Marijuana Legalization Meets an Old Foe: Alternative Facts
Everything is going great in the world = Alternative fact. Alternative facts are becoming more and more popular nowadays and, despite how entertaining Saturday Night Live’s recent sketches have been, these fake facts are making a confusing world that much more incomprehensible.
Of course, the marijuana industry has been battling alternative facts for decades.
Marijuana Exhibit A
“Slaves to this narcotic [marijuana], [are] continuing addiction until they deteriorate mentally, become insane, turn to violent crime and murder,” said Harry Anslinger, the inaugural commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, a forerunner to the Drug Enforcement Agency we all know and love.
Anslinger is also behind the infamous Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, which pushed for a nationwide ban on the drug. The only issue with Anslinger’s facts about these murdering marijuana madmen is that they weren’t facts.
They are classic alternative facts, which have staying power no matter how many times they are debunked. In his marijuana prohibition crusade, Anslinger once asked 30 scientists if cannabis was in any way dangerous; 29 wrote back saying, “No.”
But one scientist who was happy to fabricate facts connecting marijuana to the sinister crime was all Anslinger needed. The mainstream media took off with many of these predominantly untrue stories, which resulted in a widespread panic regarding the drug, strict laws against possessing and selling cannabis, and one classic motion picture.
Luckily, scientists, government officials, and the general public have finally reached a consensus regarding these stubborn alternative facts. Perhaps the modern-day rumors surrounding marijuana aren’t as far-fetched as Anslinger’s AFs (alternative facts) from the 1930’s, but there are still plenty of popular misconceptions to go around.
1) Criminalizing Marijuana Reduces Use and Availability: Despite harsh punishments around marijuana, and the federal government spending $17.5 billion to prohibit its use, cannabis remains readily available. In 2014, roughly 68% of high school students stated that it’s “fairly easy” or “very easy” to find marijuana.
2) Marijuana Use Is a Gateway Criminal Act: Although plenty of marijuana users get arrested, of the 8.2 million marijuana arrests between 2001 and 2010, wholly 88% were arrested for only possessing marijuana.
3) Americans Are Actually In Favor of Stricter Marijuana Laws: Unless your name is Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard “Jeff” Sessions III, this idea is another alternative fact. Remember, 29 out of 30 scientists from the late 30s agree, “Just say ‘No’ to tougher marijuana enforcement. In fact, 60% of American adults — the highest level of support in almost 50 years — believe that marijuana should be legal.
Thankfully, the tide may finally be turning.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) recently dropped its website’s inaccurate cannabis claims. Surprisingly, that’s NOT an alternative fact! That part is true.
Leafly reports that the DEA removed inaccurate information about the dangers of cannabis from its website after Americans for Safe Access filed a legal petition requesting the DEA to do so. The site purported that cannabis causes permanent cognitive damage, psychosis, and lung cancer.
The nonprofit’s petition argued that the incorrect statements violated the little-known Information Quality Act, which is in place to ensure the integrity of information published by federal agencies (which might come in handy over the next four years).
Despite this rare win for actual facts, and despite the growing bipartisan support for legalizing marijuana, the White House still plans on going after marijuana use.
ABC News reports that press secretary Sean Spicer recently said the Department of Justice will be implementing “greater enforcement” of federal restrictions regarding marijuana use.
Meanwhile, Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard “Jeff” Sessions III has warned that in the future, “States can pass whatever laws they choose…but I’m not sure we’re going to be a better, healthier nation if we have marijuana being sold at every corner grocery store.”
If that sounds like a mixed signal, it’s because it is.
No matter what happens with the marijuana legalization movement under President Donald J. Trump, we can certainly expect more alternative facts, hopefully, a few more actual facts, and a whole lot of head-scratching in the years to come.
Let us know what you think.