Dr. Joe Perrone is the chief science officer at the Center For Accountable Science (link), a project of the nonprofit Center for Organizational Research and Education, which is supported by businesses and foundations, including those in the hospitality, agriculture, and energy industries. They have a mission statement on their webpage that reads:
Every day, consumers are inundated with headlines and talk show segments warning about how the products in their pantries, medicine cabinets, refrigerators, and under their sink could give them an array of terrifying diseases. In many cases, these scary stories vastly overstate the actual risk, causing unnecessary alarm.
The Center for Accountability in Science provides a balanced look at the science behind these news stories and examines the organizations behind the effort to scare consumers.
So, I find it extremely curious that doctor Perrone takes aim at the marijuana legalization lobby in his recent article in the New York Post, The junk ‘science’ behind the marijuana legalization movement, and shotguns a headline attack against their claims that marijuana is “safe”.
Let’s understand that Mr. Perrone is not a medical “doctor”. He is a doctor of science. So, I’ll concede that he knows more about junk ‘science’ than I do because, after all, I’m just a caveman. Your ways frighten me, so I’m glad to have smart people like doctors tell me the correct sciences to believe as truth. Let’s also state that I’m sure doctor Perrone is a fantastic person. He probably has everyone’s best interests in mind when he decides to propagate longstanding old myths about marijuana use while claiming the new myths of harmlessness are false and “junk science”. I wholeheartedly agree with him that substances abused can be detrimental to anyone’s health. But the premise of his article says that marijuana advocates claim the drug is “safe”, and “harmless” and that it’s wrong to claim those things. Here’s a quote from the article:
The problem is that marijuana is not, in fact, “harmless.” Proponents are spinning the science — casting pot as a threat only if used improperly, much like a car — for the sake of advancing their political agenda.
The problem with his citations is that no one ever claims marijuana is harmless, and certainly never in any scientific way. In the first link to sources, marijuana is simply claimed to be less harmful than alcohol. The second claims “harmless” in the context of being “not lethal”. Neither is a used in a hyperbolic, mythical, or scientific sense as Perrone implies in his article. Actually, he implies nothing of the sort – he overtly refers to it as “junk science”. Since it was not a scientific claim, the premise of his article seems to be invalid. Yet he goes on to describe the study he has read (LINK) claiming the dangers of marijuana are real and shouldn’t be ignored. Unfortunately, no one has ever said there weren’t dangers of abusing marijuana. He’s using claims of “harmlessness” in a different context to disprove them in another context. There is a fundamental misrepresentation of the context, so we cavemen like to refer to that as a false presumption, and the resulting argument as a straw man. Or perhaps, in this case, a cave man argument.
I would expect more from a doctor than to make such an error in logic, but then, he must have his own political agenda to advertise. I’m sure he relies on his doctoral background to assume you won’t notice how he manipulated the meaning of his source material. He continues his scare tactics by telling us more about his buddy’s study: “…driving after smoking pot approximately doubles the risk of a car crash.” What he fails to mention is this, which is taken directly from the study he quotes: “…cannabis users who drive while intoxicated increase their risk of motor vehicle crashes 2–3 times  as against 6–15 times for comparable intoxicating doses of alcohol. Cannabis use was estimated to account for 2.5% of traffic deaths in France as against 29% for alcohol.” So, you are 400% more likely to be in an automobile accident while under the influence of alcohol than under the effects of marijuana. In fact, you are %100 more likely to get in an automobile accident while driving than while sitting on your couch. And you are %1000 more likely to die in your car crash when drinking alcohol compared to marijuana. Facts are cool, aren’t they? Yes, especially when you focus on parts of facts and then take them out of context. The nice thing about reading the actual synopsis of the study is that they include the words “suggests strongly”, which means they are careful to not claim a direct causal link, whereas dr. Perrone fails to do this. When you omit these carefully conceived words, you imply the causal link implicitly.
I could go on, but that might defame the reputation of Mr. Perrone, who, I hope, uses more rigor in his day job than when moonlighting as a columnist. I’d also like to say that any substance, when abused, can be harmful. Although, asprin is determined to be relatively “safe” by the general public and the medical community, too much asprin will kill you, and no one gives asprin to children. This is not a scientific claim, and should not be used as the basis for an argument by portraying my claim as “junk science”. Of course the effects of marijuana warrant more study and analysis – no one would doubt that. But using lies to argue that someone else is lying is bad form, especially for a doctor – especially a non-medical one.by