The hills are alive with the songs of ganja

Peter Tosh with Robbie Shakespeare on the Bush Doctor tour, 1978

“Legalize it, and I’ll advertise it,” Reggae artist Peter Tosh sang in 1976.

Tosh isn’t around to do ganja commercials — he was murdered in a 1987 robbery — but there’s no shortage of singers celebrating the Kind in American popular music.

According to a study published earlier this month in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, the percentage of popular songs on Billboard’s top-40 list with marijuana references in them reached 30 percent in 2016, the most recent year included in the study, a spike from under 15 percent the previous year.

The study, which was done by researchers at the University of Minnesota and Wayne State University, examined Billboard’s top-40 songs for each year from 1986 to 2016 for references to marijuana, opiods, alcohol and tobacco.

During the 30-year period, references to all the substances except tobacco increased.

In 2016 there were more references to marijuana than to alcohol in top-40 popular songs (30 percent for pot compared to 25 percent for booze). Alcohol still holds the all-time yearly record, however. In 2011, 35 percent of top-40 pop songs referenced booze, compared with under 20 percent for marijuana that year.

Recreational marijuana was legalized by voters in Colorado and Washington state in the 2012 election.


There are marijuana legalization initiatives on the ballot in Utah (medical) and North Dakota (recreational) this year, and some law enforcement agencies dislike it so much that they have been using their social media accounts to urge no votes — which happens to be illegal in both states.

Following a warning from the Utah elections director Justin Lee against using public resources for political purposes, the Beaver County Sheriff’s Office and the police department in Hurricane, a small town in far southwest Utah, took down anti-initiative posts.

In North Dakota, Cavalier County Sheriff Greg Fetsch removed a similar post after a local TV station busted him.

Law enforcement departments and organizations have been meddling in legalization elections for years. It’s nice to see some of them finally being called on it.


Texas Republican Representative Pete Sessions is not related to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, but he’s just as execrable as the AG when it comes to marijuana. Pete is the Chairman of the House Rules Committee, and he’s used his position to ensure that nearly all marijuana reform bills introduced in the House of Representatives during the current Congress didn’t come up for a vote.

Now it turns out that Pete may have something else in common with Jeff as well: He may be about to get his sorry ass fired, not by President Trump, but by the voters in Texas House District 32, which includes a chunk of Dallas and its suburbs.

A new New York Times poll of 500 voters in Pete’s district found that he is leading his Democratic opponent Colin Allred by a single percentage point, 48 to 47 percent. A poll done a week earlier by Public Policy Polling found Allred ahead by 5 percentage points (47-42 percent).

Allred is a civil rights lawyer and former NFL linebacker. He supports legalizing medical marijuana and decriminalizing simple possession.

The report on the Times poll also revealed one of the problems with all political polling — the number of calls pollsters must make it order to get a large enough sample of the electorate to produce usable data.

In order to get 500 complete interviews, the Times had to make more than 43,000 calls. That works out to 86 calls for every completed interview. (For the 18- to 29-year-old demographic, the Times had to make 135 calls to get a single completed interview.) And even after making 43,000 calls, the paper still didn’t have a sample that accurately reflected some of the district’s demographics.

When this happens, and it happens a lot in polling, the poll’s results are statistically weighted to reflect the district’s demographic make-up as best it can be determined. It works most of the time — but also explains why polling is still something of a black art.