Home » The Second Column »

NIH Director Francis Collins —Ignorant, Dishonest, or Both?

Francis Collins AFP:Getty Images

“NIH Director Collins on Legalizing Pot: Not So Fast” was the headline on a USA Today story February 28.  Collins’ comments seemed to reveal total ignorance —but total ignorance implies absence of bias, and Collins consistently erred on the side of Prohibition.  Here’s the USA Today piece with our retro messages:

WASHINGTON – One of the nation’s top scientists raised concerns about the nationwide move to legalize marijuana, saying regular use of the drug by adolescents had been tied to a drop in IQ and that a possible link to lung cancer hasn’t been seriously studied.

The “drop-in-IQ” study that Collins cites was very small and its methodology seriously flawed (no control for socioeconomic status), but the mainstream media has treated its conclusions like gospel truth. A large, thoroughly controlled study of whether marijuana smoking causes lung cancer, funded by NIDA and conducted by pulmonologist Donald Tashkin and colleagues at UCLA, involved about 1100 cancer patients and an equal number of controls. The results were reported in 2005 at the International Cannabinoid Research Society meeting and published in 2006:  marijuana smoking was found to not cause lung cancer and to exert a small protective effect, probably due to its anti-oxidant properties. Bronchial cells are damaged by marijuana smoke, Tashkin concluded, but die off instead of metastasizing. 

“I’m afraid I’m sounding like this is an evil drug that’s going to ruin our civilization and I don’t really think that,” Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, said Thursday. “But there are aspects of this that probably should be looked at more closely than some of the legalization experts are willing to admit.”

What mealy-mouthed doubletalk! The man wants to uphold Prohibition but he doesn’t want to be considered a crackpot in the year 2014. Unfortunately, he is a crackpot —”born again,” which means delusional— and a proven cheater. See this informative note about Collins)… And now back to USA Today:

Collins, 63, is a geneticist who led the project to map the human genome. Since 2009, he has headed the NIH, the nation’s leading agency for biomedical research… He said the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which he oversees, was interested in pursuing such studies now that legalization has made them more feasible to do. But the process will take time, he cautioned.

NIDA has been funding studies for decades trying to establish that marijuana is harmful. In the process, NIDA-backed researchers inadvertently discovered the body’s own endocannabinoid system and explained why cannabinoids from external sources —THC from marijuana smoke, for example— can exert medical benefits. 

“We don’t know a lot about the things we wish we did,” Collins said at a small dinner with journalists hosted by USA TODAY and National Geographic. “I’ve been asked repeatedly, does regular marijuana smoking, because you inhale deeply, increase your risk of lung cancer? We don’t know. Nobody’s done that study.”

Is it possible that the director of NIH actually doesn’t know about Donald Tashkin’s landmark study? Is he ignorant, dishonest, or both?

Last year, Colorado and Washington state legalized marijuana, and a majority of states across the country are considering legalizing the drug or decriminalizing it for medical or recreational use.

In the past, research was complicated because marijuana was outlawed.

“There’s a lot we don’t know because it’s been an illegal drug, so how do you run a research project asking people to sign up who by their signing up are admitting they are breaking a law and might get into trouble?” he said. “I think one of the things we’ll need to do is take advantage of legalization now to try to mount studies that were impossible before, if people are willing to participate.”

It’s takes a lot of gall to say that marijuana research has lagged in the U.S. because human subjects were afraid to participate. The American people have been begging the government to allow research that would establish the safety and efficacy of cannabis. Collins’ contention is the very opposite of the truth, and it reveals his bias. 

That said, he said it already had been documented that regular marijuana use by adolescents, particularly early adolescents, had a significant and lifelong impact on the brain, leading to an average loss of about 10 IQ points.

“Perhaps it would be better if, before we plunged into this, there was a little bit more recognition of that particular consequence,” he said.

Note that  the conclusions from the small, discredited IQ study are now “documented,” and there should be more “recognition” that IQ loss is a “consequence” of marijuana use. And legalization is being “plunged into” 18 years after Proposition 215 passed. And the 7.8 point IQ drop detected in 23 heavy marijuana users who got in trouble as teenagers has been upped to “about 10 IQ points.”  … I used to play in a pick-up basketball game where, in the heat of competition, certain guys would sometimes mis-state the score. And they always misstated it in their favor!  Guys like Francis Collins (not that I make him for a hoopster). He seems to blither, but his words are actually chosen quite carefully. —Fred Gardner, O’Shaughnessy’s News Service

P.S. March 1

From Clifford Schaffer:  

I don’t know your familiarity with the various types of IQ tests but 100 points is typically “average” and levels of significant difference go up or down from there in about fifteen point increments. So the difference found is about half of the normal variation that could be expected if the people took the same test twice a few years apart. So, no real difference at all, even if you assumed that everything else was completely accurate.

And from Rick Doblin of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS):

Sad to see such willful ignorance.

In addition to what has already been pointed out,  Collins said, “There’s a lot we don’t know because it’s been an illegal drug, so how do you run a research project asking people to sign up who by their signing up are admitting they are breaking a law and might get into trouble?” 

Collins must know that researchers can obtain Certificates of Confidentiality that protect the identity of subjects in research studies, precisely so that illegal activity can be researched without placing the subjects at risk:

Certificates of Confidentiality
To ensure that an investigator may not be compelled in any Federal, State, or local civil,
criminal, administrative, legislative, or other proceedings to identify individuals who are the
subject of biomedical, behavioral, clinical or other research, the Secretary of the Department of
Health and Human Services (DHHS), may authorize persons engaged in such research to protect
the subjects’ privacy through a Certificate of Confidentiality obtained from the National
Institute on Drug Abuse (42 CFR Part 2a).

As for the lack of research, it’s now been 4 months and 1 week that the Public Health Service reviewers have been sitting on MAPS‘ marijuana/PTSD protocol.

Support O’Shaughnessy’s

O’Shaughnessy’s is an educational program sponsored by the California Cannabis Research Medical Group, a public IRS Section 501(c)(3) charity. 

Winter 2015/16 Print Edition

O’S Available Here

OS-AH1

O’S First E-Book – Available Now!

Recommended Reading

Double-click to edit content...

Plugs

Prop 215 Ballads – Fred Gardner’s CD Medical Cannabis Videos

Our Entourage

Best newspaper in America Dr. Tod – The Movie The Society of Cannabis Clinicians was formed as a project of the California Cannabis Research Medical Group in the Autumn of 2004. Project CBD is a non-profit educational service dedicated to promoting and publicizing research into the medical utility of cannabidiol (CBD) and other components of the Cannabis plant. News and political analysis Dr. Lester Grinspoon, M.D. is Associate Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Grinspoon was senior psychiatrist at the Massachusetts Mental Health Center in Boston for 40 years. Consultant Newhead News Political allies Whole plant medicinal extracts Great artwork, incisive politics Omar
"They were willing to trust anyone who was dressed as a scientist."
—Elvis Costello

The Second Column

A Welcome Edition

Here is an interview in which Ethan Russo, MD,  discusses the Indica/Sativa controversy in  a new journal edited by Dr. Daniele Piomelli, Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research. And here are  links to …

Trial of FAAH-Inhibitor Drug Goes Awry

BIA 10-2474

From Nancy Sajben, MD, January 15 (early morning):   French drug trial: one person brain dead and five critically ill.  http://gu.com/p/4fp35?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other From B.B. to Dr. Gregory Gerdeman January 15: …

Note to Sewell Chan of the NYT

sewell chan photo by earl wilson, nytimes

January 16, 2016 From Fred Gardner     That was a very informative piece you wrote about Bial’s tragic trial of a FAAH-inhibitor drug. Thanks for citing of Marisol Touraine’s …

The NIDA Surge

The promotion of Dr. Nora Volkow to celebrity status ‘is part of a public relations surge in which NIDA takes credit for acknowledging the medical potential of cannabis. Under Dr. Volkow’s enlightened direction NIDA has …

O’Shaughnessy’s Winter 2015/16 (the new issue is out)

OSs1

The new print edition is now available. We printed 40,000 and when they’re gone, they’re gone. Here is the Winter 2015/16 table of contents —72 pages, unique reporting and analysis. And …

Terpenes Panel at the Emerald Cup

Dr. Mark Lewis

During a panel devoted to terpenes at the 2015 Emerald Cup in Santa Rosa a fact emerged that was news to me: the old landrace strains are very low in …

Health and Happiness: a Retro Message

Happy Go Lucky sheet music

A study published December 9 in The Lancet challenges the conventional wisdom that unhappiness causes illness and hastens death. Dr. Betty Liu, University of New South Wales, and colleagues at Oxford …

Our Own Private Anslinger

Madras ondcp

By Fred Gardner December 18,  2015     My friend Mike Krawitz says his attempt to get the World Health Organization to review its classification of marijuana has been sabotaged by invisible …

SSRI use in pregnancy more than doubles autism risk

fda-2

 The headline on the JAMA Pediatrics article, published online December 14, was not as crude as ours —”Antidepressant Use During Pregnancy and the Risk of Autism Spectrum Disorder …

‘The Reign of Law’

Reign of Law

The new O’Shaughnessy’s includes an excerpt from a novel published in 1900 by Macmillan, “The Reign of Law: a tale of the Kentucky Hemp Fields,” by James Lane Allen. …

Happy Hannukah, Monica

** FILE ** Monica Lewinsky, and her entourage, walks back to a hotel in Washington in this Feb. 2, 1999 file photo. An assortment of controversies were tacked on to the Whitewater controversy, one by one, to the initial probe by Kenneth Starr, a prominent Washington lawyer and a conservative, including President Clinton's alleged perjury and obstruction regarding his relationship with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky. (AP Photo/Greg Gibson, File)

  A topical ballad, eight days a year.  The Repugs who were out to impeach Bill Clinton were, to a man, proponents of the War on Drugs. Smarmy Joe Lieberman also …

Russo, Deutsch Update SCC Docs

CBD plants in KY from Bill Polyniak

December 7, 2015   This is being dashed off to meet the online deadline. Come back to the link for a fuller account… The Society of Cannabis Clinicians met …

Antioxidants and CBD

Vitamin C bottle

A warning From Joe D. Goldstrich, M.D., a reassuring response from Dustin Sulak D.O., and an additional comment from Goldstrich, December 4-8. First the warning:   The attached review article …

Real Dispensaries of New York

Bronx Botanica photo by Hiroko Masuike:NYT

A study of the herbal remedies being used by Latino and Caribbean immigrants in New York is the subject of a Nov.15  feature in the New York Times by Richard …

Next FDA director explains Big PhRMA ties

fda-sfSpan

 Dr. Robert M. Califf, President Obama’s nominee to direct the Food and Drug Administration, “coasted through” a Senate committee confirmation hearing Nov. 17, according to Sabrina Tavernise’s account in the …

Rediscovered: lymph circulation in brain

Lymph-brain connection

Patrick Monk, RN, forwarded an article by a University of Virginia publicist describing the discovery of lympathic vessels in the brain by Antoine Louveau, Jonathan Kipnis and colleagues at UVA School of Medicine. …

Our History

THM 21_1

Steve Robinson, MD, audited a presentation by Beverly Mikuriya, MD, to the Rosmoor Medical Marijuana Education & Support Club in Walnut Creek on November 10.  The club’s  education coordinator, …

How Significant is Breyer’s Order in MAMM Case?

We had asked if US District Judge Charles Breyer’s order blocking enforcement of the injunction closing down the Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana would similarly block DEA participation …

Real Legalization

Prop 19 -73

From Dr. Michael Aldrich October 23, 2015    The best initiative ever was CMI 1972 —the California Marijuana Initiative. It told the government what it could not do …

Reform CA ‘Legalization’ Should Protect Workers’ Rights

clerical workers

Dale Gieringer, the director of California NORML, has played an active role in drafting the Reform CA “legalization” initiative. I had objected to a provision in the current draft …