Testifying against bills that would legalize or decriminalize marijuana, the police chief for Annapolis, Md., cited a fake news story that reported 37 people died on the first day Colorado’s recreational marijuana law went into effect.
“The first day of legalization, that’s when Colorado experienced 37 deaths that day from overdose on marijuana,” Annapolis Police Chief Michael Pristoop said Tuesday at a committee hearing, according to the Capital Gazette. “I remember the first day it was decriminalized there were 37 deaths.”
Maryland Sen. Jamie Raskin (D) immediately corrected Pristoop and pointed out that he seemed to be citing a fake story by the satirical news site, The Daily Currant, the Gazette reported.
“Unless you have some other source for this, I’m afraid I’ve got to spoil the party here,” Raskin said.
But Pristoop wasn’t ready to back down, saying, “If it was a misquote, then I’ll stand behind the mistake. But I’m holding on to information I was provided.”
He later conceded to the Gazette that he had made a mistake, saying, “I’m guilty of being a human being. I tried really hard to present verified facts.” He nonetheless stood by his position that kids aren’t fully informed about how dangerous marijuana is, and it should therefore remain illegal.
Not only was The Daily Currant story a hoax; it is virtually impossible to overdose on marijuana (unless you consume 20,000 times as much THC as there is in a joint) and there are no known cases. The fact that the police chief for Maryland’s capital city doesn’t know that “underscores why we should not be treating drug issues with a law enforcement approach,” said Marijuana Majority’s Tom Angell.
The bills pending before the Maryland legislature take two approaches to reducing marijuana penalties. One “light” bill — a decriminalization measure — makes possession of less than 10 grams a civil offense subject only to a citation and a fine. Another legalization bill would create a tax and regulate system similar to those in Colorado and Washington.
Audio posted from Tuesday’s hearing shows that Chief Pristoop not only cited the fake study; he went on to contrast marijuana overdose “problems” with the safety of beer.
“I think that no one’s overdosing on beer,” he said, attempting to dismiss comparisons to success at the end of Prohibition. “But marijuana they’re seeing a significant problem with overdosing,”
Sen. Nancy Jacobs (R) responded by saying, “I think the only person I’ve ever seen overdose on marijuana had a big snack and fell asleep. I mean, come on, overdose on marijuana? I mean now, I’ve seen people overdose on beer.”
As Jacobs went on to point out, overdosing on alcohol — known as alcohol poisoning — is in fact a serious problem and can be fatal. While there are no known deaths from a marijuana overdose, alcohol poisoning kills a number of people every year, and alcohol abuse is linked to 75,000 deaths annually.