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The Clinic: The Feds Burn Money Studying Weed-Friendly Twitter Feeds

The federal government has been blocking vital research into marijuana’s medicinal benefits for decades — an anti-science crusade that continues today even as we learn more about the incredible healing power of this herbal remedy.

As The Nation recently reported, much of this opposition can be attributed to the outsized power of the pharmaceutical industry, which spends huge sums every year on campaign contributions and political lobbying, and sees herbal marijuana as a dangerous threat to its bottom line. So instead of trying to figure out if cannabis really can cure some cancers, the National Institute of Health and the National Institute on Drug Abuse recently funded a study at the University of Washington looking into whether exposure to a pro-pot Twitter feed might encourage America’s impressionable youth to try smoking pot.

“As people are becoming more accepting of marijuana use and two states have legalized the drug for recreational use, it is important to remember that it remains a dangerous drug of abuse,” according to lead researcher Dr. Patricia A. Cavazos-Rehg. “I’ve been studying what is influencing attitudes to change dramatically and where people may be getting messages about marijuana that are leading them to believe the drug is not hazardous.”

To find out, three people spent eight months analyzing tweets from Weed Tweets (@stillblazingtho), a satirical website that mostly spreads memes related to marijuana. Some are silly, but others make important points about the relative safety of marijuana compared to alcohol, the unfairness of harsh penalties for pot users, and the benefits of legalization. Notably, the study didn’t try to find out if the feed’s followers are better informed about marijuana, only if they’re more likely to use it. And even then, after burning through all that taxpayer money, they didn’t even reach a conclusion.

“With the study we can’t say that the media messages then led to marijuana use behaviors,” admits Cavazos-Rehg. “But if we look at the studies that have been done that examined traditional media outlets like television, radio, billboards, magazines, there have been longitudinal studies that have shown that media messages are influential on substance use behaviors and attitudes.”

Wow, money well spent then. Way better than trying to prove that cannabis can help treat PTSD in combat veterans.

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