The perpetuation of fake news is a national epidemic that poisons our political discourse, influenced the 2016 presidential election, and has even put people’s lives in dangers. In fact, cannabis prohibition was first instituted based upon fake news that played upon the racist and anti-immigrant sentiment of the time. Unfortunately, a false claim regarding edible deaths out of Colorado printed in the Los Angeles Times could unfortunately add to the Reefer Madness propaganda that cannabis law reformers have been battling for decades. The Times reported upon a statement by Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper:
“We didn’t regulate edibles strongly enough at first,” Hickenlooper said in an interview this week at a gathering in Coronado of the Western Governors’ Assn. He cited a spike in emergency room visits by kids who had eaten marijuana products and, in a few cases, died [emphasis added].”
Hat tip to Tom Angell over at Marijuana.com for calling this latest flub out. As Angell has reported, this wasn’t the first time that the Los Angeles Times reported fake marijuana news as the paper was previously fooled by a prank press release from the the Yes Men, a pair of activists who have successfully duped major media outlets in the past, who were colloborating with the Potanist.co marijuana group. As Angell also notes, marijuana sites have been duped by their own fake news, with headlines like “Federal Study Will Pay You $3,000 Per Week to Consume Cannabis” and “NASA Will Pay You $18,000 to Stay in Bed and Smoke Weed for 70 Straight Days.”
Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper tenure will always be associated with legal marijuana, whether he likes it or not, as his state helped lead the way on regulated cannabis commerce, showing that legalization doesn’t cause the sky to fall. Not only didn’t the sky fall in Colorado, but the state has experienced an economic boom and its cities are often listed as the top places to live and conduct business. And no one has died due to simply eating marijuana-infused edibles or from any type of marijuana overdose. It bears repeating: no one has ever died from a lethal marijuana overdose.
Governor Hickenlooper seems to have a love-hate relationship with cannabis legalization. On one hand, Hickenlooper surely loves the thousands of jobs that have been created and the millions of dollars in new tax revenue. On the other hand, the Colorado Governor seems to love holding cannabis to a different standard than other legal substances. As the Marijuana Policy Project’s Mason Tvert explained to the LA Times:
“As a former brewpub owner, the governor surely appreciates the benefits of replacing prohibition with regulation. Yet he holds marijuana to a much higher standard than alcohol, despite it being less far less harmful to the consumer and to society.”
While Governor Hickenlooper is within his right to stress the importance of product safety, particularly with cannabis-infused edibles, his office should correct the record with the Los Angeles Times. A legalization opponent incorrectly claimed that children had died from consuming marijuana in Colorado during a Measure 91 legalization debate in Oregon in 2014 and he was forced to make a retraction.
Maybe Governor Hickenlooper didn’t actually say that kids had died from cannabis edibles or he misspoke or the Times reporter made a mistake. Whatever the reason, a correction is in order because the scourge of fake news needs to be stopped in its tracks and not allowed to influence public policy any longer.
UPDATE: As Tom Angell noted, the Los Angeles Times very quietly edited the story online, but didn’t mention the edit.
Update 2.0: The mobile edition apparently mentions the correction, but not the full desktop version.