Larry Wilmore’s media theory works for cannabis, too


Last week Larry Wilmore did a skit on The Nightly Show that demonstrated how Fox News can take a falsehood (in the sketch, it’s a poll that shows 58 percent of Americans believe that cop killings are on the rise, when statistics actually show they are falling), give it a title (the “war on police”), repeat the meme over and over, have a couple of talking heads connect it to something else (the Black Lives Matter movement), and finally show Ted Cruz and Scott Walker blaming the rise in violence against cops on President Barack Obama.

It’s a brilliant sketch — Wilmore calls the process magic — made even more so for me as, at the same time, I watched a similar sleight-of-hand play out upon the release of a Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) report on the effects of marijuana use in Colorado since legalization.

HIDTA assists law-enforcement agencies in major drug-trafficking regions. Its biggest concern is methamphetamine, but since it is funded by our taxes, another goal, it would appear, is to keep us believing that the battle against marijuana is both necessary and worth the money.

Its authors claim no bias, but the report has nothing positive to say about legalization, even though most of the major points (driving under the influence, hospital visits, underage use, crime, drug treatment) have little or nothing to do with whether cannabis is legal or not.

“This report will cite datasets with terms such as ‘marijuana-related’ or ‘tested positive for marijuana,’” the authors state. “That does not necessarily imply that marijuana was the cause of the incident.”

And then they spend 169 pages doing just that. I don’t have the space or patience to get into the obfuscations (ace reporter Jacob Sullum ferrets out much of the nonsense in a Reason magazine piece.) But one example, the fable about a “stoned” driver who hit two police vehicles in January 2014, blared out at me. Police promoted this one heavily in the press since it happened 10 days after recreational sales began. Several months later, at trial, the driver pled guilty to drunk driving, since he was four times over the legal limit. The report says, “it was later discovered the driver also tested for a high alcohol content.”

So the false premise — that legalization has created a public health disaster — is established. A couple days later a post on the webpage of Dr. Christian Thurstone, medical director of a youth substanceabuse-treatment clinic at CU-Denver and virulent prohibitionist, trumpeted: “Legal marijuana’s impact on CO troubling” above a story by Thurstone’s wife, Christine Tatum, a reporter turned doomsayer who had penned an equally slanted, discredited, scare-the parents editorial series for the Colorado Springs Gazette a few months ago.

Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM), the national organization that opposes legalization, chimed in with “Marijuana Commercialization Failing in Colorado.” Smart Colorado, a local branch of SAM, began its story: “New research raises troubling questions about marijuana commercialization in Colorado and its effects on young people.”

The really sad part is that neither Tatum, SAM nor Smart Colorado actually read or tried to make any sense of the obtuse report. Rather, as always, they listed the most tawdry headlines they could find without further explanation.

All I needed to prove the Larry Wilmore theory was a presidential candidate, and last week’s debate provided it.

While she didn’t mention the federal report, Carly Fiorina, the supposed “winner,” said, “I think the legalization of marijuana is a very bad idea. I think it’s misleading to young people in particular when we tell them smoking pot is like drinking a beer. It is not.”

I’m guessing there are between 25 and 50 million cannabis users who might dispute that. And her comment about alcohol makes this little tidbit from Politico’s debate coverage all the more fascinating.

“Fiorina knows she is riding high. She skipped the post-debate spin room on Wednesday night — she’d made all the points she wanted to make on stage. Instead, she and top advisors decamped to their hotel, where they popped a late-night bottle of champagne in a third-floor room to celebrate.”

You just can’t make this stuff up. The only thing left is to blame kids’ marijuana use on Obama. I’m sure they’ll get around to that soon enough.

You can hear Leland discuss his most recent column and Colorado cannabis issues each Thursday morning on KGNU.


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