6 Most Hilarious Pot Freak-Outs

A Twitter storm raged around Maureen Dowd this week following the publication of her New York Times column questioning the safety of Colorado’s legal pot market. In the column, she describes her bad experience eating an edible cannabis candy bar in Denver. She writes about experiencing eight hours of a “paranoid,” “hallucinatory” state. She frets about Colorado, "unleashing a drug as potent as marijuana on a horde of tourists of all ages and tolerance levels seeking a mellow buzz."

In the article Dowd admits to waiting an hour after eating a first piece of the candy bar, and when she didn't feel anything, eating more. She claims she wasn’t warned properly about the potentially overwhelming effects of edibles. However, Matt Brown, founder of My 420 Tours has come out and said he took Dowd on a four-hour, behind-the-scenes tour of a cannabis factory prior to her edibles experience.

He reportedly told the Cannabist that during the tour they discussed edibles in detail and he explained how they affect everyone differently.

“She got the warning,” he said to the Cannabist.  “In the context of covering all the bases with a customer, we really went into depth to tell this reporter, who would then tell the world, about marijuana in Colorado."

But while Dowd’s column may be emotionally exaggerated, she raises some important points throughout; points the nonprofit legalization advocacy group Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) has been considering for some time, according to the group’s spokesperson, Mason Tvert.

Tvert called Dowd’s concerns “generally legitimate” and said MPP, which played a major role in Colorado’s cannabis legalization process, wants the legislature to address several of the issues Dowd brings up in the column. Those include the necessity of improving labeling on cannabis products, lowering the individual serving size per cannabis product, and limiting servings per unit.

When someone like Dowd, based on a frightening personal experience, voices her (relatively logical) concerns, larger systemic issues are exposed.

As Brown told the Cannabist, "All of the problems that happened in her hotel room as she's breaking off pieces of the infused candy bar … there's something missing. When she was learning how to drink alcohol she could have seen other adults using moderation and other adults in bars puking and making an ass out of themselves, because it's enjoyed communally and legally in bars. How do we have events and hotel rooms that are more open to this?"

Whether or not it was completely realistic, Dowd’s account highlights the importance of developing better public education. In the wake of the tragic death of a college student on spring break in Denver, I wrote a piece detailing how better labeling requirements and realistic public education are vital to the future of legal pot. Because it’s been prohibited and demonized unrealistically for so long, the general public perception of the herb is skewed in one direction or another. For example, few realize that, while there is no such thing as a deadly cannabis overdose (eating or inhaling it has never killed anyone), it can be psychologically traumatic to consume too much at once.

For that article, I spoke with Alec Dixon of Santa Cruz, Calif., who works at SC Labs, which tests cannabis samples for possible contaminants like pesticides and foodborne germs. Dixon also works as an educator for medical marijuana patients in the area. One of the main things he teaches people is not to consume edibles the first time they use marijuana. If they must start out with edibles, he tells them to take it slow and make sure they know how much they’re taking.

“Edibles are kind of tricky because your experience with cannabis (whether you're new to it or you’ve been smoking for a long time) and your body weight (say a 200-pound man versus a 105-pound cancer patient) that plays a big role,” he said. “That’s why it’s so important to know how many milligrams you’re taking.”

Dowd’s column was a reasoned (if slightly hyperbolic) account, especially when you consider that she follows a parade of much crazier columns, comments and general prohibitionist propaganda surrounding pot. Since the people of Colorado and Washington voted to legalize and regulate pot like alcohol, countless other cannabis critiques have been born of straight-up Reefer Madness.

Here are a few of the most bizarre, outrageous and illogical pot freakouts in response to legalization in Colorado and Washington.

1. David Brooks

Two days after the New Year rang in the first pot sales in Colorado, David Brooks released a rambling New Yorker column imploring readers to “think of the children,” and please throw more people in prison for possession of pot. His reasoning? When he smoked weed as a teen he didn’t like it, so no one should do it, and people should be locked up if they do. Oh, and one of his high school buddies who smoked a lot ended up unsuccessful, so that must mean legal cannabis threatens all teens. These make up his twisted thesis.

Jacob Leland wrote a detailed article for AlterNet debunking each of Brooks’ claims. He points out that pot was illegal at the time Brooks and his friends were using it, so his column is really an example of how prohibition doesn’t work. Instead, it targets teens in poor communities of color, which is ultimately much more damaging.

“The legal age to buy marijuana in both Washington and Colorado is 21, of course, but that’s beside the point,” Leland wrote. “We don’t need anecdotes to demonstrate that strict marijuana laws and the war on drugs are bad for teenagers. According to the ACLU, arrests for simple possession of marijuana are one of the most common drug-related points of entry to the juvenile justice system. … Prohibition creates and perpetuates a black market, whose low-level employees are almost exclusively poor and minority youth.”

Today the U.S. has a quarter of the world’s prisoners but just five percent of the world’s population. Hundreds of thousands of people are stuck in prison for nonviolent cannabis-related crimes, most of them black and Hispanic. The disproportionate and racist incarceration of minorities stems from Nixon-era “war on drugs” propaganda that demonizes pot and policing practices that target poor communities of color. Michelle Alexander, associate professor of law at Ohio State University and author of  The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, has eloquently explained how these policies lead to a revolving door cycle that keeps these communities poor and broken.

“We arrest these kids at young ages, saddle them with criminal records, throw them in cages, and then release them into a parallel social universe in which the very civil and human rights supposedly won in the Civil Rights movement no longer apply to them for the rest of their lives,” Alexander said in a public conversation on March 6 with Asha Bandele of the Drug Policy Alliance.

Obviously, Brooks wasn’t thinking of all those kids when he wrote his column. He didn’t consider the black and Hispanic teens who end up arrested and incarcerated, with lifelong felony records, for doing the exact same thing he and his high school friends were doing in their white, middle-class neighborhood.

2. Ruth Marcus

Similar to Brooks, Ruth Marcus uses a “think of the children” plea to call for continued prohibition in a Washington Post column from early January.  Her argument is confusing, to say the least. First she admits she used to smoke pot as a teen and would be willing to smoke some legal pot in Colorado, then goes into all of the reasons legalization is terrible idea. She concedes that pot is safer than tobacco and alcohol, but argues it still shouldn't be legal because:

“On balance, society will not be better off with another legal mind-altering substance. In particular, our kids will not be better off with another legal mind-altering substance.”

The problem with Marcus’ pot freakout is that it’s been proven time and again that prohibiting a substance doesn’t keep it away from “the children”—it’s actually the other way around. In a letter to the editor responding to Marcus, Paul Armentano, director of NORML, wrote:

“Adolescents’ consumption of alcohol and tobacco is at historic lows. These results have been achieved not by criminalizing these substances for adults, but by legalization, common-sense regulation and public education. Lawmakers in Colorado (and soon, Washington state) are applying these tried-and-true principles to cannabis.”

Armentano points out that “we should welcome” controls to the cannabis market as the best way to keep it from harming teens.

“A pragmatic regulatory framework that allows for the legal, licensed commercial production and retail sale of cannabis to adults but restricts its use among young people — coupled with a legal environment that fosters open, honest dialogue between parents and children about cannabis’s potential harms — best reduces the risks associated with the plant’s use or abuse,” he wrote. “The ongoing criminalization of cannabis only compounds these risks.”

3. Tina Brown

Publishing mogul Tina Brown took her pot freakout to Twitter. She tweeted, “legal weed contributes to us being a fatter, dumber, sleepier nation even less able to compete with the Chinese.”

Matt Taibbi's response to this little number is unrivaled: “Right. Because marijuana, not China's bottomless supply of slave labor, is what's responsible for the West's growing trade imbalance.”

4. Nancy Grace

Nancy Grace freaked out about pot in an interview with Mason Tvert of the Marijuana Policy Project, telling him, “So, in a nutshell you think marijuana should be legalized because, why? You do know it’s addictive, highly addictive, right?”

Tvert correctly pointed out that marijuana’s addictive properties have been found to be mild compared to “not only alcohol and tobacco but even caffeine.”

Just nine percent of people who use marijuana will develop dependence at some point in their lives, compared with 15 percent for alcohol, 17 percent for cocaine, 23 percent for heroin, and 32 percent for tobacco. That is according to the most commonly cited estimate, based on a NIDA-supported survey from the early 1990s. There is also evidence that cannabis “addiction” is not a physical one on par with heavier drugs like opiates, but likely a psychological dependence at most.

Grace also claimed in the segment that she’s against pot legalization because, “I’ve seen too many felonies, and I don't mean pot sales or growing pot... I mean people on pot that shoot each other, that stab each other, strangle each other, drive under the influence, kill families.” She shared an anecdote about a stockbroker who “got addicted to pot” and lost her job, car and family.  

There is no evidence that marijuana leads to violent aggressive behavior. (Anyone who’s spent time around stoners could probably tell you that.) On the other hand, “the relationship between alcohol and crimes including domestic abuse and violence, underage drinking, robbery, assault and sexual assault is clearly documented,” as noted by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence.

Funny enough, Grace contradicted herself in a segment defending 

5. Joe Scarborough

MSNBC host Joe Scarborough has gone with the "pot makes you stupid" argument to explain why legalization is yet another sign of America’s disintegration into moral collapse.

“I mean, seriously, it just makes you dumb. Pot just makes you dumb.... [Although] never once did I say, 'Hey man, that looks like something I want to do...."

As Owen Poindexter points out in on AlterNet, “there is plenty evidence, including thousands of years of human experience, to show that pot makes you creative, active and influential rather than lazy. Fifty examples are found on this list of the 50 most influential marijuana users.”

About 5-6% of the population seems to have identifiable difficulties with motivation, but studies have not linked this to cannabis use.

6. Jerry Brown

California governor Jerry Brown has said some silly things about pot. On Meet the Press in March, when asked if he saw potential for legalization in California’s future, he freaked out as follows:

“[H]ow many people can get stoned and still have a great state or a great nation? The world's pretty dangerous, very competitive. I think we need to stay alert, if not 24 hours a day, more than some of the potheads might be able to put together."

To be fair, Brown said in the same interview that he was watching Colorado and Washington to see how legalization went. Since Colorado has seen a huge economic boost and lowered crime rates since opening its recreational pot shops in January, and everything is as functioning and competitive as ever, it’s possible Brown’s fears have since been quelled.


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