When media outlets publish scientific findings, do they behave responsibly or do they adhere to sensationalism? From CNN, this headline:
Could smoking pot raise testicular cancer risk?
As the article states in the lede, the study’s researchers have not moved beyond describing this as a “hypothesis”. How many people will read the just the headline and conclude that smoking marijuana leads to testicular cancer? The last few years of reporting on HIV and male circumcision has shown that people get carried away with fear despite the clear contradictions to the worst case scenario that rational thought provides. A responsible headline would say something like, “Researchers theorize marijuana-testicular cancer link”. That’s weak, I think, but it’s closer to the truth.
Notice, too, how the headline states “testicular cancer risk” rather than “risk of testicular cancer”. People who react with fear rather than reason will stop reading after “cancer”. Like HIV and male circumcision in America, few bother to examine the risk.
Testicular cancer is not common; a man’s lifetime chance of developing testicular cancer is about 1 in 300. Because treatment is so successful, the risk of dying from this cancer is very low: about 1 in 5,000.
But, CANCER! Now the prohibitionists will use another tactic, despite an obvious argument:
For patients using cannabis for medicinal purposes, the improvement in quality of life may outweigh any potential risk of testicular cancer, said [UCLA professor Steve] Shoptaw.
I’d shorten that to state that anyone who smokes marijuana might judge the improvement in quality of life may outweigh any potential risk of testicular cancer. All tastes and preferences are subjective. Individual liberty requires that we set aside our moral disfavor when making laws for any activity that does not intrude on the liberty of another individual. If you smoke pot, you are not harming me in a tangible way. Even if you increase your risk of testicular cancer. Contrary to the prohibitionists, the risk of being offended is irrelevant.