Another lawmaker has been found to be citing fake news when debating against marijuana reform.
Louisiana State Rep. Dodie Horton found herself citing a story claiming that 37 people died in Colorado on the first day of legal marijuana sales while debating against an expansion of the state’s medical marijuana program.
When confronted with the news it was a satirical article by the press via Twitter, she proceeded to block one of the main journalists covering the Louisiana State House then tweeted this in response,
“I was given this info from a so-called ‘Trusted’ source but now know that the story was not credible! What is fact is the number of car wrecks as a direct result of marijuana use in Colorado is up by 48%. With several ending in deaths. Need the experts/FDA to approve usage/First.”
Her rebuttal was also immediately proven to be false as someone shared a Washington Post article with the actual statistics. They showed about a 3 percent rise from what they would have expected without legal marijuana being sold.
In another fun retort to Horton’s comments, one person noted it was refreshing to hear her singing the praises of federal regulators in committee.
“I am not singing the FDA’s praises/simply stating the fact that they are the only system our Country currently has in place to either approve/disapprove potential medications,” Horton said.
While a good laugh, this isn’t a first or even a rare occurrence for those trying to change marijuana laws across the country.
“Unfortunately, this is a broad problem across issue areas and the political spectrum,” NORML Executive director Erik Altieri told Cannabis Now. “In a rush to confirm a currently held bias, people often grab onto any source that legitimizes their view. I witnessed this first hand several years ago, at a hearing in Maryland. One of our opponents cited an article from The Daily Currant, a satirical site, in the middle of the hearing claiming that 34 people died on the first day of legalization, likely the same article still being used by this lawmaker in Louisiana.”
Similar to the results in Louisiana, the lawmaker who made the comment in front of Altieri destroyed his position in the process.
“Fortunately for our side, this misstep was caught immediately by those in attendance, the room got a good laugh out of the lawmaker’s ignorance, and he completely destroyed the validity of his opposition to reform,” said Altieri. “In the long run, this speaks to the necessity for citizens to engage with their elected officials, not just during hearings but in one on one meetings, to continue to educate them and provide them with reliable, legitimate sources of information from which to base their opinion.”
The Marijuana Policy Project’s Director of Communications Morgan Fox has similar concerns to Altieri on the current prevalence of this issue of fake news being used in an attempt to block progress.
“I think this is somewhat indicative of a larger problem with how people consume news and the tendency of people to believe things which support what they already think without really attempting to verify the information,” Fox told Cannabis Now.
While he is not sure there is much to be done about it, “it does emphasize the constant struggle that cannabis reform advocates have encountered dealing with misinformation about the plant and about the impacts of sensible cannabis laws.”
Fox also noted this is one reason why it is vital for activists to be well-versed on the facts and best arguments for the cause, “and why we must call people out when they present bad information as fact, especially when those people are elected officials and lawmaker.”
The some of the folks who helped lead the recent efforts to legalize cannabis in Colorado and California also weighed into Cannabis Now on the subject false stats being used against them.
“For decades, prohibition supporters have relied on propaganda and scare tactics to keep cannabis illegal. Fortunately, the public, the media, and elected officials have grown increasingly skeptical of such wild claims,” said Mason Tvert, who helped lead Colorado’s legalization initiative and now serves as vice president of communications at VS Strategies.
“We are now facing ‘Reefer Madness 2.0,’ in which opponents are throwing around false stories and exaggerations not just about cannabis, but about the experiences of states that have legalized it,” Tvert said. “It is critical that reform advocates remain informed and vigilant about calling out such nonsense.”
Lauren Vazquez, an activist-lawyer and a senior advisor to the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, thinks people need to get a bit more direct in forcing the facts on politicians.
“We need to reach out and better educate these politicians and the people that vote for them,” Vazquez said.
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