Marijuana Will Kill You And Its Smell Will Give You Cancer (Or So I Heard)

The pot community is pretty used to politicians and hack journalists playing fast and loose with the truth to scare people about marijuana, but this month has been a fear-mongering doozy.
A lying Mitch.A lying Mitch.The pot community is pretty used to politicians and hack journalists playing fast and loose with the truth to scare people about marijuana, but this month has been a fear-mongering doozy.

Yesterday, the US press reported that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, sent a letter to one of his constituents who posted it on the grasscity.com forums. According to the Senator,

Because of the harm that substances like marijuana and other narcotics pose to our society, I have concerns about this legislation. The detrimental effects of drugs have been well documented: short-term memory loss, loss of core motor functions, heightened risk of lung disease, and even death.

You’re probably thinking that a ranking Republican telling lies about the dangers of pot is hardly shocking news, but McConnell isn’t the only one who’s been using the 1936 propaganda film Reefer Madness as his primary research material.

In an article from UK paper the Harborough Mail, published on March 3, titled “Drugs factory raided”, an unnamed author writes:

Police are warning that when cannabis plants reach the final stages of maturity the odour they release has carcinogenic properties.

Officers who deal with the plants use ventilation masks and protective suits and people who have plants in their home, especially anyone with young children, may be exposing their family to a health risk.

Now there’s a whopper I don’t think I’ve heard before: the smell of raw marijuana plants can cause cancer.

Now, anyone with an internet connection can find out with a few clicks that the chemicals in cannabis are actually cancer-fighting not cancer-causing, but the journalist at the Harborough Mail decided to parrot the police line.

Or was it the police’s line after all?

In his quest to find out exactly where the “carcinogenic” quote originated, Ben Goldacre, blogger and author of The Guardian‘s Bad Science column, did a little digging and unearthed something that smells funny.

In the comments section of his post “Police are warning that the smell of cannabis plants is carcinogenic”, Goldacre publishes his correspondance with law enforcement officials and editors of local newspapers.

Acting Editor Neil Pickford of the Northamptonshire Evening Telegraph, where the article was originally published before being picked up by the Harborough Mail, told Goldacre “the claim was made by a Northamptonshire Police press officer” in an email sent to one of his reporters, writing

I have seen the email but cannot release the full details to you for confidentiality reasons.

However, here is an unedited excerpt of the email sent to us:

“Once cannabis plants reach their final stages of maturity, apparently the odour they give out has carcinogenic properties and officers – who deal with these plants using ventilation masks and protective suits – want to advise of the health risks of having these plants in properties, especially where young children may be present.”

Given the source of the claim, I suggest you pursue this matter with the county police press office.

Regards,

Neil Pickford

Acting Editor

Northamptonshire Evening Telegraph

But according to the communications department of the Northamptonshire Police Dept., Pickford cut his excerpt just short of an important caveat included by police in the original email. The original reads,

Once cannabis plants reach their final stages of maturity, apparently the odour they give out has carcinogenic properties and officers – who deal with these plants using ventilation masks and protective suits – want to advise of the health risks of having these plants in properties, especially where young children may be present (if you go with this line, an expert opinion from someone on the health side would be expedient).

Goldacre, stunned that Pickford would leave out the most relevant part of the police letter, wrote back to the newspaper editor:

Dear Neil,

in your email to me earlier you sent me what you described as “an unedited excerpt” of the email sent to your Corby reporters, and said you’d only removed details for confidentiality reasons. I attach a full copy of the email you selectively quoted from below, which Northants police have now sent me. You removed the end of the sentence, where the reporter was advised “(if you go with this line, an expert opinion from someone on the health side would be expedient)” and added a full stop where this should have been.

I don’t see how what you sent me was an unedited excerpt. You seem to have simply removed the sensible caveat that was sent to your reporter by the police, and which the newspaper ignored.

Two days later, Goldacre has received no word back from the Northamptonshire Evening Telegraph.

The online version of the Harborough Mail story has been taken down, but here’s a cached version.

So who’s responsible for the publication of this misleading information? No one wants to take the blame, but it’s probably safe to conclude it was a combination of lame police propaganda and shoddy work by lazy (and dishonest) editors.

Thankfully, I found this at the bottom of both the Mail and Telegraph homepages:

This website and its associated newspaper adheres to the Press Complaints Commission’s Code of Practice. If you have a complaint about editorial content which relates to inaccuracy or intrusion, then contact the Editor by clicking here.

If you remain dissatisfied with the response provided then you can contact the PCC by clicking here.

Jeremiah Vandermeer is editor of Cannabis Culture. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

Jeremiah Vandermeer
Jeremiah Vandermeer

Jeremiah Vandermeer is Cannabis Culture Chief of Operations and Editor of Cannabis Culture Magazine & Pot TV.

Comments

13 Comments

  1. Anonymous on

    “GrowMed is chock full of medical marijuana and hydroponic….one the green gathering, san diego medi-cup, cannabis etc….love to be apart of this beatiful event.Joy Happy almost herbs day…!!!For more information about this event you can follow us on the below link:
    http://www.youtube.com/advancednutrientsco
    http://pinterest.com/advancednutes/

  2. Anonymous on

    Catch the glimpse of coco-girls as they set the mood at Booth c-13. Good times and goodies are waiting!!Come and smoke all good joint herbs available.What are innovations in herbs growers garden are all to be explore at valencia, the green city with hydroponic east.
    http://www.facebook.com/bigbudsmagazine?fref=ts

  3. Bud Grinder on

    Of course the smell of cannabis won’t give you cancer. that’s ridiculous.

    However, I just read somewhere that looking at cannabis causes sterility. You can minimize the effect by always wearing sunglasses and a tinfoil hat when looking at cannabis.

  4. Anonymous on

    Our politicians have no problem passing a bald faced lie off as fact. We all know that their constituents will be quoting this massively ignorant statement for years now.

  5. GanjaBagger on

    If it causes cancer then why does the US Goverment hold U.S. Patent 6630507 which was filed by the National Institute of Health on October 7, 2003 whichs claims, “Cannabinoids have been found to have antioxidant properties … This new found property makes cannabinoids useful in the treatment and prophylaxis of wide variety of oxidation associated diseases, such as ischemic, age-related, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. The cannabinoids are found to have particular application as neuroprotectants, for example in limiting neurological damage following … stroke and trauma, or in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and HIV dementia.”

    Terpenoids do not cause cancer. If they did we would have alot of “legal” flowers and plants that could potentially cause Cancer too. I want to believe the cops are wearing “Hazmat” type clothing to dismantle grow operations simply to avoid the “buzz” they could get by contact with bare skin.

    Great Article Jerimiah!!! This is just another example of “Bad Journalism” trying to advance the scientifically unproven science of reefer madness!!!

  6. Arthur on

    How long before Team Harper starts quoting this as fact?

  7. Anonymous on

    I am going to send out good vibes into the universe and declare that Senator McConnell is a good yet misinformed person and as such, would appreciate being better informed.

    Drop him a line on his website.

    http://mcconnell.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?p=ContactForm

  8. Anonymous on

    “Whatchutalkabout Willis?”

  9. Anonymous on

    THS IS THEMXISTSR VI BIGGEST CRAP IVE SEEN N IT STINKS!!!! WEED IS A UNCINTROLLED SUBSTANCE N THY CNT MK A REAL PROFIT N THS IS WHY ITS “DEADLY” & “CANCEROUS”……BUT PPL STILL GONNA GROW IT! STILL gONNA SELL iT! N dAMN SURE GON SMOKE IT!!…..

  10. Bomb_Bizzle on

    So, the fragrance from a flower causes cancer? What sort of BS propaganda will they release next??

  11. Anonymous on

    I heard the contact toxicity that you get from even a second or third hand marijuana poisoning eventually builds up in your system and makes you a republican, and that’s the real reason why democrats want it eradicated.