A screen capture from Denver7 footage used in CNN's 420 package on marijuana in Colorado.
A screen capture from Denver7 footage used in CNN's 420 package on marijuana in Colorado.
Denver7 via CNN

CNN Corrects Part but Not Enough of Anti-Colorado Marijuana Screed

On April 20, CNN broadcast a scathing and practically fact-free assault on the marijuana industry in these parts under the headline "Colorado Governor Won't Rule Out Banning Marijuana Again. Here's Why." The governor's office suggests that the results were misleading and confirms that two corrections were requested in regard to the enormously embarrassing results. One was made, the other wasn't.

The package opens with a shot of CNN correspondent Scott McLean during a ride-along with Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith, who's described as "no fan of marijuana."

That's putting it mildly. He was arguably the most prominent member among a group of Colorado sheriffs who unsuccessfully sued to block the implementation of Amendment 64, the 2012 measure that legalized limited recreational cannabis sales in the state.

The suit was laughed out of court, but Smith continues to blame marijuana for just about everything. If North Korea's Kim Jong-un launches a nuclear strike against the United States, we're betting Smith will find a way to make it ganja's fault.

Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith.
Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith.
File photo

During his conversation with CNN's McLean, Smith posits that a 5 percent uptick in Colorado's crime rate since legalization, and a 12 percent rise of violent crime during this same period, are related to marijuana — without a shred of evidence to back up his supposition. Instead, he spins the theory that the easy availability of pot has led to such a mushrooming of the state's homeless population that more crime was inevitable.

This hypothesis is directly contradicted by a recent Colorado State University-Pueblo study that found no causal link between marijuana and homelessness. But that doesn't seem to bother McLean, who barrels ahead with his scary-weed implications even without Smith's help. He points out that crime is up 4 percent in Denver, too, but he undermines comments from a Denver Police Department spokesman, who correctly cites the lack of data needed to tie these things together, with footage from Clarence Seely's random attack on 16th Street Mall pedestrians with a piece of PVC tubing.

Infinitely more offensive is the portion of the piece devoted to the Fort Collins-area murder of 23-year-old Helena Hoffman. Jeffery Etheridge, the transient convicted of killing her, supposedly moved to Colorado because his then-girlfriend's brother worked at a dispensary. Therefore, apparently, marijuana was as guilty as he was.

Hickenlooper pops up near the end of this journalistic train wreck, and in response to McLean's question about whether the state would ever consider re-criminalizing cannabis, he replies, "No, I'm not ruling it out." When McLean asks if trying to do so would be tantamount to trying to stuff a genie back into a bottle, Hickenlooper adds, "Trust me, if the data was coming back and we saw spikes in violent crime, we saw spikes in overall crime, there would be a lot of people looking for that bottle and figuring out how we get the genie back in."

Governor John Hickenlooper during an interview from the CNN 420 piece.
Governor John Hickenlooper during an interview from the CNN 420 piece.

That's a long, long way from advocating for pot prohibition to be put back in place, as is acknowledged by Hickenlooper press secretary Jacque Montgomery in an email to Westword. "If the landscape changes on any issue facing the state — marijuana, air quality, homelessness and the like — we will push to do what’s best for Colorado."

Operative word: "if."

Another CNN gaffe: The subhead on the video online "suggested the Governor can ban marijuana," Montgomery goes on. "Obviously, he can't. ... Any change to the constitution would require a vote of the people." In response, "[CNN] changed it to read, 'Will Colorado ban marijuana again?' We asked for the additional change of adding the word 'state' to their headline, as it also suggested that the governor could ban it, but changes were not made there."

Indeed, the entire sorry mishmash remains on CNN's website, and that's not okay by TheNewsStation.com, the pro-marijuana news source run by former political journalist Peter Marcus. Earlier this month, we highlighted six fake marijuana reports blasted by Marcus and company, and they've filed the CNN effort under the same heading while demanding either a retraction or a correction.

These two methods are essentially indistinguishable from one another. After all, if every mistake in the CNN package is corrected, it will completely cease to exist.

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