Reefer Inanity: Never Trust the Media on Pot

  Reefer Inanity: Never Trust the Media on Pot

Posted by CN Staff on July 30, 2007 at 08:57:46 PT
By Maia Szalavitz 
Source: Huffington Post 

USA -- Watching the media cover marijuana is fascinating, offering deep insight into conventional wisdom, bias and failure to properly place science in context. The coverage of a new study claiming that marijuana increases the risk of later psychotic illnesses like schizophrenia by 40% displays many of these flaws.What are the key questions reporters writing about such a study needs to ask? First, can the research prove causality? Most of the reporting here, to its credit, establishes at some point that it cannot,though you have to read pretty far down in some of it to understand this.
Second - and this is where virtually all of the coverage falls flat - if marijuana produces what seems like such a large jump in risk for schizophrenia, have schizophrenia rates increased in line with marijuana use rates? A quick search of Medline shows that this is not the case-- in fact, as I noted here earlier, some experts think they may actually have fallen. Around the world, roughly 1% of the population has schizophrenia (and another 2% or so have other psychotic disorders), and this proportion doesn't seem to change much. It is not correlated with population use rates of marijuana.Since marijuana use rates have skyrocketed since the 1940's and 50's, going from single digit percentages of the population trying it to a peak of some 60% of high school seniors trying it in 1979 (stabilizing thereafter at roughly 50% of each high school class), we would expect to see this trend have some visible effect on the prevalence of schizophrenia and other psychoses.When cigarette smoking barreled through the population, lung cancer rose in parallel; when smoking rates fell, lung cancer rates fell. This is not the case with marijuana and psychotic disorders; if it were, we'd be seeing an epidemic of psychosis.But readers of the AP, Bloomberg, The Washington Post, and Reuters were not presented with this information. While CBS/WebMD mentioned the absence of a surge in schizophrenia, it did so by quoting an advocate of marijuana policy reform, rather than citing a study or quoting a doctor. This slants the story by pitting an advocate with an agenda against a presumably neutral medical authority.Furthermore, very little of the coverage put the risk in context. A 40% increase in risk sounds scary, and this was the risk linked to trying marijuana once, not to heavy use. To epidemiologists, however, a 40% increase is not especially noteworthy-- they usually don't find risk factors worth worrying about until the number hits at least 200% and some major journals won't publish studies unless the risk is 300 or even 400%. The marijuana paper did find that heavy use increased risk by 200-300%, but that's hardly as sexy as try marijuana once, increase your risk of schizophrenia by nearly half!By contrast, one study found that alcohol has been found to increase the risk of psychosis by 800% for men and 300% for women. Although this study was not a meta-analysis (which looks at multiple studies, as the marijuana research did), it certainly is worth citing to help readers get a sense of the magnitude of the risk in comparison with other drugs linked to psychosis.Of course, if journalists wanted to do that, they would also cite researchers who disagree with the notion that marijuana poses a large risk of inducing psychosis at all, such as Oxford's Leslie Iversen, author of one of the key texts on psychopharmacology, who told the Times of London that"Despite a thorough review the authors admit that there is no conclusive evidence that cannabis use causes psychotic illness. Their prediction that 14 per cent of psychotic outcomes in young adults in the UK may be due to cannabis use is not supported by the fact that the incidence of schizophrenia has not shown any significant change in the past 30 years."Such comments don't help the media stir up reefer madness, which they've been doing, quite successfully, for the last few decades. Perhaps covering the marijuana beat makes you crazy.Source: Huffington Post (NY)Author: Maia Szalavitz Published: July 30, 2007 Copyright: 2007, LLC Contact: scoop huffingtonpost.comWebsite: -- Cannabis Archives

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Comment #43 posted by greenmed on August 01, 2007 at 02:19:17 PT
lung function
Perhaps I was glibly dismissive of the NZ research. I still have trouble accepting the 1 joint = 2.5-6 cigarettes in terms of effect on pulmonary function. That goes against my experience. Nevertheless, our lungs are certainly worth protecting, and breathing any burning vegetable matter is not completely without consequence.The study abstract, for those interested: makes the issue moot.
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Comment #42 posted by greenmed on July 31, 2007 at 18:23:21 PT
"Cannabis smokers were included if they had smoked at least one joint per day for at least five years, while tobacco smokers had to have smoked 20 cigarettes per day for one year."So, somebody who smokes one joint a day and a half-pack of cigarettes would be placed in the "Cannabis smoker" group. That is not right. Many smokers I know go through about a pack a day, "or perhaps a little less." That might explain the counterintuitive result.
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Comment #41 posted by Toker00 on July 31, 2007 at 12:38:16 PT
Thanks. That's sad about the postponement. I won't speculate but I have my thoughts about that. Mrs. Runfuff, Linda, can you tell us anymore?Then the pony tail stays, Had Enough. Thanks!Toke.
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Comment #40 posted by museman on July 31, 2007 at 11:17:14 PT
Welcome back.As far as runruff is concerned, I regret to say that because of circumstances I am not at liberty to discuss, I have been effectively cut-off from any news in that direction.Last I heard his parole was postponed about a month from the original planned release date of August 17th. So I expect it to be sometime in September.Unless I get a letter from runruff, I am now in the dark as to what is happening. Perhaps runruffswife will post the info.
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Comment #39 posted by afterburner on July 31, 2007 at 09:38:27 PT
CN ON: PUB LTE: Cannabis Health Risks Call for Education, Not Prohibition, Ottawa Citizen, (30 Jul 2007) 
CN NS: OPED: Reform Pot Laws - Do It For 15 Million Canadians, Chronicle Herald, (30 Jul 2007) BC: PUB LTE: Canadians Should 'Just Say No To The American, The Coquitlam Now, (27 Jul 2007)
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Comment #38 posted by FoM on July 31, 2007 at 09:35:27 PT
That doesn't surprise me. Why do they listen to foreign studies and don't listen to people like Dr. Grinspoon?
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Comment #37 posted by potpal on July 31, 2007 at 09:22:14 PT
fox noise
The cannabis vs tobacco bs already made it to my local fox affiliate. Who are these scientists from New Zealand anyway? Some arm of the tobacco industry or big pharm no doubt. 
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Comment #36 posted by FoM on July 31, 2007 at 06:38:38 PT
These articles about cannabis and tobacco are wrong. Don't most of the people in the UK roll cannabis into a cigarette or something like that? 
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Comment #35 posted by Had Enough on July 31, 2007 at 06:32:56 PT
One more thing. About your president gig…Keep the ponytail.I’d like to have mine back.Just below the shoulder blades “back to where it/we once belonged”
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Comment #34 posted by Had Enough on July 31, 2007 at 06:11:08 PT
Hey Toker00Good to see you.Grandpa Toker00 – Yes Sir. Congratulations.e-machine to the rescue. CoolI’ve been real busy and it is interfering with my posting, been reading though.Been wondering about runnruff too! Maybe “the keeper of the muse” aka, museman can update us.museman: I read about the gig you had and your comment you linked us to. Bad gigs…bummer to say the least.Most people today see the world revolving around money instead of the earth revolving around the sun, as you well know. Everyday it seems I have to put up with watching their stuff, gets a little nauseating at times, but still there is a ‘Silver Lining’ in all that crap. When we are exposed to it on the front lines we are reminded of things. At least how not to conduct ourselves in a manner that worships money that becomes an idol, and to be careful not to get caught up in the whirlwind. We may falter, trip and stumble but we still get back up and go again.*****Speaking of the Sun:The rulers of the time jailed and sanctioned Galileo for his theory that the earth revolved around the Sun. This theory wasn’t ‘officially’ recognized by the church until 1992. From the link below“In 1633, the Inquisition of the Roman Catholic Church forced Galileo Galilei, one of the founders of modern science, to recant his theory that the Earth moves around the Sun. Under threat of torture, Galileo - seen above facing his inquisitors - recanted. But as he left the courtroom, he is said to have muttered, 'all the same, it moves'.”and…“But the Galileo affair still embarrassed the Church, which now maintains an astronomical observatory at the Pope's summer palace at Castelgandolfo. Father George Coine, who heads the observatory, says the affair was 'tragic, beyond the control of any one party'. It was the height of the Church's battle with Protestantism, says Coine, 'and here was a scientist saying he interpreted scripture better than they did.' The trials were not a confrontation between science and faith, says Coine, because 'Galileo never presented his science to the Inquisition. Science wasn't even at the trial.”more… thought this is interesting history
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Comment #33 posted by potpal on July 31, 2007 at 04:57:42 PT
more on the alaska thang 
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Comment #32 posted by potpal on July 31, 2007 at 04:44:33 PT
there their they're
Forgive my typos, I haven't smoked anything this am.
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Comment #31 posted by potpal on July 31, 2007 at 04:43:16 PT
I was way off
There back at it today already... It's there lead health story today. Say it enough and people will believe it.I've used cannabis daily for over 35 years and have been a runner simultantiously. If it had been cigarettes, I'd be dead. Think I'll stop reading the BBC...take a toke and go for a run.
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Comment #30 posted by Toker00 on July 31, 2007 at 03:26:33 PT
Intel. Vista/Home. Yes on the DVDs and CDs. So far it operates flawlessly. It's great to have a large screen, too. So what do Grandfathers get called these days? Gramps? Grandpa? Granddad? Pappaw? I never thought about being a grandparent, now I almost are one. :) My first thought is: No poverty for this child. G'day.Toke.
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Comment #29 posted by FoM on July 30, 2007 at 20:22:49 PT
I think one of the things that bothers me so much about this time is the corruption. I am tired of lobbyists and special interest groups. I don't know exactly what the word politician means but it reminds me that most people in politics are chasing fame and money so they can have more clout. It's very wrong to have our country in the hands of deep pockets. Being fair and considerate of peoples views just isn't something they want. They think they are better then the people and that makes me turn off really quickly to what they say.
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Comment #28 posted by Hope on July 30, 2007 at 19:50:09 PT
FBI searches offices of Alaska lawmakers"Sought-after items named in the search include hats or other garments bearing the phrases “CBC,” “Corrupt Bastards Club” or “Corrupt Bastards Caucus.”That’s the nickname given to 11 lawmakers after a guest opinion piece published in March listed the contributions those legislators received from VECO Corp. executives, said House Speaker John Harris, R-Valdez. The piece was published in the Anchorage Daily News, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner and the Juneau Empire on different dates in March.“I’ve heard it a few times,” Harris said Friday. “These legislators nicknamed themselves or somebody else did.”"
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Comment #27 posted by Hope on July 30, 2007 at 19:44:15 PT
Oops! Sorry...
I see Richard already posted about the Chief Justice.
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Comment #26 posted by Hope on July 30, 2007 at 19:41:52 PT
Congratulations on becoming a grandfather...
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Comment #25 posted by Hope on July 30, 2007 at 19:30:15 PT
Chief Justice Roberts has suffered a seizure.
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Comment #24 posted by FoM on July 30, 2007 at 19:10:35 PT
Will you be called Grandpa Toker00? I couldn't resist and that is good news.How do you like your new computer? Does it have an AMD Processor or Intel? Is it XP or Vista? Can you make DVDs and CDs? I ask because I will need one soon and I think since Gateway owns E-Machine, and I like the Gateways I've had, I will try an E-Machine.
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Comment #23 posted by Toker00 on July 30, 2007 at 18:54:44 PT
High, guys!
Don't ever lose your cable service. Mine got turned off when my neighbor moved and forgot to put the 1/2 on his address. When they re-hooked my cable, my Internet was still down and the guy wasn't an Internet service tech guy and to make a very long story short, I waited a long...time.I see good reason to feel desperate but the only thing that hasn't changed are the Congressmen/women. We shook 'em up over Iraq and we can shake 'em up over Cannabis Prohibition. My Congresscritter, Nick Lampoon, spews the same hateful ignorance about Federal Law. He's gonna get an ear full from me. Promise.After seven years, my son found me. I think it was right after he found himself. He is sending a copy of his band which I hope to be able to share w/youse.Oh yeah. I will become a Grandpa Toker00 in Dec. or Jan. Too early w/the sonograms to tell blue or pink. No cooperation from Toker00 III. Maybe next visit.Mayan I gotta say, I missed your links. The people who ignored all the information I provided them about 911 and laughed at me are no longer laughing. In fact, some of these same people voted me onto a committee which negotiates for certain employees rights and to represent our very local Union. It should be interesting, though I've never been President of anything before. I think they just wanted someone who could bite back. :) The Pony Tail should stay, though, you think?Later! God bless C-News! Love you all!Toke.  
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Comment #22 posted by Hope on July 30, 2007 at 18:28:32 PT
There's an old t-shirt in my closet
that I think I need to drag out again. It has a whole new meaning now.Wait. I have to go find it.Found it. It's black with white lettering that says, "You sAy PSYCHO LiKe it's A BAD thinG"I love it. Even more, now.
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Comment #21 posted by Hope on July 30, 2007 at 17:53:24 PT
Hi! You're back!We've missed you!
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Comment #20 posted by FoM on July 30, 2007 at 17:45:28 PT
Thank you. I believe that my votes didn't count in 04 or 06. I received a letter from Blackwell that I needed to come in to wherever it was I registered to add my signature so everything would be ok. I was so angry I haven't gone in. I will contact someone else to make sure they can't do that again. I might go to one of the fairs and re-register at a booth. Maybe I should register as a Democrat and get it over with since I want to vote in the primary for at least this election period.
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Comment #19 posted by mayan on July 30, 2007 at 17:36:16 PT
It's now obvious to all that your state was indeed stolen... In Violation of Federal Law, Ohio's 2004 Presidential Election Records Are Destroyed or Missing:
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Comment #18 posted by potpal on July 30, 2007 at 17:10:16 PT
the obvious the above link demostrates, main stream media, in this case the BBC, do have an agenda. Notice how just about every month they repeat the same story re: cannabis and some pys-something. Spooky. They wouldn't want to reschedule/criminalize cannabis in the UK, would they? Let's see how long it is before they publish this story in one form or another AGAIN! I'll say by September.Good to read you TOKER.Toke.
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Comment #17 posted by FoM on July 30, 2007 at 16:38:06 PT
I agree that mainstream media gives people news that doesn't mean anything. We have friends that both work and don't have a computer. They also have friends that aren't into computers. They turn on the news for a few minutes when they have time and that is all they see. I wish we had a way to get news to the tv for people who can only check out news for a little bit of time now and then. They think Clinton is doing better then Obama. They don't realize they are polling registered Dems not registered Independents and they use a land line not a cell phone.Maybe someday all people will have unlimited access to affordable broadband and then the Internet will take over the tv news I think.
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Comment #16 posted by Richard Zuckerman on July 30, 2007 at 16:30:26 PT:
Perhaps Chief Justice Roberts could have benefitted from medical Cannabis?!
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Comment #15 posted by mayan on July 30, 2007 at 16:24:08 PT
Steal Their Thunder
As long as the mainstream media remains the federal government's mouthpiece we will never see positive change. Want to totally destroy the credibility of the mainstream media once and for all? It's really quite simple. Just help expose the greatest act of deception in human history... THE WAY OUT IS THE WAY IN...And Then There Was One, The Final Holdout: 9-11: RESOLVE - OPEN LETTER TO PETER DEFAZIO: - New Radio Ad calls for Activism on 9/11/07: Palast Takes a Dive in The Midnight Hour: of the Left Covering Up Truth of 9-11: Coincidences (Part Thirteen): WAS AN INSIDE JOB - OUR NATION IS IN PERIL:
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Comment #14 posted by Christen-Mitchell on July 30, 2007 at 16:15:45 PT:
Conclusive Proof Pot Precipitates Mental Illness
The only person proving marijuana causes later insanity would have to be one of the sickest people this planet houses: GWB.
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Comment #13 posted by Toker00 on July 30, 2007 at 16:09:53 PT
Okay. Thank you very much.
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Comment #12 posted by FoM on July 30, 2007 at 16:03:36 PT
It's done.
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Comment #11 posted by FoM on July 30, 2007 at 15:59:45 PT

Don't put your e-mail in when you post. I will mess up your email address since you don't want it posted.

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Comment #10 posted by Toker00 on July 30, 2007 at 15:41:00 PT:

 FoM, how can I hide my e-mail?
How do I get my name in red again?Please? :)Toke.
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Comment #9 posted by Toker00 on July 30, 2007 at 15:39:16 PT:

It's despair, too.
That's part of why I had to take a break but I am back with proof that if you have and keep faith, the improbable can come true. It has for me. We can only be as free as the amount of freedom we TAKE. Twenty million people ingest cannabis everyday in this Nation. They can't deny that. How many of those people are as irresponsible as the Anties claim cannabis makes you? We need to make a documentary of as many Tokers as will fit on a DVD and send them out just like 911 Truth. It won't happen overnight, but we need to get our relevant evidence to the public and DVDs are a great way. We need to do independent media about cannabis. That means us getting off our ass and putting our time and money where the Truth is. This Congress and every Congress that doesn't pass Hinchey Rohrabacher (Hope I spelled that right) needs to be voted out. We need to go Toe to Toe with the DEA and demonstrate to the public what we KNOW about cannabis and what we know to be lies they continue to tell a gullible public. Put a DVD under their windshield wipers. Put one on their door steps. Once you spend some time away from the battle field, coming back is very welcomed. I'm re-charged. Let's take 'em down.Toke. Wage Peace on War. 
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Comment #8 posted by FoM on July 30, 2007 at 15:21:05 PT

I don't know if it's fear or disgust. I don't see any possible change until we get Democrats in power. That is a long time from now. Republicans seemed to be going back to the mentality of the 50s not the 60s and I don't know why they can't see that society has changed and there's no going back. 
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Comment #7 posted by Toker00 on July 30, 2007 at 15:14:18 PT:

Fear doesn't change laws.
But I understand the disappointment. It's all on mainstream media. I don't care. We are going to change these laws. We have to be creative and come up with something so cunning and ridiculous that the DEA simply DIES of embarrassment. Hey, It Can Happen! Or we have to agree to massive jailing for civil disobedience. Something. We'll think of SOMETHING. They will never stop the Natural law of Cannabis. Never.Toke. Wage Peace on War.
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Comment #6 posted by FoM on July 30, 2007 at 14:45:09 PT

The last I heard they put back Jerry's release back for a month. Museman would know. Last week we had a terrible week. Look at the current news and you will see how bad it has been. Everyone is crushed or totally scared and not commenting I think. I know it has made me see where the problems are and I don't know how to change it.
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Comment #5 posted by FoM on July 30, 2007 at 14:34:25 PT

It's great to see you. Let me know in an e-mail if you have trouble posting. 
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Comment #4 posted by Toker00 on July 30, 2007 at 14:30:41 PT:

Says I appear to be unregistered and won't let me post. Now it's letting me comment, but will it let me post?
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Comment #3 posted by Toker00 on July 30, 2007 at 14:25:48 PT:

Can you hear me now?
Finally. Back on track. Hope everyone is doing well and holding the front lines. I meant to take a break from the net, but not this long of one. Regardless, I'm back with an e-machine and ready to rock!What's the latest on Jerry? Anyone can answer this post. I'm just so glad to be back. I haven't read any posts so I don't know what page everyone is on, but I am patient.Home, home again.I love to be here when I can.And when I come home cold and tired.It's good to warm my bones beside the C-news-fire.Got things to share. Hope you do to! Thanks for the tip on the e-machines, FoM. I picked one up at Fry's.War is over if you want it.Toker00
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Comment #2 posted by FoM on July 30, 2007 at 11:34:39 PT

Thank you for all you are doing.
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Comment #1 posted by paul armentano on July 30, 2007 at 11:13:14 PT

Typical, excellent analysis from Maia/STATS
Maia is always execellent on this issue. I must note that I'm the "advocate of marijuana policy reform" who she refers to in the syndicated CBS/WebMD story, though her point is well taken. In fact, when speaking with the reporter, I noted that the Lancet's AUTHOR's failed to note any parallel uptick in mental illness attributable to rises in cannabis use, yet that criticism was attributed to me and not to the investigators.BTW, you can read my rebuttal to this pseudo-science here:
Cannabis health risks call for education, not prohibition
The Ottawa CitizenMonday, July 30, 2007Re: Marijuana's scary science, July 26.Columnist Margret Kopala's claims that cannabis use is a causal factor in
mental illness are far from scientifically established. At best, an
observable association between cannabis use and mental illness has been
established in a minority of users; however, much of this association may
stem from the use of other drugs or from individuals with psychotic symptoms
self-medicating with marijuana.More important, such potential health risks associated with cannabis use --
when scientifically documented -- should not be seen as legitimate reasons
for criminal prohibition. Rather, such effects support the call for legally
regulating marijuana so that officials can better educate users on its
potential risks, and so that better safeguards may be enacted restricting
its use among potentially vulnerable populations, especially young people.Ms. Kopala's remarks, even if taken at face value, no more warrant the
continued criminalization of pot than does the desire that pregnant women
refrain from alcohol warrant the blanket prohibition of booze.Paul Armentano,Washington, D.C.National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws Foundation
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