Letter to The Young Turks: Proof that Marijuana Smoking Does Not Lead to Lung Cancer

Dear Young Turks,

My name is David Malmo-Levine and I write for Cannabis Culture online magazine.

Recently, on your show, Cenk said, “if you smoke it very consistently for a long long period of time you can get lung disease … and maybe even lung cancer, as you would from smoking cigarettes.”

Watch the video clip of The Young Turks:

The facts say the opposite of this:

From Erowid’s “Marijuana Myths”:

There are no epidemiological or aggregate clinical data suggesting that marijuana-only smokers develop lung cancer.

You’d think it would have been very big news in June 2005 when UCLA medical school professor Donald Tashkin reported that components of marijuana smoke – although they damage cells in respiratory tissue – somehow prevent them from becoming malignant. In other words, something in marijuana exerts an anti-cancer effect!

There has never been a documented case of lung cancer in a marijuana-only smoker, and recent studies show that pot use is not associated with any type of cancer.

From the article “Cannabis and Lung Cancer” by Martin Martinez:

I attended the 1st National Clinical Conference on Medical Marijuana in Iowa in 1998. Arguably the most learned man on the subject of the effects of smoke on the lungs is named Donald Tashkin, Professor of Medicine, Division of Pulmonary & Critical Care, at UCLA. He spoke for almost an hour at the Conference, showing slides of smoke-browned lungs. He showed how marijuana smoke seems to push pollutants towards the outer lining of the lungs.

His presentation did not portray marijuana smoke as harmless, but there was no solid evidence of disease associated with the browning of the lungs’ outer lining. Donald Tashkin has conducted the most extensive research involving the largest number of long-term marijuana-only smokers, as well as multi-drug smokers–marijuana, tobacco, cocaine, and other substances, for several decades. His critique of marijuana smoke was completely non-committal. (Considering the government is his largest source of funding, there is little doubt why his lecture at the first medical cannabis conference was short and unsupportive.)

When Dr. Tashkin finished his speech, he did not wait to answer questions. He grabbed his materials and bolted for the door. I raced after him and stopped him on the steps outside the conference hall. I showed him the passages I had written about his research in The New Prescription. I stood there and watched him read everything I had written about his work. He agreed that my synopsis was correct. Then I asked him the $64,000 question. I said, “Do you know of any cases of marijuana-only smokers who had lung cancer?” He said “Yes, there is one.” Then he smiled, explaining, “He was sixteen years old.” We both smiled, knowing a teenager could not possibly have sufficient exposure to marijuana smoke to cause lung cancer–his cancer was clearly due to some other cause.

From the book The Emperor Wears No Clothes by Jack Herer

The Single Most Inportant Fact: Not One Recorded Case of Lung Cancer Linked to Cannabis

We have interviewed Dr. Tashkin numerous times. In 1986 I asked him about an article he was preparing for submission to the New England Journal of Medicine, indicating that cannabis smoking caused as many or more pre-cancerous lesions as tobacco in “equal” ammounts.

Most people do not realize, nor are the media told, that a pre-cancerous lesion is any tissue abnormality; abrasion, eruption, or redness. Unlike the radioactive lesions caused by tobacco, the THC-related lesions contain no radioactivity.

We asked Tashkin how many people had gone on to get lung cancer in these studies — or any other studies on long-term smokers like Rastas, Coptics, etc.?

Dr. Tashkin, sitting his UCLA laboratory, looked at me and said, “Well, that’s the strange part. So far no one we’ve studied has gone on to get lung cancer.”

“Was this reported to the press in the article?”

“Well, it’s in the article,” Dr. Tashkin said in passing, “but no one in the press even asked. They just assumed the worst.” His answer to us was still that not one single case of lung cancer in someone who only smoked cannabis has ever been reported. It should be remembered that he and other doctors had predicted 20 years ago, their certainty that hundreds of thousands of marijuana smokers would by now (1997) have developed lung cancer.

Read more info on cannabis and cancer.

Read more info on tobacco and radioactive fertilizers that cause cancer.

I hope this evidence will compel Cenk to retract his statement about cannabis possibly causing lung cancer, or at least be factually correct about the issue in the future. If anything, the evidence shows that cannabis may protect people from lung cancer, not cause it.

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