It’s hardly news that politicians stretch the truth. But of all the lying lobbyists and interest group scoundrels lurking in the Commonwealth’s political wilderness, the campaign that is actively opposing the regulation and sale of legal marijuana stands above the rest, seemingly issuing fabrications and false statements with impunity.
Indeed, Safe & Healthy Massachusetts is still pushing reefer madness in 2016, and will presumably continue doing so until voters face the legalization ballot question on November 8. But what’s even more astonishing is that, with few exceptions, the Greater Boston media neglects to challenge the initiative’s backers and spokespeople—a not-so-diverse mix of pols, law enforcement officers, and others who benefit, however indirectly, from the current prohibition (which was extended indefinitely by the federal government this week, but that’s another story).
Here in Mass, the Safe & Healthy campaign has been fraudulent since day one, when the group posted on Twitter, “Since CO legalized marijuana, it became #1 state in teen marijuana use, rising 20% in 2 yrs. #wrongforkids.” That’s an interesting interpretation of statistics, since, to quote a recent article in Scientific American, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment “showed the percentage of high school students indulging in marijuana in Colorado was smaller than the national average among teens.” Even the study that the campaign cites, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, notes that the uptick in Colorado numbers is not statistically significant. If you are a determined prohibitionist, however, like Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, then you just run with such rhetorical nonsense anyway and hope that nobody reads beyond the propaganda pushed by complicit mainstream outlets.
Another Twitter hoax from the Safe & Healthy folks: “Serious consequences for kids. Edibles put a disproportionate number of toddlers in the hospital.” Disproportionate to what? Not disproportionate to Tylenol, Advil, toothpaste, detergent, laxatives, glue, antacids, toilet bowl cleaner, fabric softener, contact lens fluid, alcohol, tobacco, energy drinks, birth control pills, and any number of other items that are commonly found in American homes that are annually responsible for significantly more calls to the National Capital Poison Center hotline than cannabis. Here’s a telling headline from the Washington Post: “Your kid is 136 times more likely to be poisoned by diaper cream than by weed.”
In this veritable renaissance for bullshit artistry among the anti-marijuana set, Walpole Police Chief John Carmichael is a modern Michelangelo. The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol recently filed complaints against him with the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance, as well as with the State Ethics Commission, for campaigning against legalization at a Safe & Healthy presser while in a police uniform, and for driving to the event in a Walpole police cruiser.
Despite these developments, the Boston Herald editorial page gave Carmichael a pass on his actions, and instead lambasted the pro-cannabis campaign for filing what the tabloid characterized as a “petty complaint.” In his turn, Carmichael claimed that he did nothing wrong, and said his talks amount to “education.” After a state campaign finance official, in explaining why the office dismissed the complaint, told the Globe, “it’s not a finance issue,” and explained that the matter “was more appropriate to be handled by the Ethics Commission,” Carmichael tweeted, “I’ve been advised by OCPF that I did not violate rules. I am committed to educating our community of drug harms.” Presumably missing the part about the ethics inquiry?
But let’s talk about education. Last month, Carmichael posted a CNN story suggesting that a Colorado town’s water supply was tainted by THC—even though a learned individual would know that THC is not water soluble. It was soon after shown that there was never any THC in the water, but Carmichael never offered any further lessons. Some educator.
On August 8, Carmichael posted, “Good thing is THC is SAFER than alcohol! 1 arrested for drug-laced candy that made 24 ill.” Linking to a WHDH story about a single incident, this educational post omitted the fact that excessive alcohol kills 80,000-plus Americans a year, while cannabis has never killed anybody. His mistakes go on, from claiming, “decriminalization destroys early intervention,” to failing to understand that court-ordered drug treatment for pot is an enormous waste of resources that could go to treating opiate addiction.
Additionally concerning is that Carmichael has presented a stash of Colorado edibles at campaign events around the state. He says the display is for law enforcement purposes (it’s surprising he hasn’t called it an “educational aid”), but in any case I was curious about how said Rocky Mountain edibles wound up at a press conference in Mass. Were they imported illegally? Are they from police seizures? And if it’s the latter, can authorities go shopping in the evidence room for campaign props?
Interestingly enough, it appears that all of the edibles featured in Carmichael’s display are for sale at RiverRock Cannabis in Colorado, the same cultivation and retail business that a delegation of Bay State senators and police chiefs visited in January. Yes, Carmichael was part of that delegation.
Looking for additional clarification, I called the spokesperson for the Safe & Healthy campaign, as well as the office of state Rep. Hannah Kane, who appeared in front of said edibles at the same press availability. Neither called me back with comment. I also called Walpole Town Administrator Jim Johnson to ask his opinion on his prohibitionist police chief potentially smuggling cannabis from Colorado, but he wasn’t interested in answering either.
I also asked the chief himself on Twitter: “When did you get those edibles from CO from the photo?”
Carmichael responded: “It’s a law enforcement display—probably at different times.”
I clarified: “Did you buy them on your trip to CO?”
He denied: “no”
I pressed: “How were they acquired?” But he went silent, so I followed up the next day: “How did you get the edibles from Colorado to the presser in Framingham and around Mass? Cat got your tongue?”
And finally got an answer: “no cat “don’t got” my tongue, a complaint was filed w/OCPF remember? Therefore I’m not allowed to comment. Re: MGL 94c/7.”
And then the chief of debunked marijuana education blocked me.
Mike Crawford is a Massachusetts medical cannabis patient and founder of The Young Jurks and midnightmass.substack.com. You can listen to The Young Jurks on iTunes or wherever else podcasts are streamed. This article was produced with support from Midnight Mass and The Young Jurks, where your contributions are greatly appreciated and help us deliver more local coverage.