Article by Richard Cowan, former NORML National Director and author of CBD Salves For Skin: How Is Salve Different From CBD Oil?
One of the most common examples of a fallacious argument is the “fallacy of appealing to an authority in an unrelated field… citing Albert Einstein as an authority for a determination on religion when his primary expertise was in physics.”
The opinions of medical doctors carry a lot of weight in our society, consequently we need to be very aware of the limitations of their expertise. A recent example can be found in the January 16, 2021 issue of Public Health & Policy in an Op-Ed: We Should Not Allow a Marijuana Free-for-All — Harms from cannabis are real — they must be recognized and mitigated by Sarah C. Hull, MD, MBE.
Dr Hull is on the faculty at Yale Medical School where she is a cardiologist, and her opinions as such should be respected. However, this article is an excellent example of the problem of citing authorities outside of their area of expertise.
She says that “decriminalizing marijuana is a logical and ethical course of action.
However, changes to marijuana policy should be based on science (emphasis added) and enacted thoughtfully and judiciously in order to minimize potential harm while protecting individual liberty… it would be an error to infer it is therefore harmless.)”
Of course, nothing is harmless for everyone, at all doses, under all circumstances, so nothing would be legal if harmlessness were a requirement. See Straw man
“Smoking marijuana in particular has been associated with a nearly five-fold increased risk of heart attack in the hour immediately following.
Correlation isn’t causation, and having a heart attack following marijuana use is very rare, but this is an appropriate example of citing authorities in their area of expertise.
However, she follows with “marijuana may pose a risk of harm to others… through motor vehicle accidents due to impaired judgment and motor skills.” These are areas not usually considered relevant to cardiology.
Now consider a public policy recommendation: “(P)ossession and use of marijuana by adults that does not directly affect others should not carry significant criminal penalties, particularly as enforcement patterns in practice have only served to entrench systemic racism.
There is substantial need for more research to guide specific policy development going forward, and in the meantime, recreational use (though not medicinal use) should be generously taxed to fund research efforts as well as addiction treatment in order to enhance benefits to society.”
Now, I have an Economics degree from Yale, but I do not recall anything about cardiology from the curriculum. In fact, I don’t recall anything about “generous” taxation.
Further, she argues that “Mental health and addiction experts should lead the development of guidelines, such as those published by the American Society of Addiction Medicine, including an age limit of at least 21 to minimize risk of potential harm to young developing brains.”
Now that is social policy, not cardiology. Marijuana prohibition did not keep young people from using marijuana, so “an age limit of at least 21” only serves to keep marijuana in the same contraband markets with cocaine, meth etc. So here you have a cardiologist recommending a social policy based on the professional opinion of a group that has supported marijuana prohibition which she more or less repudiated… based on her expertise as a cardiologist.
That may explain a lot.