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De Bonitate

"De Bonitate"
"On Goodness"

Two thousand years ago, Seneca the Younger wrote, "Bonitas non est pessimis esse meliorem" ("Goodness is not being better than the worst"). In other words, if you want to show that something is good and acceptable, you should not be reduced to denigrating other things by dragging them below the thing in question, especially when the examples of the other things are the worst representatives you can find. Nowadays, when people do such a thing, we call it a Moral Equivalence Fallacy.

Arguments for the legalization of marijuana that go along the lines of "It's not as bad as [mundane substance x]" or "[mundane substance x] is worse than it" are perfect examples of arguments that appeal to the Moral Equivalence Fallacy. And for the "mundane substance x," I have heard things like peanuts and coffee. If you are in the position where you need to denigrate peanuts and coffee to make pot look good and acceptable, then you have problems. After all, are we not taught in grade school that it is not a good thing to think that you build yourself up when you put down others?

This is exactly the fallacy that came to mind while I got done reading this nugget of stupidity this morning:

Study: No lung danger from casual pot smoking

Sounds impressive, doesn't it? Well, let's read more of it:

Add one more data point to the decades-old debate over marijuana legalization: A new study concludes that casual pot smoking - up to one joint per day - does not affect the functioning of your lungs.

Weasel words, much?

The key phrase is "up to one joint per day."

In other words, 0-1. As in no joints to one joint.

In other words, you did not even have to smoke pot to be part of this study, since you could be one of the people who smoked 0 joints a day. I therefore could have participated in this study and they would have gotten the same results.

The study, published in the Jan. 11 edition of Journal of the American Medical Association, also offered up a nugget that likely will surprise many: Evidence points to slight increases in lung airflow rates and increases in lung volume from occasional marijuana use.

So, basically, "harm" here is being arbitrarily defined as "decreased air-flow rates or lung volumes"?

"And the data showed that even up to moderately high-use levels -- one joint a day for seven years -- there is no evidence of decreased air-flow rates or lung volumes,"

But would such a decrease be actual harm?

Unlike cigarette smokers, marijuana users tend to breathe in deeply when they inhale a joint, which some researchers think might strengthen lung tissue. But the common lung function tests used in the study require the same kind of deep breathing that marijuana smokers are used to, so their good test results might partly reflect lots of practice

In other words, exercise?

17 percent of participants said they'd smoked cigarettes but not marijuana.

See what I mean when I said, "you did not even have to smoke pot to be part of this study, since you could be one of the people who smoked 0 joints a day"?

On average, cigarette users smoked about 9 cigarettes daily, while average marijuana use was only a joint or two a few times a month -- typical for U.S. marijuana users, Kertesz said.

Yes, and eating one slice of pizza every few weeks is much better for you than eating nine boxes of donuts daily.

And here we have a statement that inspires people to use the Moral Equivalence Fallacy: "See? Pot is not as bad as cigarettes!" And yet, how exactly is little bit of pot sometimes particularly comparable to a bunch of cigarettes every day?

So, yeah, the tl;dr version of this article can be summed up thus: "Harm from pot" is "decreased air-flow rates or lung volumes," and no such evidence can be found, therefore, as the title says, no lung danger from casual pot smoking. And! Not smoking pot every day is not the same as smoking cigarettes every day. Well, I could have told them that.
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Sailor Saturn/Hotaru Tomoe

November 2013



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