“Today’s misinformation… shockingly is just as thick as it was back in the original reefer madness.”
— Curt Robbins
A recent study of claims about cannabis made on the internet found that 80% of the ‘information’ being presented about cannabis online is false. When you’re trying to get good information for your health and wellness, this is downright dangerous. Curt Robbins has been down the rabbit hole and knows where to look for reliable info about cannabinoids, terpenes and other aspects of cannabis that can affect your health. In this segment we talk about:
- The March 2021 study “Internet Claims on the Health Benefits of Cannabis Use” from the Journal of General Internal Medicine
- The importance of clinical studies
- How reefer madness myths from the prohibition era have morphed into new misinformation about the medicinal capabilities of cannabis.
- Where to look for solid information about cannabis.
- How to distinguish between scientific findings and marketing claims
Transcript of Twenty 4:20 Segment 14 with Curt Robbins
Copyright Kannaboom © 2021
Welcome to Twenty 4:20, the bite-sized educational podcast from Kannaboom and Curt Robbins, author of more than 500 articles about the science of hemp and cannabis. We're giving 20 cannabis topics 20 minutes each to help you get smarter about terpenes, cannabinoids, cultivars and much, much more. And our show starts now. It's Tom, we're back with Curt Robbins for Twenty 4:20, our ongoing series of 20-minute bite-sized educational bits. Hey, Curt, how are you doing today?
Curt Robbins 0:30
I'm doing well. Tom, how's life in San Diego?
Good. Getting my second shot soon and looking forward to going out to restaurants and having a beer at a bar and just living life.
Curt Robbins 0:42
Exactly. Back in the norm, the things that are dear and special to us. Yeah, I I missed the bar experience too. You know, I know both of us prefer to tout CBD and THC over ethanol and you know, being heavy drinkers. But there is something that's really fun, in North America about sitting at a bar and meeting people and having a few drinks.
I think it's going to be a fun summer in that there's so much pent up demand for just human connection. And, you know, let's all get out there and have fun this year.
Curt Robbins 1:15
I think you're right. Here in Vegas they're setting new records every weekend. So I know their best year to date was a few years ago, when they hit 46 million people came to visit Vegas in one calendar year. So some are predicting they're gonna beat it because of all this pent up demand. So we'll see
It's gonna be the roaring 20s all over again.
Curt Robbins 1:36
Let's hope only with legal weed, right.
But you brought up a really good topic that bears some scrutiny. And it relates to an article published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine in March about internet claims on the health benefits of cannabis use.
Curt Robbins 1:52
Tell us about that.
Curt Robbins 1:54
Well, this is the results of this study, you know, the good, almost-clickbaitish in that in a nutshell. They found, and we'll talk about the details in a second. But the results that blow everybody's mind are they checked all these information sources and searched for terms like 'marijuana benefits' and 'weed benefits' and 'marijuana health' and 'cannabis health,' you know, etc. all trying to see what was available through lay publications to lay people on the internet as amplified by social media. And they found that 80% by their definition, that's just one study and one set of researchers, but by their definition 80% of what they found was patently totally false.
Curt Robbins 2:42
Yeah. Now what was patently totally true, they said it was only 4.9% Oh my God, not even 5%. Now, here's where it gets a little complicated, is it is very important to recognize the fact that these researchers did not consider non-clinical data. So you and I often just discuss research right into these cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids. And that research is sometimes in the form of a clinical trial involving human beings, right? That's the gold standard. And we dedicated an entire episode way back when to research and in the methodologies and what it's all about. So the gold standard, the best you can do is a human trial on the call to placebo control, double or triple blind, and they're very expensive. They're major, sometimes multi-year, multi-continent projects. But valid data is obtained from non-human trials from rodent and animal studies. They also have an endocannabinoid system. And sometimes their biochemistry is shockingly similar to humans. So from a science perspective, we learn a lot when we experiment on animals. And the, you know, test tube studies, what we sometimes called petri-dish studies. And that don't involve any animals whatsoever, but they still can reveal that say, a certain cannabinoid or terpene, might have some anti-cancer efficacy. These are, and then the next step is to experiment on animals. And then if we still get positive results that are good for the human race, then we finally escalate to a human trial. And that's basically the way research works. So these researchers and coming up with these very conservative, very strict numbers, like I said, are almost clickbaitish, have said, if it's not a human trial, we're not going to consider it. So any other research that supported these terms that they searched for, they would have said no, that's false. Why? Because it's not a human trial.
So that's a pretty rigorous methodology.
Curt Robbins 4:55
We need to look for that kind of thing. But you know, if we, if we kind of tell us, go back a little to maybe a macro view of this, let's say over decades we know that in the prohibition era there was flat-out lies around reefer madness right there was a ton of government propaganda that was just that was all not...
Curt Robbins 5:14
Invented misinformation, exactly disinformation misinformation, however you want to slice that onion. You know, the folks in the 19 teens and 1920s and 1930s. This lasted for a long time, this era of fabricated stories of how you know, a young man smoked marijuana and took up a hatchet and killed his entire family. This sounds ridiculous by modern standards. And you and I've talked about it a bit on past episodes. But these were being printed in like, you know, San Francisco's major newspapers, by the Hearst family, William Randolph Hearst. And without getting into all that granularity and what happened during those 30 years. It's important to say that that misinformation overstated the risks and, and, and the harm provided by this plant. They sometimes took what you know, people do have panic attacks and such sometimes when I smoke, THC, potent cannabis, but they were just creating these crazy hyperbole-laden stories that looked great. It was like the original clickbait in the newspapers of the 19 teens and 1920s. Right, it was really crazy. But again, their misinformation said this is really really bad stuff. This is toxic. This is poison. Today's misinformation, which shockingly is just as thick as it was back in the original reefer madness. This is, as a science person. I'm a little wigged out. Okay. But today's misinformation overstates the benefits. Why? Because they're carpetbaggers, trying to sell more bottles.
That's interesting. I mean, there was a dynamic set up where everyone went, well, you can't believe anything that's official about cannabis, because it's all lies. So there was a vacuum where people were willing to accept anything that was a new claim.
Curt Robbins 7:09
Exactly, exactly. I think to, you know, give listeners a little more insight into the study. These guys are true professionals, they did a very nice job of tersely describing the work that they did in this research. And so let me briefly read their entire introduction. The prevalence of cannabis use is rising among the U.S. population. "As cannabis continues to be legalized throughout the USA, people are turning to the internet and social media for information about its potential health benefits. In this study, we characterize internet claims about the health benefits of cannabis use in the lay press and evaluate the evidence base supporting those claims." That's it and that's very important, because their methodology and their approach to this situation of misinformation in the modern world, is really critical to whether they brought bias to the game or whether they're doing this correctly.
Yeah, trying to find a baseline of scientific evidence and saying, OK, we know this is true, and going from there.
Curt Robbins 8:15
Right, and they have to draw the line somewhere. But I would not say that. I'm not sure I'd go as far as saying that this is a biased study, I think it was an extremely strict study. And then it said nothing non-clinical, because you and I again, we talk about the results of non-clinical, yet peer-reviewed hardcore scientific research on almost every episode. So I think there's extremely valid data to be collected as we try to figure out the mystery of, you know how these terpenes and flavonoids and cannabinoids interact with humans to improve our mental state or our health state?
Well, yeah. And to kind of go along that continuum from, "OK, we're done with the propaganda, there's a certain amount of folklore, there's common sense, but we want to step it up to scientifically rigorous objective knowledge."
Curt Robbins 9:07
Exactly. And I think this is an excellent and very recent example of that, whether you agree with their methodology. And again, I think it's a bit overly strict. But it's, it doesn't just because it's overly strict, doesn't mean it's an invalid way of approaching this. Now I want to see another study done that maybe this would inspire some other researchers to go in and do it and broaden the scope of research results they're willing to consider. But someone will do that, right. It's a large competitive world.
Well, and the doctors I talked to say there's so much research going on. I mean, it's hard to keep up week by week with what's really happening now and that's great. But for listeners, for the average cannabis consumer or CBD consumer out there, what's the best way to know when you're saying you're shopping or you're looking for some information about nanotechnology or, you know, our nano particles of CBD tincture any good or not?
Curt Robbins 10:03
Nano emulsion tech? I've been talking about it in videos and articles recently. It's really hot, you know, among cannabis industry professionals. Everybody's really interested, wondering if there's dollar signs attached to that, you know, what are the pros or what are the cons? So to your point, who the heck can you trust? If somebody says "Yeah, nano emulsion technology is the bomb, everybody should be doing it?" Well, how? Why should I trust that source if someone else and this is the reality of the situation, so that's ooh, nano tech's bad. It's like GMO, it hurts the environment over time. When we get tons of it. It's gonna be like plastic in the ocean. There's fear-mongering, there's conspiracy theories. Unfortunately, you know, I love social media. But social media really helps fire up conspiracy theories. And it's all based on ignorance, right? It's what you and I have been preaching and every episode of the series, it's science, right? It's reasonable, objective, evidence-based, science-based research results. They need to drive business, they need to drive regulatory oversight, and they need to drive consumer and patient behavior.
There's a marketplace of ideas out there, and sometimes it overlays into the marketplace of products. But wanting to discern the truth of things before you put this substance into your body. I think you need to, yeah, as you say, consider the source and look for reputable sources of information. You know, I look to my doctors who I've interviewed who I trust, and I look for U.S. Hemp Authority certified CBD products that I know have met a certain step.
Curt Robbins 11:34
That's a level of trust between business associations and trade groups and associations. There's either trust or there's not trust. And yeah, I know you've been paying attention to those cats for a while now. And you know, you know, it's not your first rodeo, you know, whether you can trust them or not, right.
Yeah. And sometimes you have to outsource it. I'm not a chemist. So you know, I wouldn't know where [inaudible]. But I talked to chemists and doctors, and I do trust them. Certainly, doctors have a higher standard of proof. I mean, sometimes I've been frustrated in that, you know, can't you tell me that the anti-tumor properties are going to be good for someone who has cancer? And they won't go that far. Because, as you say, there's not a clinical study that they can point to. So it's going to take time for some of these things to manifest themselves. But in the meantime, you do have to pay attention to sources.
Curt Robbins 12:20
Yeah, you know, and I, I do for the record, like the wellness professionals and others in the industry, who use that as as their line in the sand, the clinical trial, if they're like, 'Look, unless we have multiple, you know, high-level well-financed, well-organized, clinical trials involving human beings,' they're not going to buy the hype. They're not going to believe that limonene is good for asthma or cancer or you know, that there might be an anti-inflammation mechanism built into the interaction of many of these phytomolecules with the mammalian and human endocannabinoid systems. So yeah, who do you trust? Well, let's get back to that, because I think that's what best serves listeners. Okay, I have a client in Colorado, and they're a terpene company. And I, in every article, we do two articles a month, we're going to turn it up louder in the near future. But we're putting out a lot of content, right, and it's all about the medicinal efficacy of terpenes. And I cite peer-reviewed research studies, we embed links right in our article. So it's like, 'Don't trust me, go, go, trust go, I'm going to show you my underwear drawer, I'm going to show you my source material, there's no secrets here, go check out this research study.' And some of them get very complicated. So I feel for patients and readers who are like, 'Whoa, wait, you know, this is a little too complicated.' It is you know, sometimes like you say you got to outsource it and go bring in a chemist to help you dissect everything or a doctor or something. But many of these research studies and this March 2021 study here regarding misinformation is a great example. I encourage you to, you know, drop a link in the show notes for the listener so they can check it out on their own. But they did a very nice job of dropping overly scientific verbiage. And it's very readable, the readability is right up there. It's not intimidating at all for readers. And this is kind of a trend in research studies. And some of them, some researchers realized that if you make a little more readable to the layperson, you're gonna get more people reading it, right and a larger audience is always a good thing. They're not doing the studies. So only two people read about it, right? I mean, it's the efficacy of the information. You know, it's easier to have an impact if you make it intelligible. I'm looking at it now and I like there's a flow chart in it, which is a great aid to understanding and part of good research is just transparency. They're not hiding. Anything in terms of, you know, motive or mechanism or investigative approach. And, you know, this is a good solid study again, it's a very strict study. And I think somebody who wanted to be whiny about it could say all they were biased in their approach, because they didn't consider the non- clinical data, you know? Everybody's got an opinion. That's, that's one way of looking at it. Again, my, I'm gonna officially say it's just very conservative. It's one approach to it, right, like a truck, a pickup truck as an approach to a vehicle. So as a Porsche Turbo, that's, that's another approach to a vehicle.
Absolutely. Just this week, as we record this, New York, New Mexico in Virginia came online as the latest right? Decriminalized. Chuck Schumer, the majority leader, is talking about federal decriminalization, so the tide keeps turning. I mean, we talked about this month after month, but boy, it sure seems like we've hit a tipping point here. And there are gonna be more and more people who are logging on looking for information, there's going to be some charlatans out there promising the moon, there is a need for good, reliable, trustworthy information.
Curt Robbins 16:07
Yeah, you bring up a great point, eventually, we're not sure exactly when it's gonna happen. But every single North American will have legal access to adult use cannabis, some of them could even grow it themselves, not all but some, and they're going to need reliable information about how to grow it and how to store it. And if I, if I partied a little too much, how do I deal with that? What's the underlying mechanism? And generally what's, just because other things you know, if we eat too much food or drink too much alcohol or or those are the most of North Americans are used to dealing with those situations good, better and different. But cannabis is very new to most consumers. You and I have been doing it for a long time. But we're quite honestly not the norm. And people. It's great to see when a state goes legal, right, and folks want to get on board and go to the new dispensary. But if you know if they walk in and say what's good for pain, and the bud tender says any entaco do. You know, we have a little problem, right?
Sure. Well, and having worked in marketing, I know you've always got to tell the consumers, your prospects about the potential benefits. But sometimes those benefits can get blown out of proportion, if absolutely careful. So there's always a tension between marketing and actual reality. Let's put it that way. For sure. You know, you do want to let people know what to expect with the product, but do it within the parameters of something that's verifiable?
Curt Robbins 17:40
Yeah, everybody's got to put food on the table, make a fair profit, but how do you do so within an ethical and factual zone? And therein lies the issue. And like we're saying, you know, more than 100 years ago, when reefer madness emerged among the states, ironically, California was the first state to make cannabis illegal. Also the first state Oh, not the first state then to re legalize it. Right. That was Washington, and Colorado. So it's really funny how people misperceive a lot of this.
We're getting close to 20 minutes. What's your best advice for our listeners who want to stay well informed? Do they wait for the New York Times to put on the front page?
Curt Robbins 18:21
Well, it's pretty geeky, but you can go straight to the research. That's what a lot of people don't realize is just go directly to the research and cut out the middleman. Now I'm kind of a middleman. Okay, so I'm not necessarily advocating that. But I think I do two things. Personally, I go straight to the research. I do three things. And then I find researchers and follow them on Twitter or LinkedIn, like Ph.D.s and medical researchers. And obviously, I'm focusing on folks who are researching cannabinoids and terpenes, and flavonoids and things having to do with hemp, cannabis and marijuana use.
Google Scholar, or how do you find those?
Curt Robbins 18:56
Yes, yeah, I use Google Scholar to develop a lot of my articles and prepare for webinars and such. Just because it taps into so much of what we're talking about and recommending here, peer-reviewed scientific research published in reputable journals.
Good place to look.
Curt Robbins 19:14
Yeah, you know, and then find experts who you trust. And that's another tricky one. But then there are sources like magazines, and sometimes these are thought leaders who summarize the research for us, like I'm one of them, quite honestly, where I'll do the deep dive, and I'll summarize the data. And then I can present that sometimes if we're good at presenting it, we can present it in a single tweet. Right. That's called summarization. And if it's a you know, 38-page research study that goes into that one tweet. Well, there's a bit of time and effort involved in that. But what we're talking about is finding trustable sources. Since the research studies are not always friendly to read. You can find a middle person like me who does, again, the analysis and the summarization and presents it to you in a language that you're comfortable with.
Yeah, I do follow you on Twitter. And you know, sometimes Twitter is for doom-scrolling or joy-scrolling or, you know, you see things in little bits. But I love your presentation on LinkedIn where there's a little more context, you can see a graphic, oftentimes, you'll you've started to do video there too, which can be very arresting for the people who are scrolling and they see you talking and you're saying good stuff. So I will say to all our listeners, definitely follow Curt both on Twitter and LinkedIn if you really want to learn about cannabis because boy, there's nobody else out there who's breaking it down the way I see you doing.
Curt Robbins 20:46
Thanks, Tom. I appreciate it. And just, you know, I try not to name drop too much. But I have started two other Twitter accounts, one's called Learn and Teach Others and the other one is Higher Learning LV and that's my training company that's going to be doing all the seminars and courses. So that's, I almost want to drive people to those accounts more than my own because at the end of the day, it's all going to be about Higher Learning LV.
Higher Learning LV and Learn and Teach Others.
Curt Robbins 21:15
Is there anything else we should cover? Because it's an important topic.
Curt Robbins 21:20
I think the most important thing is just that people are cognizant of the traceability or the factuality of the sources they consult. Don't just you know, do a Google search willy nilly and expect that you're going to get valid results back. This study shows that there is a very good likelihood that you're going to get results that are marginally factual or maybe just totally off the ranch.
Yeah, a bit of the Wild West out there very much right now. So buyer beware. Pay attention to who you're listening to and try to find good information.
Curt Robbins 21:55
Caveat emptor, peeps. Mm hmm.
Absolutely. All right. I think that's a wrap. Thanks, Curt.
Curt Robbins 22:00
Hey, thanks, Tom.
We'll be back soon. You've been listening to Twenty 4:20 a special edition podcast series from Kannaboom and Curt Robbins. Want to learn more and help grow the cannabis movement? Spread the word and follow us on your favorite podcast platform or at Kannaboom.com
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