If you saw the title of this article, thought, “What, really?!” and clicked through to read the full article, congratulations! You make up just 62% of people who navigate past the headline of a news article. Still here? Even better! At least five of you won’t scroll down to read the entire piece.
For those of you who stuck around, I’ll let you in on a little secret: Colorado’s recreational cannabis market is only a failure if you believe this headline from The New York Times’ article published last Saturday titled, “After 5 Months of Sales, Colorado Sees the Downside of a Legal High.” If you’re like most readers who don’t make it beyond the title, that headline would suggest that the cannabis industry in Colorado isn’t doing well, and you’d expect the article to support that fact.
You would be wrong.
Not only is the title misleading, but the opening paragraphs also skew data. First, the author briefly touches on a tragic murder-suicide that reportedly happened “hours after [the killer was seen] buying a package of marijuana-infused Karma Kandy” according to unnamed “authorities.” No scientific analysis was given. The article implies that correlation equals causation: because the man purchased edibles earlier in the day, he was driven to kill both his wife and himself. The evidence given doesn’t substantiate this claim.
The article then leads to a quote by a prominent legalization opponent – also lacking empirical data – followed by a photo. At this point, the reader must scroll to access the remainder of the article after most have already given up and navigated off the page.
Only after the fold (in web terms this signifies the lower part of the article you must scroll to read) does the author note, “Despite such anecdotes, there is scant hard data.” You don’t say? By this point, most readers have either left the page or tweeted out misinformation taken from the title or opening paragraphs, leaving them clueless about the subsequent 1,200 words that detail the demonstrable successes of the Colorado cannabis industry.
For one, “The Industry has generated $12.6 million in taxes and fees so far.” Let me repeat: $12.6 million of tax revenue in 5 months. Not bad. What’s more, the article notes that violent crimes in Denver – home to most of the state’s cannabis retailers – are down for this year. Of course, we know that correlation does not equal causation, so there’s no proof that these facts are related. But still, not as bleak a picture as was painted in the opening paragraphs. Even more, the Kansas Highway Patrol has seen a 61% drop in marijuana seizures in the first four months of the year, indicating the black market is tapering as well.
The author also notes serious issues in cannabis data reporting. For one, the Colorado State Patrol only began tracking DUIDs in 2012, so we don’t have a clear picture of how legalization has impacted this behavior.
After detailing some of the most gruesome cases Colorado has seen, including an influx of children bringing edibles to school and the first reported marijuana-related fatality, the author notes near the end of the article that the state has tightened its labeling and packaging rules. Furthermore, regulators are considering setting stricter limits on the amount of infused THC allowed in edible cannabis products.
Overall, this article is a summary of the “he-said, she-said” banter raging between legalization advocates and critics. It relies heavily on anecdotes with little-to-no hard data. It doesn’t cite its sources, and by opening the article with a misleading title and negative introductory sentences, it gives readers a false notion of the true state of cannabis legalization in Colorado.
photo credit: Dizmang Photography via photopin cc
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