My Â recent post about medical marijuana and Â young patients got picked up by the folks over at OpposingViews.com. And that prompted writer Katherine Ellison, whose New York Times story I’d taken issue with to post the following response:
a couple corrections for you
Hi, Bruce —
For the record, my byline is Katherine, not Kathy. And I guess I can understand your frustration at not having a story that reflects your advocate’s view of marijuana as a safe , cure-all drug, appropriate for all ages. However, I stand by my reporting, which I think was a responsible effort to bring awareness to an increasing problem of irresponsible doctors given way too much leeway with an untested drug on adolescents.
– kathyellison November 25, 2009 10:28AM
Oh dear. I generally don’t like to get into fights with reporters, but I’m grateful that Opposing Views allowed me to post the following response:
First, Katherine, I apologize for using your name as you signed it on your emails to me rather than as published in your byline. Nevertheless, I find it frustrating that you appear to be deliberately misinterpreting both what I’ve written here and what I said on the phone during our lengthy conversation.
You know full well that I don’t consider marijuana a cure-all and that I do not expect you to endorse my opinions in print. I do expect you, in reporting a scientific issue, to actually address the relevant science in a way that will enlighten readers.
Your story failed to explain meaningful scientific evidence provided to you by both me and Paul Armentano suggesting a positive effect of marijuana on ADHD as well as the biochemical basis for such an effect being plausible. You included a scientifically nonsensical quote from Stephen Hinshaw calling marijuana for ADHD “one of the worst ideas of all time” because marijuana disrupts attention and memory in normal people. But we know that the brains of ADHD patients don’t work like those of normal people — which is why stimulants like Ritalin have a calming effect, the exact opposite of their effect on most of us. Did you even bother to ask Hinshaw this obvious followup question?
You also included a cavalier quote from Edward M. Hallowell claiming that marijuana use “can lead to a syndrome in which all the person wants to do all day is get stoned, and they do nothing else” — without bothering to note that this so-called “amotivational syndrome” has been debunked again and again. One example that I sent you, and which you apparently ignored, was the 1999 Institute of Medicine report commissioned by the White House, which states on pages 107-108, “When heavy marijuana use accompanies these symptoms, the drug is often cited as the cause, but no convincing data demonstrate a causal relationship between marijuana smoking and these behavioral characteristics.” Many other expert reviews have come to the same conclusion.
I am not asking you to agree with me or to tout marijuana as a cure-all, which it manifestly is not. As a longtime health journalist myself, all I am asking is for you to do your homework as a reporter.