The “Science” That Arizona Anti-Marijuana Speakers Will Unleash


A month before our 2014 election to legalize marijuana in Oregon, Kevin Sabet was brought in by county sheriffs, district attorneys, and rehab programs to tour the state. The alleged purpose of the tour was merely to provide citizens with scientific information about cannabis. But given that their headline speaker formed America’s most-visible anti-marijuana organization, Project SAM, and was dubbed by Rolling Stone the “quarterback of the anti-legalization movement”, Congressman Earl Blumenauer and other critics questioned whether taxpayer money was basically funding a campaign in opposition to the marijuana legalization ballot initiative.

Now, Phoenix New Times reports that similar shenanigans are afoot with taxpayer-funded Arizona anti-marijuana speakers as the state has two campaigns working to legalize marijuana statewide in 2016. A supposed educational event entitled “Marijuana: The Science and the Experiment” will take place from 9am to 4pm on Tuesday, September 22, at the Black Canyon Conference Center. New Times writes:

Hosted by the “Marijuana Harmless? Think Again!” campaign, an offshoot of the Yavapai County substance abuse program MATFORCE led by Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk, the event is expected to bring in business and healthcare professionals, substance abuse specialists, law enforcement types, and “interested community members.”

Don’t expect a neutral presentation, though: The target is not necessarily truth, but achieving the political — and non-scientific — goal of thwarting legalization. The organizers and most of the speakers are staunch prohibitionists.

Indeed, the lineup features some of the most reefer mad prohibitionists in America, most of whom have strong financial incentive to maintain the status quo of prohibition. Here are two of the scheduled speakers who I’ve blogged about in the past and some of the “science” they have to offer:

Teens with over 100x the active THC limit for driving in Colorado?
Teens with over 100x the active THC limit for driving in Colorado?

Christian Thurstone, M.D. – The medical director for Denver’s Adolescent Substance Abuse Treatment Education & Prevention Program. Dr. Thurstone published a chart in 2013 showing the incredible rise in the levels of active THC found in the urine of adolescents admitted for rehab in Denver, from an average of 358ng/mL to 536ng/mL. Given that 1) it’s THC metabolites (THC-COOH, to be specific) you detect in urine, 2) active THC is detected through blood tests, and 3) the presumptive impairment limit for active THC in blood in Colorado is 5ng/mL, a commenter asked, “I’d be interested to know whether those urinalysis results were for actual THC or for THC metabolites like 11-hydroxy-THC?” Dr. Thurstone replied, “Thanks for writing. Good question. We were measuring THC.” Dr. Thurstone closed his post wondering “It is reasonable now to question how much longer it will be before we see injection use of THC — especially as marijuana is legalized.”

Dr. Thurstone also reacted to the appearances of Dr. Carl Hart and Dr. Julie Holland in Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s remarkable Weed documentary, by saying his colleague “Dr. Paula Riggs, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Colorado, is a true expert — not a self-proclaimed expert — in the research and treatment of marijuana addiction. She has extensive experience in clinical practice and research and also peer-reviewed publications in the field — unlike some of the the sources Dr. Gupta and the CNN production team chose to feature at great length.” (You can judge Drs. Hart’s & Holland’s bona fides here.)

Christine-Tatum-Blames-Boston-Bombs-on-Weed-400x600Christine Tatum – co-author of the book Clearing the Haze: Helping Families Face Teen Addiction, and the wife of Dr. Christian Thurstone. Tatum believes that marijuana may be to blame for some of the high profile domestic terrorism and mass shooting incidents in America. Upon the capture of Boston bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, Tatum wrote “We MUST start asking hard questions about marijuana use and these violent outbursts. In some people, marijuana use induces psychosis, paranoia, and aggression. The science is there. The connection is real.”

When called on that egregious outburst, Tatum doubled down, writing, “Look at the science. Inquire! Connect these dots if it’s appropriate.  [Congressperson Gabby Giffords’ assailant Jared] Loughner. [Aurora movie theater shooter James] Holmes. [Columbine school shooters Dylan] Klebold [and Eric] Harris. [Rudy] Eugene, the Miami face-eater. It is time for us to look long and hard at the THC levels in our prison population.”

Christine-Tatum-Blames-School-Shootings-on-Marijuana-400x600In another incident, Tatum lamented the terrible customer service at a Denver-area Lowe’s Home Improvement warehouse. It turned out the store was understaffed because they can’t find enough workers who will take and pass a piss test, now that Colorado has recognized a constitutional right to marijuana. “Wonder of wonders,” Tatum writes, “Lowe’s doesn’t want people acutely or sub-acutely under the influence of marijuana operating forklifts, using circular saws, cutting ceramic tiles, driving company trucks — or cleaning its toilets.” That “sub-acutely” she refers to is a claim by prohibitionists that even when you’re not high on the active THC in your bloodstream, the presence of inactive marijuana metabolites in your system still means you’re impaired, apparently so impaired you can’t clean a toilet.

"Radical" Russ Belville is a blogger, podcaster, and host of The Russ Belville Show, a daily two-hour talk radio show focused on the evolution of the legal marijuana industry in the United States. The program is airing live at 3pm Pacific Time from Portland, Oregon, on, with podcast available on iTunes and Stitcher Radio. Russ began his marijuana activism in 2005 with Oregon NORML, then in 2009 went on to work for National NORML, and found and direct Portland 2015.