8851 Canadians Killed By Cannabis Is What They Said - RxLeaf
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8851 Canadians Killed By Cannabis Is What They Said

Lydia K. RN

A respected news publication corrects its typo by doubling down on shoddy journalism.  

Cannabis enthusiasts burned after a statistical guffaw when a major Canadian publication made a typo error seeing 8851 Canadians killed by cannabis in 2014. What? Even when the press readjusted this figure to a more palatable 851 deaths, cannabis advocates rightly doubted it.

The article first appeared in the Vancouver Sun, but was later found making a semi-viral round through the Internet with the SAME typo. It is astonishing (and somewhat depressing) that the error went unnoticed by several editors and newsrooms that reprinted the story.

So, How Can 851 Canadians Die By Cannabis??

The idea enrages Dana Larsen, a publisher and the director of the Vancouver Dispensary Society. The 851 figure came from a report by the Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research (CISUR) in collaboration with the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA). Mr Larsen tweeted to both organizations plus some media outlets questioning the stat.

Nick Eaglund from the Vancouver Sun was the first to reply, correcting the original 8851 figure to 851 deaths attributable to cannabis use. He commented that the error must have been a typo by the Canadian press reporter handling the story. Within the next day, Canadian press had rectified this figure, it now reads as 851 deaths in other online press as well.

The same article reported 14,827 deaths from alcohol, 47,562 from tobacco and 2,396 deaths from opioids. But, considering that death by overdose is not possible with cannabis, what could be causing this 851 Canadians to succumb to cannabis?

Spoiler Alert: It Was Lung Cancer

Of the 851 deaths, 638 deaths linked to lung cancer while the remainder linked to car accidents. The data used for lung cancer came from a single study carried out in 2013 in Sweden. It found that heavy cannabis users have double the chance of getting lung cancer over a span of forty years. Extrapolating this figure covers all the cannabis users in Canada. This study, however, says cannabis smokers do not get lung cancer from cannabis. In fact, cannabinoids benefit the fight against lung cancer.

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Critics blast the study for failing to differentiate between deaths attributable to cannabis use and those attributable to tobacco use. It is interesting to note that 91% of the participants in the cited study used cannabis in addition to tobacco.

More Accurate Figures, Please

The International Lung Cancer Consortium carried out a major meta-analysis of six studies in 2015. Results rule out any association between cannabis smoking and lung cancer not involving tobacco.  This is what the most current information about cannabis use and lung cancer has to say. It is unfortunate that CISUR chose to go with an earlier and unsubstantiated study while there are more recent studies reporting contrary findings.

As for the 213 cannabis-caused road deaths, it still appears exaggerated.  A 2018 study placed the figure of cannabis related driving deaths at 75 deaths per annum in Canada. CCSA conducted the recent study, so it is very odd that they went with a different study that tripled the mortality.

It is also important to note that cannabis associated driving deaths usually arise when the person driving has taken very high amounts of THC. Most times, they have also consumed alcohol or drugs along with the cannabis.

Did Not Mention The Benefits of Cannabis

The article highlighted the financial implications and mortalities resulting from the use of alcohol, tobacco, cannabis and opioids. It is an extreme bias to put cannabis in the sole category of recreational use.

Cannabis has more to offer than being a ‘recreational drug’. Indiana University chair of biology department, Thomas Clark, recently released the results of a meta-analysis carried out by the University. The study found that cannabis use contributes to decreases in obesity rates, mortality from traumatic brain injuries, abuse of alcohol and prescription drugs, opioid overdose and driving fatalities. If we compare the two, there is statistical proof that cannabis use potentially prevents more deaths than it could cause. Prohibiting cannabis consumption would deny people a healthier lifestyle than it ever would be prevent cannabis linked deaths.

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Starting from inaccurate figures, to the use of unsubstantiated data and finally the failure to take into consideration the immense benefits of cannabis, the article was openly biased against cannabis. Could this be modern cannabis propaganda?

Lydia Kariuki

RN, Expert medical writer who is passionate about cannabis!

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