This week Leafly published an article questioning why data shows a correlation between bisexuality in women an an increased likelihood for cannabis use.
In looking at the question of why bisexual women are reported to use more weed, the article quotes another article, this one from The Daily Beast, entitled “Why Do Bi Women Smoke So Much Weed?”
“‘Mary Jane’ is just a euphemism,” it says, “but if she were a person, she’d definitely be bisexual.”
The articles, one from a leading cannabis news source, and one from a major news and culture website, both interrogate important questions. What is the psychological impact of bisexuality when it means alienation from both heterosexual communities and homosexual ones? Can emotional distress cause an increase in substance abuse among a marginalized population?
But there is one important question they don’t ask: is that data even accurate?
The scientific studies cited in these articles both date from nearly two decades ago:
One analyzes data from the 1999 College Alcohol Survey and the other uses data from the 2000 National Alcohol Survey, a telephone survey.
So, a little bit has changed since 2000. Cannabis is now legal for recreational use in eight states and legal for medical use in more than thirty, and also in Canada and Uruguay and probably the whole world soon. Meanwhile, gay rights have seen a sea change in those years. For example, gay marriage has gone from legal in no states to legal in all of them. And bisexuality as a separate but overlapping segment has grown in awareness considerably.
All of that isn’t to say that life is necessarily way better for the LGBTQIAPK+ community than it was in 1999, only that it’s definitely different. And so is our relationship to cannabis.
Couple these changes with the fact even contemporary scientific studies should sometimes be treated with a grain of salt until they’ve been replicated. The Guardian writes that too often scientific research which is consumed by the public (and repurposed for headlines by digital rags like the one you’re currently reading) is motivated by “tremendous pressure in the academic system to publish in high-impact journals” which “demand novel and surprising results.” Thus, the system favors eye-catching results over the kind of fact-checking that’s supposed to make scientific findings reliable.
In other words, academic researchers are in the clickbait business, and that means that, just like in journalism, a good story is sometimes better than the truth.
That doesn’t mean that the results from way back when are unreliable, only that they’re hella old and now that we got all these billions of dollars pumping into the cannabis industry, maybe we should do a new one.