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No, Marijuana DNA Is Not From Outer Space (And Other Cannabis-Related Fake News)

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The master debunkers over at Snopes published an item on Monday that, in a sane and rational world, would not require publishing. But we live in a world where articles positing that cannabis contains “Alien DNA” — a “fact” attributed to NASA! — are shared widely on social media. And so, these and other patently false claims must be identified as such by shrewd analysts.

Sadly, there is no shortage of fake marijuana news—and in this case, credulous internet users share at least a portion of the blame. And, unfortunately, “credulous internet users” include some marijuana reform-minded websites, who would rather believe the next new awesome and exciting thing without putting in a few minutes of research.

On July 13, 2016, a website called IFLScience launched a thought experiment with an article titled “Marijuana Contains ‘Alien DNA’ from Outside of Our Solar System, NASA Confirms.”

IFLScience is a “real” website–that is, it publishes items that are truthful and not deliberately misleading. However, this headline is wrong and false–and intentionally so.

IFLScience’s article was intended to illustrate a bit of research from Columbia University that found most people who share items on social media had never bothered to read them before sharing.

In an object lesson, several click-bait websites lurking in the sewer of the internet went ahead and plagiarized the entire article in search of clicks. And gullible internet users obliged, with one instance of the article generating 100,000 shares in a matter of days, according to Snopes.

In a way, victims of marijuana-related fake news have at least some excuse: For generations, much of what “the authorities” in law enforcement, public health and the media told us about marijuana was blatantly false. Solemn-faced promises that cannabis would cause insanity or certain death turned out to be certified garbage; if these were lies, what else of what we “knew” about cannabis was untrue—and what actual facts were the authorities hiding?

And following several generations of the above, real marijuana reform is coming hard and fast. Developments that even a few years ago were unthinkable—Republican senators embracing marijuana reform, red states like Oklahoma quickly legalizing medical marijuana—happen nearly every day. The unbelievable is happening, the rules are all being broken.

This could perhaps explain why cannabis-centered websites like Green Rush Daily would rush to publish news that the National Institute on Drug Abuse was paying marijuana consumers to smoke weed “for research,” without bothering to do the basic fact-checking that would have revealed, quickly, that they were being duped by a satirical website.

At the same time, even major news outlets have proven susceptible to hoaxing. In 2016, the Los Angeles Times fell victim to a somewhat-sophisticated 4/20 prank pulled off by The Yes Men, anti-corporate culture jammers who fooled a reporter into publishing a piece that said the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime had called for worldwide decriminalization of all drugs.

Other instances of marijuana-related fake news spreading like a cough across the internet can be attributed to the internet itself, which rewards viral content regardless of intent or effect. Earlier this year, thanks to key shares on several celebrity Facebook accounts, internet users were subjected to the false hope that cannabis can lead to a “complete remission” of Crohn’s disease. Marijuana does indeed help treat the condition, but R. Kelly and a few other celebrities all shared an item from otherwise-unknown websites making the altogether unproven claim.

Remember: Trust, but verify. If you’ve never heard of the news outlet making a particular claim, chances are it’s not to be trusted. And if it’s too good, weird or patently absurd to be true–chances are, it may be.

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.

Chris Roberts is a reporter and writer based in San Francisco. He has covered the cannabis industry since 2009, with bylines in the Guardian, Deadspin, Leafly News, The Observer, The Verge, Curbed, Cannabis Now, SF Weekly and others.

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SXSW Wants You To Submit Marijuana Panel Ideas For 2020 Event

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South by Southwest (SXSW) is soliciting ideas for marijuana-related panels to be featured at next year’s festival.

The Austin-based conference—which celebrates music, film, art and innovation at annual events—promoted its “Cannabusiness Track” in a tweet on Friday.

The 2020 marijuana track will involve panels that explore the “technological, cultural, financial, legal and political ecosystems that are defining the cannabis-focused enterprises of both today and tomorrow,” according to a description.

It “presents insights for professionals experienced in this rapidly-evolving industry, as well as introductions for newcomers who are just starting to enter this space.”

Have a concept for a panel that’d be a good fit for the program? There are only a few days left before Friday’s deadline to submit ideas through SXSW’s online tool. The festival will take place March 16-22, 2020.

Marijuana has become a mainstay at the Texas conference, with this year’s SXSW showcasing more than 20 cannabis events—with panels covering everything from female entrepreneurship in the marijuana industry to the state of cannabis politics in the Lone Star state.

Social justice advocates protested a SXSW keynote speech delivered by former Republican House Speaker John Boehner, who declined to act on reform while serving as a congressional leader but has since joined the board of one of the world’s largest cannabis companies.

The activists argued that legalization and restorative justice must go hand-in-hand, and Boehner represented a profit-driven “Big Marijuana” industry that’s antithetical to that goal.

SXSW included an advisory on its new Cannabusiness Track submission page, noting that “cannabis and related laws vary.”

“Programming in this track is designed to inform attendees about this fast-changing industry, and does not promote the use or sale of illegal drugs,” SXSW wrote.

FDA Official To Keynote Major Hemp Industry Conference Next Month

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.
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Tom Hanks Denies Fake Quote Promoting CBD Company

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Actor Tom Hanks wants you to know that he is not, in fact, feeling like a new person after using a CBD product from a California-based cannabis company.

In a tweet posted on Wednesday morning, Hanks denied a quote attributed to him that described advances in the CBD industry as “remarkable” and stating that he was “feeling like a new me” after using a cannabidiol product from a company called Cali Naturals.

“FRAUD! INTERNET FAKE! Just so you know,” the star of films such as Forrest Gump and Cast Away wrote, sharing a photo of the false quote.

For reasons that aren’t entirely clear, Hanks has been featured in several dubious articles in recent years casting him as a champion of the non-intoxicating cannabis compound.

In another quote with questionable sourcing, Hanks reportedly said in 2017 that he was “fed up of taking various pills” and first tried using CBD to “soothe my anxiety.”

While it’s not clear if the Cali Naturals cited in the new misattributed quote is the similarly named California Naturals CBD, a representative of that company told Marijuana Moment in an email that the development is part of a pattern they’ve experienced and that they did not know the origins of the Hanks hoax.

Someone “has been using our company name to falsely gain customers, maybe to scam them,” Erin Janson said. “We have received many emails from unsuspecting people saying that they purchased CBD from us and were charged for orders they did not want, or signed up for a monthly CBD club after they got a free trial.”

“We are just a small family business trying to make it in the CBD world,” Janson said. “We hope this does not tarnish our name or products.”

In any case, Hanks cleared the air with his all-caps Twitter statement. He might have been flying high as an astronaut in the 1995 film Apollo 13, but he’s certainly not the spokesperson for cannabis that some would have you believe.

Several Grateful Dead Members Call On Fans To Support Marijuana Reform

Photo elements courtesy of Dick Thomas Johnson and Kimzy Nanney.

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.
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Several Grateful Dead Members Call On Fans To Support Marijuana Reform

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Three founding members of The Grateful Dead and a member of the spinoff group Dead & Company used part of their Independence Day to promote marijuana reform.

Songwriter and guitarist Bob Weir and drummers Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann, who are now part of Dead & Company, each called on their social media followers to get involved with the Cannabis Voter Project, which “aims to educate Americans about about how voting can impact cannabis policy.” Dead & Company bassist Oteik Burbridge also used his platform to promote the organization.

Fans were encouraged to text “CANNA VOTER” to 40649, which prompts them with questions about federal cannabis reform and automatically generates messages to their congressional representatives. The musicians are also inviting supporters to visit a Cannabis Voter Project booth at one of Dead & Company’s shows in Colorado.

HeadCount, a non-profit organization that partners with musicians to register voters and operates Cannabis Voter Project, has been working with Dead & Company—and the band’s upcoming Colorado shows will put the focus on marijuana reform.

“No better way to celebrate #IndependenceDay than telling elected leaders what you believe in,” Weir wrote. “If you happen to consider yourself a ‘Cannabis Voter,’ text CANNA VOTER to 40649 or visit [Cannabis Voter Project] on #ParticipationRow at our Colorado shows.”

“I’ve smoked a lot of weed. And I vote,” Kreutzmann said. “If you‘re like me you should visit @HeadCountOrg’s @Cannabis_Voter Project booth on Participation Row in Boulder this weekend!”

The partnership makes sense given The Grateful Dead’s close association to the counterculture scene and cannabis across the span of several decades. Hart also owns a marijuana company that sells small joints in shops throughout Northern California.

Musicians are increasingly speaking out about cannabis politics. Last month, for example, Killer Mike discussed why rap artists deserve more credit for advancing marijuana legalization. And Rolling Stones’s Mick Jagger gave the governor of Illinois a shoutout at a Chicago concert on the day he signed a cannabis legalization bill.

Mick Jagger Gives Illinois Governor A Shout Out For Legalizing Marijuana

This piece was updated to note that additional The Grateful Dead and Dead & Company members posted on social media about Cannabis Voter Project.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia.

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.
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