At the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference’s marijuana legalization debate, former Republican Governor of New Mexico and 2012 Libertarian Party nominee for president Gary Johnson, a supporter of legalization, faced off against ex-Congesswoman Ann Marie Buerkle, a former nurse who opposes legal pot. In the above-embedded video, Buerkle said, “Let’s talk about marijuana. You have a 1 in 5 higher chance of having a heart attack within the first hour after you smoke marijuana. There are legitimate side effects to this drug.”
Before she could continue, Gary Johnson began clutching his chest and dropped to the floor, pantomiming a heart attack in an obvious mockery of Buerkle’s Reefer Madness-esque claim. The largely college-aged conservative crowd burst into laughter in response to Johnson’s joke.
Said Buerkle in response, “You know, I think the Governor has had great fun with his humor, but it isn’t funny that we’re putting our kids and the future of this country at risk.”
However, Buerkle’s argument that marijuana is putting college students at CPAC at a 1 in 5 increased risk of having a heart attack one hour after marijuana use is a significant mischaracterization of the findings of a Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School survey, published by Circulation, of 3882 acute myocardial infarction patients who were asked about their marijuana use around four days after suffering a heart attack. The study’s findings did not suggest that perfectly healthy college students have a “1 in 5 higher chance” of suffering a heart attack within an hour of smoking marijuana. A more realistic characterization of the study would be that its findings suggest that there may be a possibility that someone already at risk of heart attack could face an increased risk, similar to that associated with sexual intercourse or strenuous exercise, of that heart attack occurring within one hour of smoking.
Another study by Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, published in the American Heart Journal after the one mentioned by Buerkle, tested this theory further and found no statistically significant increase in mortality for acute myocardial infarction patients who habitually used marijuana.