Medical pot expert withdraws warning that ‘marijuana overdoses’ are epidemic

Warning: Contains graphic images A Toronto Public Health official has backed down from her claims to a newspaper that an analysis of the high number of marijuana overdoses in Canada’s largest city was “routine.”…

Medical pot expert withdraws warning that ‘marijuana overdoses’ are epidemic

Warning: Contains graphic images

A Toronto Public Health official has backed down from her claims to a newspaper that an analysis of the high number of marijuana overdoses in Canada’s largest city was “routine.”

In response to an editorial in the Toronto Sun published Thursday, Eric Lindenberger, a vice-chair with Toronto Public Health, doubled down on his claims that the city’s smoking rate is the highest in Canada.

“This was just one sentence in a column that only attempted to promote discourse,” Lindenberger wrote in an email to the Sun, “that’s all. This is strictly about free speech, and our city council recently defended it to the court. I do not apologize for simply exercising my right to free speech. I would have been free to publish a column about how vaping is no more addictive than tobacco smoking, or how vaping does not contribute to brain cancer. I honestly believe that to be true. I wrote about this because I care, not because I had pre-conceived notions.”

Toronto Public Health, in response to the Sun, issued a brief statement:

“A statement sent to The Sun on Friday, regarding our email exchange with Vice-Chair Eric Lindenberger, wishes to clarify the wording and context of that exchange. Our email referenced media reports concerning the amount of medical marijuana-related complications and deaths in a study conducted by the Public Health Agency of Canada. It is important to note that our goal was not to make light of the data but to provide readers with context for what the data showed. There was no request to publish a news story on the data.”

The press release, which lays out much of the reasoning behind the reaction to the use of the term “marijuana overdoses,” notes that “Mr. Lindenberger implied that data available to the Sun, in the form of a news article, necessitated a comprehensive summary of this data by the City of Toronto. This was done incorrectly.”

The press release then goes on to blame all of the fallout on a New York Times article published Friday entitled, “The High Cost of Canada’s Legalization of Pot.”

The Sun stood by its editorial.

The article, which appears to have been lifted from an opinion piece published in the local Indigenous community newspaper BlackSpark, talks about issues surrounding the legalization of marijuana. The controversy started when Lindenberger emailed that the term “marijuana overdoses” was appropriate.

The Vice-chair claims her response was misunderstood.

“It is true that the City’s position is to educate the public,” Lindenberger wrote. “I am simply advocating for increased discourse and vigorous debate about a controversial issue, which is what I am trying to do.”

Laura Williams, the mother of a two-year-old son who suffers from epilepsy, said she was insulted when Lindenberger said vaping was no more dangerous than smoking.

“If they claim that vaping is a medical device (and it is not) like they claim, if they are doing something for medical reason, then I am not worried about it, but vaping is very addictive,” Williams said, according to the Toronto Sun.

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Brian Hughes is a producer at Fox News. Follow him on Twitter @BrianHughesFox

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