 25 years, then there's really no question how "safe and effective" marijuana is. The fact that pills made of pure THC have been approved by FDA and sold legally for decades without incident is the best proof you could ever ask for that marijuana is remarkably safe.

What was he thinking when he wrote this?

Update: And, of course, the claim that there's no evidence of medical marijuana's safety and effectiveness is absurd. I wouldn't even know where to begin.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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He was probably drunk, like

He was probably drunk, like most old, white men

probably was

Yes, he probably was... and in reading his remark, he was probableyon moonshine rather than a vodka or rum.


Best juxtaposition ever. I wonder if he realized that his second sentence pretty much proved his previous sentence bullshit. Probably not.


"He was probably drunk, like most old, white men"

Put your bias isn't helping...

thank you!

thank you!

Another half-witted, whole-hearted, lie by a - educator?

Apparently the professor is unaware of uncle scams acquisition of U.S. Marijuana Patent # 6,630,507.

That's right professor, your government currently holds U.S. Patent # 6,630,507 claiming: "Cannabinoids have been found to have antioxidant properties... cannabinoids are found to have particular applications as neuroprotectants... limiting neurological damage following... stroke and trauma... or in treatment of neurodegenerative diseases... such as Alzheimer's... Parkinson's... and HIV dementia"
Please, someone tell me how a gov't that kills or incarcerates those that dare to disagree while claiming one thing while positioning itself to profit from the exact opposite can be legal or moral... even in this scoundrel ridden christian nation.

It's not the THC that scares the crap out of uncle scam (or ignorant professors) it's the BSB's - the 'Bullshit Blockers'!

Q. I wonder which department the professor is in?
A. The department of mental wankers!

i read this the other day.

i read this the other day. some of the other arguments are spot on, and when i saw that a prof from USC was putting in his 2 cents, i thought it may be a good one. i was very disappointed to read his whole response. it's a good one to highlight as completely absurd.

what the proffessor meant is

what the proffessor meant is that a pill of THC helps patients deal with pain caused from chemotherapy, strong AIDS medications etc. but that does not mean that joints are good.
Many joints have been found to be very carcingogenic, besides, it is hard to measure how much THC enters a patient when smoking, unlike with pills where dosages are controlled.
Because morphine is used as a pain reliever, it does not mean a doctor would prescribe opium.
definding medical pot from the point that THC has certain aplications is idiotic.

Drew B's picture

I disagree you with calling

I disagree you with calling it idiotic.

Considering how innocuous marijuana is, if a patient doubled the dose and smoked a whole joint (or vaporized a similar quantity) instead of half of one, or smoked two joints (or vaporized) instead of one, the repercussions are NO WHERE NEAR doubling a dose of morphine (based on what I can gather).

Or perhaps you think I'm wrong and that taking a double dose of morphine is going to lead to the same/similar issues as a patient who doubles his/her marijuana use?

In any case, marijuana should be legal for ill people who feel it benefits them, as well as for religious people who think it benefits them, and yes, probably much to your offense, available to people who just want to have some at the end of the day to relax, or contemplate, or work in the yard/garden, etc…

Just because it has positive effects for people who are ill should not mean it's relegated to only those who are ill.


That has never been proven! And, the cannabinoids have seemed to be implicated in actions against brain, lung, and breast cancer cells. But, since cannabis is illegal, no research into any of the facts of its medical benefits, is allowed. Sort of nullifies your opinion on what is idiotic! And diacetylmorphine is a class one drug... of no medical use!? Just another example of our schizophrenic laws, derived from the Controlled Substance Act (CSA)! Smoking opium might, eventually, be the only choice for chronic pain patients, denied treatment!

Drew B's picture

Where to Begin…

I took a stab at it here:

What Would Happen if Marijuana Were Decriminalized? Professor Joel W. Hay

Feel free to provide supporting links I can incorporate in to my analysis, in the comments section. TIA

I am currently going over the DEA response.

eltone's picture

The Worst Argument Against Medical Marijuana

Where has this meat bag been for the last 10 years? Not on planet earth. He must have had some bad granola.

Today is the last day to Vote

Prof’s Response Reveals Conflict of Interests with Real Science

Checking Joel W. Hay’s resume reveals a tenured professor at a private college who is a top dog in the School of Pharmacology at USC, and someone who should know better than to make weak distinctions between cannabis and THC.

There are several possibilities for Dr. Hay’s unusual behavior and his bizarre statements as a scientist.  I have listed five multiple choice selections below.  Select one or more:

(A)   Dr. Hay fears his research funding in pharmacology will be slashed by the feds should he say anything positive about medical marijuana.

(B)   Dr. Hay fears his good relationship with Big Pharma will be compromised if he favors an herbal cannabis remedy over patented drugs.

(C)   Dr. Hay is a drug warrior.

(D)   Dr. Hay’s family is being held hostage by the DEA director who has threatened to shoot them if the professor doesn’t cooperate.

(E)   Selections A, B, C and D above are all true.


Giordano: On your "Option

Giordano: On your "Option (C)", what's amusing to me is the USC website link you posted asserts that Hay is an expert on, among other things, "drug legalization -- arguments pro and con."

He may or may not be an expert on drug legalization, but based on my hours of emails with him, the guy can't even articulate a single coherent argument, so I hardly think he should be selling himself as an expert on arguments.

I've spent **literally** hours emailing back and forth about whether or not his statement that "marijuana has carcinogenic qualities like tobacco" does or does not tend to imply that marijuana causes cancer. He's like a snarky ideologue robot. His tone and lack of self-reflection were stunning to me.

Well. I've been chuckling

Well. I've been chuckling about these comments for the last 20 minutes without feeling it would be worth my time to weigh in- but this comment just pushed me over the edge. First of all- no wonder the U.S. healthcare system is a piece of shit- it's being dictated by you full fledged idiots. Second of all- Joel hay is brilliant. Just check out his research and his cv- he has contributed more relevant contributions to social welfare than any of us could ever hope for. Third of all- I literally have met and worked with Dr. Hay- he's a HUGE asshole. And on that note, seriously none of his research or public statements are motivated by greed or politics- they are motivated by the fact that he is more intelligent and well versed on health care and innovation than any of us could ever hope to be. You wanna hear someone give you the truth about health care reform without giving a fuck if you will ever support their standpoint? He's your guy.

That argument actually makes sense

I've been emailing back and forth with Professor Hay for several days about what I thought was his utterly fallacious statement in the New York Times that marijuana causes cancer (an assertion that has never been proven; and indeed there's solid medical research to suggest that it does not).

Professor Hay's point about THC was too tersely made, but here's what you need to know to understand what he's saying there:
(1) when he refers to marijuana use he is always and only referring to smoking, because he doesn't believe that eating it is sufficiently common to be a meaningful phenomenon;
(2) "safe and effective" is a term of art for him (and many medical researchers) that is synonymous with "FDA approved" or "amenable to FDA approval" -- and to that extent (and only to that extent) he's right, because the FDA will probably never approve smoking as a mechanism to deliver any medicine;
(3) THC, a component of marijuana, is available as a pill (and, FYI, a THC pill is not a "marijuana pill" - it's a single lab sythesized chemical in a capsule; actual marijuana, by contrast contains thousands of other components - some health promoting, some not).

So to paraphrase him, what he was really saying was this: "Smoking marijuana is dangerous to your health and an unproven and non-FDA-approved means to treat illness; and THC is available as a capsule. Therefore there's no reason to legalize marijuana for medical or any other purposes."

When one writes it that way, it at least makes sense, even if it may be unpersuasive for other reasons. Based on my hours of emails with him, it is my opinion that Professor Hay has a very difficult time articulating his arguments clearly and without deceptive embedded definitions.

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