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Tuesday December 18, 2018

By Paul Barach


The fact that Fox News is anti-marijuana isn’t really news, which one can also say about the channel’s content in general. The right-leaning opinion provider has found great success by scaring mostly older Americans about everything from immigrants to minorities and all the way down to centrist Democratic presidents, so why wouldn’t they add the devil’s lettuce to the list? It worked in the 1950s, which is when most of their current viewership was born.

Fox News has indeed been ramping up their cannabis coverage as of late – especially with more and more states passing progressive marijuana reform laws. And while the news outlet has the right to free speech, oftentimes their portrayal of cannabis fails to provide accurate information or scientific evidence backing up claims. Let’s take a closer look into this interesting relationship between Fox News and cannabis.

Recent Fox News Cannabis Coverage

In the most recent clip to go viral, Polk County’s Sheriff Grady Judd joins the hosts of Fox and Friends to talk about the dangers of marijuana, prompted by the arrest of a local Florida middle schooler who handed out THC-infused gummies to other students in gym class. Five students went to the hospital with stomach pain, nausea and dizziness. All recovered quickly and were released.

It goes without saying that no states with legal cannabis reform allow 12 year olds to purchase gummies and hand them out to other underage children. Some states do allow minors to receive medical marijuana, however, all cannabis use must be monitored by the child’s guardian. Ultimately, 12 year olds should not be consuming marijuana unless there is a real medical need and they should never have unsupervised access to cannabis.

Fox News
Fox News tends to dwell and speculate on negative cannabis happenings. photo credit

While the media may make it seem like children are running rampant with gummies and other cannabis-infused edibles, it’s important to note that this is an extremely rare occurrence. The child who handed out the gummies should be expelled from school and punished by his parents. The story should have ended in the local paper.

Fox News has a tendency to blow any negative cannabis news out of proportion, though, prompting Fox and Friends to invite Sheriff Judd on the show to dig deeper into the subject of marijuana. The cavalcade of ignorance begins right after this adult gloats about a child who made a dumb mistake facing 7 felonies, which are charges normally reserved for murder or other serious crimes.

“No one talks about this — THC [sic] is addicting,” Co-host Brian Kilmeade opens. “I know so many people, they say they were told one thing and they end up getting addicted to it. That is an addicting substance. There is a price to pay for pot.” Sheriff Judd, a stand in for every D.A.R.E officer who visited your school in the early 90’s, strongly agreed. Surprisingly, more credible guests like medical professionals or other experts in the field of cannabis research and policy, were not invited at all.

Does Any Factual Evidence Support Fox News’ Claims?

Most studies show that cannabis has little to no addictive properties. Fewer than 1 in 10 marijuana consumers do report having trouble quitting, but that’s far below the 15% of alcohol or cocaine users reporting addiction, or the 25% of heroin users. Only 6% of cigarette smokers are able to quit in any given year and over half of all smokers try. Furthermore, no honest person would ever compare the addictiveness or health dangers of marijuana to a more harmful drug like meth – but Sheriff Judd does.

“And still today we have a meth problem across this state and country” Judd announces “...and they use the marijuana and the meth and they go out and kill themselves or overdose or kill someone else.”

Sheriff Judd is right that becoming violent or overdosing on meth is a real danger when abusing the drug. On the other hand, overdosing on marijuana, according to the Centers for Disease Control, is medically impossible. Then there’s the fact that there is no link between marijuana use and aggression, and that violent crime rates have decreased in states that have legalized. Of course, not one of the three hosts brought these facts up, and actually agreed with Sheriff Judd’s next crazy statement, which is that marijuana “ ruining families and killing people every day across the United States and we stand here in denial thinking it is not a gateway drug.”

Sheriff Judd
Sheriff Judd (left) might want to do some research on cannabis before his next television appearance. photo credit

As stated above, marijuana is non-lethal, and the idea of marijuana as a “gateway drug” is a little shifty. The facts are that some people do move on to harder drugs after starting with marijuana, just as they do with alcohol or cigarettes. But correlation is not causation and many people believe the misguided War on Drugs is a major reason that people begin using more dangerous substances in the first place. If there is a “gateway drug” that is killing Americans across the country and ruining families, it’s prescription opioids, which are pretty clearly a gateway to heroin.

Disconnect Between Cannabis and Prohibitionists

One of the biggest roadblocks to cannabis progress is the overall disconnect between prohibitionists and the facts surrounding cannabis. Many people against marijuana simply do not understand the plant, which is clearly evidenced in Sheriff Judd’s Fox and Friends appearance.

Perhaps the strangest accusation the Sheriff makes is “If it’s legitimate medicine, why are they marketing it to kids and calling it Green Hornet?”

Let’s break that one down. First off, the binary of marijuana consumption is not “medicine” and “child’s candy.” Marijuana can be consumed for medicine, or by responsible adults for recreation, which is who they are marketed towards and purchased by with multiple ID checks. No cannabis producer is basing their income around children’s allowances.

Second, why does Judd think “Green Hornet” is a pull for children? Most child psychologists can tell you that kids are not enormous fans of bugs that sting them mercilessly. The only other option is that Sheriff Judd thinks that kids are enormous fans of a 2008 Seth Rogan superhero movie which, with the recent success of Marvel’s superhero multiverse, might be a bit tough to back up.

Other Fox News Cannabis Coverage

Sheriff Judd’s appearance on Fox and Friends isn’t even close to being the only Fox News piece pushing false cannabis views. You don’t need to dig far into the archives to find hosts spreading long-debunked rumors about cannabis.

During a recent segment on Tucker Carlson, the controversial host took time to share his thoughts on Canada’s national legalization of cannabis. While one can take many angles on why Canada legalized, such as the will of the people, economic benefits, criminal justice reform, or medicinal relief, Tucker Carlson went with the weirdly paranoid view that the Canadian government is distributing marijuana to keep people passive and compliant.

Canadian Cannabis
Did Canada legalize cannabis to make their citizens passive? No evidence backs this claim. photo credit

Tucker goes further to spread the false idea that marijuana makes people less likely to go out and accomplish their goals. The stereotype of lazy stoners sitting at home can be pretty much debunked by any number of athletes, businessmen or celebrities who use marijuana and still attain success, but that’s beside the point.

In another clip, Steve Doocy has a former drug czar on to talk about Colorado’s legalization failures, including that emergency room admissions and homelessness are increasing. Given that, again, it’s essentially impossible to overdose on marijuana, one wonders how much this drug czar actually knows about drugs. Especially since the drug that is currently leading people into homelessness and ER visits is clearly prescription opioids.

According to a recent Fox News poll, 59% of their own viewers believe marijuana should be legalized, which raises the question of who exactly their anti-marijuana hysteria is being directed towards. Since they are running a business, one can expect the number of cannabis fear-mongering segments to decrease as public support of marijuana continues to rise. Who knows? Maybe someday Fox News may have to start reporting some actual marijuana facts in their segments. Then where will Sheriff Judd go?

What are your thoughts on the recent Fox and Friends cannabis segment and Fox News’ cannabis coverage as a whole? Share your comments below!

Photo Credit: Johnny Silvercloud (license)


Paul Barach Paul Barach

Paul Barach is a Seattle-based freelance writer, editor, and author with experience creating well-researched, edited web articles covering cannabis news, culture, history and science. Paul is a regular contributor to PotGuide and has also contributed to publications such as, SlabMechanix, Litro, and The Trek. He prefers to spend his free time outdoors and most recently hiked the Pacific Crest Trail. So far he has only fallen into the La Brea Tarpits once. You can follow him on Instagram @BarachOutdoors and stay up to date professionally through his LinkedIn page.

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