Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) might be a fan of riding Amtrak and an advocate for federal marijuana legalization—but a spokesperson for his office confirmed to Marijuana Moment on Thursday that he has not been working to broker a deal to let train passengers buy and use cannabis during their travel, despite the fact that some people have accepted the idea to be true after the fake news was published this week.
The serious-sounding Buffalo Chronicle has tricked readers before as they’ve doled out a mix of flagrantly satirical items and what the publisher has described as “factual” articles. This one about Schumer and cannabis train policies is fiction. But that hasn’t stopped a few hundred people from liking and sharing it on social media like Facebook, for example.
The article claims that Schumer has been working on the issue “for months,” and it suggested that an announcement from Amtrak about allowing marijuana sales and consumption on its “slow-moving routes” is imminent.
“I love a wide, slow moving train,” Schumer was falsely quoted as saying in the article. “There’s nothing better than being able to put your feet up and enjoy the ride.”
“These regs are designed to help make Amtrak profitable and to give it the flexibility to be competitive as it develops various niches in the market for travel,” the fake quote continues. “Particularly among leisure travelers who don’t mind traveling at a more comfortable pace.”
For those who’ve followed Congress and marijuana policy closely enough to detect the fake news, the made-up quotes attributed to Schumer might rise to a giggle.
There are any number of ways to identify the makings of a fake news article here. Consider first that that marijuana is federally illegal and Amtrak is a quasi-public entity where the federal government owns its preferred stocks. Then there’s the fact that Schumer is working to finalize passable cannabis reform legislation by the end of this session—and authorizing marijuana use in interstate travel is decidedly not believed to be part of the package.
There’s also a Schumer spokesperson’s comment to Marijuana Moment calling the story “literal fake news!”
Buffalo Chronicle sometimes posts what its publisher, Matthew Ricchiazzi, characterizes as “social art,” as he told Brooklyn Paper this year. Social art, he said, is “designed to inspire the collective aspirations of the body politic.”
“The Buffalo Chronicle is not fake news,” he said. “More than 98 percent of everything we publish is factual. On regular occasion we do publish satire, and on other occasions we publish content that I would describe as social art.”
It’s not immediately clear how a false story about the top U.S. senator bringing marijuana on-board the national train company would inspire those collective aspirations—especially considering that reader feedback on Facebook from those who’ve seemingly taken it as fact is generally negative.
“Term limits please,” one commenter said, apparently calling for Schumer’s time in office to come to an end.
“RIDICULOUS! Amtrak trains are no smoking. Why in the world would you make an exception for drugs, but not cigarettes?” another posted. “Oh, wait, VOTES! A drugged population is a compliant and pliable population susceptible to suggestion & manipulation.”
Others called what they believed to be a real policy development “sickening,” “very wrong” and “incomprehensible stupidity.”
Marijuana Moment reached out to Buffalo Chronicle’s Ricchiazzi for comment, but he didn’t respond by the time of publication.
Railway Age, which produces real news on the train industry, was one of the first to pick up on the story and debunk it. “Tell a lie enough times and many people will start to believe it,” Editor-in-Chief William Vantuono wrote on Monday.
For what it’s worth, Amtrak’s current smoking policy states that “the use or transportation of marijuana in any form for any purpose is prohibited, even in states or countries where recreational use is legal or permitted medically.”
In any case, there are some real, recent Schumer developments on the cannabis front.
Last month, the House sponsor of a marijuana banking bill said that he recently spoke with the majority leader at an event at the White House and discussed the need to enact the bipartisan reform this session.
Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) said that he impressed upon the leader the importance of his Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, which has cleared the House in some form seven times only to be held up in the Senate under Republican and Democratic control. Schumer, the congressman said, assured him that the chamber is “working on it” and is “going to get going” on the reform.
While Schumer and colleagues filed a comprehensive cannabis legalization bill in July, it’s not expected to be taken up this session given the challenge of reaching the 60-vote threshold to pass through the Senate. But the leader is still intent on bringing some kind of marijuana reform legislation to the floor in the coming months.
Lawmakers have signaled that the bill will contain protections for banks that work with state-legal marijuana businesses, as well as other modest proposals to facilitate expungements, provide medical cannabis access for military veterans, promote research and more.