Accuracy in Media

Montel Williams, a celebrated talk show host in his own right, has been going on other shows to claim that smoking marijuana helps his Multiple Sclerosis.  He made the pitch on the O’Reilly Factor on the Fox News Channel and gave a personal interview to Roll Call magazine, which is influential on Capitol Hill.  The paper quoted Williams as telling congressional staffers that he would be “your boss’s biggest nightmare” if a legislative amendment protecting marijuana users did not pass.  The threat didn’t work, and the amendment went down to defeat in a 268-148 vote.

Williams got all the media attention, and officials of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society didn’t want to stand in judgment of him.  One said that if he feels better smoking dope, that’s his belief.  But there is another side to the story.  The group cites studies of so-called “medical marijuana patients” who “reported experiencing uncomfortable side effects, including weakness, dry mouth, dizziness, mental clouding, short-term memory problems, and some general discomfort, as well as feelings of being ‘high.'”  That, of course, is why the dope lobby is pushing for acceptance of the drug.

The organization says the other danger is that smoking marijuana carries health risks that are similar to, or more severe than, those associated with tobacco.  The society says that there are well-tested, FDA-approved drugs that are very effective in treating MS and that “produce fewer side effects and pose no threat to overall health.”

Even if marijuana could help MS, it poses other serious problems.  A new scholarly book, Marijuana and Madness, links it to mental illness.  The New York Times published a hair-raising story on July 8th about a mental patient, Daniel Rakowitz, who was found not guilty by reason of insanity in the murder and dismemberment of a Swiss dance student, Monika Beerle.  Providing chilling testimony of what happened at the time, Rakowitz said he was smoking marijuana with Beerle and several friends in an apartment.  An argument ensued and Rakowitz watched as another person in the room proceeded to kill Beerle in front of him.  Then, Rakowitz said, “We continued smoking pot, thinking nothing of it.”

One may argue that there is no necessary connection between marijuana and mental illness in that case.  By the same token, it should not be assumed that marijuana somehow has medical benefits.  And yet the media, as a matter of course, use the term “medical marijuana” as if it is an established fact.

Dr. Andrea Barthwell, the nation’s Deputy “Drug Czar,” says people peddling “medical marijuana” are like the 19th century snake-oil salesmen who sold cure-all elixirs in traveling medicine shows.  Rather than watch Montel on TV talking about marijuana, we suggest watching an old episode of the Andy Griffith show, titled “Aunt Bee’s Medicine Man.”  It shows Aunt Bee buying and drinking a special “Indian elixir” that is supposed to cure her aches and pains.  She feels better but discovers it was 85 percent alcohol and gets a terrible hangover.  Andy, the sheriff of Mayberry, arrests the snake-oil salesman and runs him out of town.

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