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Dr. Gabriel Nahas

Professor Nahas's Crusade.. or the Art of Disinformation
    by Michka, "Maintenant", October 1993 
What is the origin of the "cannabis toxicity" campaigns? We 
thought it would be a good idea to find out. We were not 
    Professor Nahas is not your average scientist: even before he 
began his research, he knew what the outcome would be. His 
first research project, during the Fifties at Columbia University 
in the United States, was set up to, in his own words,"prove the 
very great danger of marijuana in all fields of biology." The key 
word here is "prove". Not study, but prove. 
    Moreover, Professor Nahas declares openly: "I am an enemy 
of cannabis and I will use all means possible to fight against 
cannabis". And indeed, in this fight, all means are acceptable. 
The war against cannabis, presented as a war for public health, 
is in fact something entirely different: it is a war for values 
which dare not rear their heads in the light of day. So much so 
that, the debate, if there ever is a debate, is skewed: the crux of 
the matter is never touched upon. 
    Those who fight for this system of values that dare not be 
stated are nonetheless so sure of their moral superiority that the 
end seems to justify the means. At least the goal is clearly 
defined: eliminating cannabis, perceived as a threat, from 
Western society and if possible, from the entire planet. All of 
this must be kept in mind when measuring the scope of the little 
phrases that are sprinkled throughout Professor Gabriel Nahas's 
publications: according to him, people who smoke joints "lose 
all interest in worthwhile objectives" . Worthwhile relates to 
certain values. But there is no explicit mention of exactly which 
values because it is quite possible that these values would not 
unanimously accepted. 
    It is safer to do battle on another field, which also has the 
advantage of an apparent neutrality: the field of science. Each 
person forms his/her own system of values, but science is 
supposedly based on facts. It is therefore, in principle, 
acceptable to everyone. Science also has an additional advantage: 
it is hermetic.  So much so that the public at large is forced to 
accept as Gospel the summaries of scientific studies that are put 
before them.

    How could the public at large know that as early as 1975, 
Columbia University called a press conference to disassociate 
itself publicly from Gabriel Nahas's research on marijuana? 
Without carrying out an enquiry, how is one to know that many 
of the studies on which Professor Nahas bases his theories have 
been discredited in the United States and elsewhere for 
methodological errors so serious that they smack of fraud? 
    There are plenty of examples. We shall limit ourselves to a 
single case to illustrate how seemingly scientific studies are used 
to popularize notions that are not in the least rational. It should 
be noted that the experiment in question and others like it are still 
mentioned by Nahas and his followers as proof that cannabis 
causes irreversible brain damage. 
    For this experiment, gas masks were placed on the faces of 
some unfortunate laboratory monkeys so that they would be 
forced to breathe in cannabis smoke.  After exposure, the 
animals were put down and it was discovered that they had 
suffered brain damage. This could have been the end of the 
story. But what happened next is quite edifying: 
    Independent researchers, intrigued by these results which did 
not coincide with the bulk of research in the field, endeavored 
for many years to know just which procedure was used for the 
experiment. Thus, they learned that for five minutes,  the 
monkeys were only permitted to breathe in the cannabis smoke 
equivalent to that given off by sixty three joints! Under such 
conditions, the animals had infact died from asphyxiation. 
Smoke from burning wood would have caused the same brain 
    In another study, also mentioned to demonstrate that cannabis 
causes brain damage, laboratory rats were injected with pure 
THC, at doses corresponding to twelve hundred times the doses 
ingested by a cannabis smoker! If these experiments demonstrate 
anything at all, it is the remarkable absence of cannabis toxicity: 
the same dose of any of our legal drugs, nicotine, alcohol, or 
even caffeine, is immediately lethal to any animal on the 
receiving end of such an injection. 
    "An expert is an authority only when he is useful to the 
powers that be", accurately observe Stengers and Ralet. And 
Professor Nahas suits the prohibitionist policies of the 
industrialized countries so well that he has been awarded a 
golden position: for a long time he has been a special consultant 
to theWHO drug commission. 
    Of course, being appointed to this position can in no way be 
taken as recognition of the apointee's scientific merit. Rather, it 
satisfies a political necessity: the Western countries need a 
"scientific" counterweight to the Arab countries, which by 
tradition are tolerant of cannabis but hostile to alcohol. 
    This position at the UN (which has also placed him in charge 
of writing annual reports) has conferred an undeniable prestige 
upon Professor Nahas - not to mention the power to distribute 
funds for research that goes in the appropriate direction. 
    In the Eighties, discredited in the United States, Gabriel 
Nahas retreated back to France. In his position as a consultant to 
Jacques Chirac on drugs, he has pulled off some notable 
victories. And he is getting ready to pull of some others. 


    In April 1992, guided by the expertise of Gabriel Nahas, the 
Town Hall of Paris organized, at the National Academy of 
Medicine, a seminar on illegal drugs. After the standard 
speeches, the working session started (let every lord have his 
due) with a presentation by Gabriel Nahas on the toxicity of 
cannabis. A presentation which rehashes the usual topics with 
the usual evidence. 
    Any interested reader may obtain the text of these 
presentations under the title Textes et Documents, from the 
Town Hall of Paris. Along with the prose of Nahas (amusing 
detail, most of his bibliography refers to...his own 
publications), this book contains various contributions, some of 
which, such as that of F. R. Ingold and M. Toussirt, are quite 
    But how important are the other contributions? For Nahas, 
what counts is that the seminar took place, once again giving 
him an opportunity to play the role of expert in front of 
unenlightened observers. What counts is the so-called scientific 
backing that the anti-cannabis crusaders derive from such a 
    Must reading, on the next to last page, is the general 
conclusions of the seminar by Professor Henri Baylon, 
president of the Academy of Medicine - conclusions which only 
serve to reiterate the stereotypes of the official doctrine and 
which go so far as to forget the seminar was supposed to cover 
all illegal drugs, not only cannabis. For example: 
    ( "The toxicity of cannabis is by now well established, 
especially for the central nervous system." 
    False! Read the interview by Jean-Pol Tassin on this topic, 
page 8. 
    ( "A large proportion of cannabis users become cocaine or 
heroin users". False!  Specialists across the board, including the 
ineffable Doctor Curtet, set this figure at around 4%. 
    ( "In those places were cannabis use has been liberalized, 
there has been a considerable increase in cannabis use and 
subsequent accidents." 
    False! In Holland, looking back over the last twenty five 
years, there has been no increase in use or in any type of 
accident. And in those American states that decriminalized 
cannabis, there was in fact a decrease in consumption. 
    Once again, the purpose of such a seminar is not to make 
progress in science, but rather to issue effective weapons to the 
anti-cannabis crusaders. 
    Once the proceedings of the seminar were published, out of 
the shadows came a National Alliance against Drug Addiction, 
which organized a press conference.This was in the month of 
April.  A press release was circulated. First remark, the very 
name of the seminar had been changed from "International 
Seminar on Illegal Drugs" to "Seminar on the Physiopathology 
of Cannabis". A strange sleight of hand that once again points 
the finger at falsification. Therefore it comes as no surprise that 
the National Alliance against Drug Addiction is chaired by.. 
Gabriel Nahas. 
    Among the list of guests present, not surprisingly, was Jean-
Paul SegueIa, drug addiction consultant to the Ministry of the 
Interior (who distinguished himself by evoking the famous "left 
lateralization frontal syndrome" which attacks cannabis 


    The press release circulated for the occasion mentioned an 
experiment that indicates "a psychomotor deficiency among 
airplane pilots on a flight simulator, measurable twenty four 
hours after smoking only one cannabis cigarette".  Remarkable 
result, given that all studies carried out up to now indicate just 
the opposite, i.e., the effects of a joint take one hour, perhaps 
two, to wear off, but in any case they always disappear within 
four hours. 
    This strange result has been quoted and will continue to be 
quoted, for isn't our very safety at stake? Philippe Douste-
Blazy, our Minister of Health, thought it was a good idea to 
make reference to the study. Here is his version: "After four 
hours, the pilot lands five meters away from the median strip, 
after twelve hours, twenty meters away and after sixteen hours 
forty meters away ". (Le Quotidien du Medecin, September 3, 
1993). This can only be called a caricature. 
    Once again, it behooved us to discuss, with a critically 
minded scientist, the experiment that has generated all of this 
controversy. We then learned some really interesting facts...  
The experiment in question (it was part of the seminar 
proceedings) took place in three phases. Firstly, carried out on a 
flight simulatornot deemed very realistic by the pilots, the 
experiment did in fact show a slight difference, twenty four 
hours later, between pilots that had smoked cannabis and the 
others. But when the experiment was renewed with a perfected 
flight simulator, this difference disappeared. This led the 
experimenters to try and find a way to make the difference 
reappear. They decided to make the pilots' task extremely 
complicated by increasing the number of simultaneous actions. 
Along with a landing maneuver, they added radio 
communication with the control tower, another aircraft to be 
localized and a collision to be avoided, motor failure and finally 
poor weather conditions. Just to be safe, they also reduced the 
learning time. And sure enough, to the satisfaction of the 
experimenters and without having to ask the pilots to do a 
headstand while performing the maneuver, the famous 
difference between those who had smoked a joint and those that 
had not reappeared twenty four hours later. But this leaves out 
an essential fact: in spite of all the effort made, in scientific 
jargon, the magnitude of this difference is extremely low:  
similar to the difference recorded between the group of pilots 
with an average age of twenty five years and the group with an 
average age of thirty seven. In other words, as Marie-Ange 
d'Adler rightfully points out in the magazine l'Evenement du 
Jeudi dated September 23, 1993: 
    "The same differences would probably exist between pilots 
that have slept two more or two less hours, between those that 
have smoked tobacco and those that have not, between those that 
had a glass of whisky the night before and those that did not, 
    So this is how Gabriel Nahas and his National Alliance 
against Drug Addiction manipulate science. And this is how the 
public at large is duped. And this is how our politicians spread 
the good word. At this rate, the information campaigns promised 
by Balladur will probably be as woefully inadequate as usual. 
    Unless these successive blunders inspire our politicians to be 
more circumspect and take more care in choosing their 
consultants. Gabriel Nahas and his cohorts have been poisoning 
the debate for forty years; the time has come to acknowledge this 
and treat the French people as adults.


Dr. Gabriel Nahas und die Cannabisforschung
The human toxicity of marijuana: A critique of a review
Peggy Mann: Hasch - Zerstörung einer Legende
Die Affenstudie von Dr. Heath