In early January, shortly after the launch of legal recreational marijuana sales in Colorado, we posted about several pot satires that were mistaken for actual news, including one claiming that weed overdoses killed 37 people on day one of retail operations here. Michael Pristoop was among those fooled, and he stands out for three reasons. First, he's a Maryland police chief. Secondly, he cited the article in testimony before a state senate committee. And finally, his statement came nearly two months after the article had been widely debunked.
Here's a screen capture from the aforementioned story, published by The Daily Currant:
As we noted in January, clues that the item isn't legit come early and often. For instance, the source of the information is supposedly the Rocky Mountain News, which has been shuttered for several years, and folks quoted include Dr. Jack Shepherd, a character from Lost, and Jesse Pinkman, one of the principals in Breaking Bad.
Nonetheless, the post went viral, with plenty of commenters expressing shock and awe about the body count. But within days, pretty much everyone should have realized the item was phony, right?
Enter Pristoop, the police chief in Annapolis, Maryland. He reportedly cited the article in testimony before a senate committee in Maryland last week -- after which he was smacked with loads o' ridicule, as epitomized by the three videos at the end of this post.
Shortly thereafter, the City of Annapolis put out the following release:
Chief Apologizes for Testimony Error
On Tuesday February 25, 2013 Chief Michael Pristoop testified in front of the Maryland Senate Judiciary Committee opposing the decriminalization and legalization of marijuana. During his testimony the Chief indicated a number of deaths occurred in Colorado on the first day of marijuana legalization in that State. Chief Pristoop, after conducting additional research, discovered that the numbers presented were not accurate but an urban myth. "I apologize for the information I provided concerning the deaths. I believed the information I obtained was accurate but I now know the story is nothing more than an urban legend," Chief Michael Pristoop stated. "This does not take away from the other facts presented in opposition to legalization or the good work of the Maryland Chiefs and Maryland Sheriffs Associations."
Of course, calling the story an "urban myth" is highly questionable. It's not as if the tale had been circulating for years before being accepted as truth. As for fact checking, there's this little thing called Google....
Still, the Marijuana Majority's Tom Angell doesn't dismiss this incident as a joke.
Via e-mail, Angell writes, "This just underscores why we should not be treating drug issues with a law enforcement approach. But as long as marijuana remains illegal and a mater for the criminal justice system, cops like Chief Pristoop will be charged with trying to solve health issues with badges and handcuffs instead of letting doctors who have medical degrees effectively focus resources on people who actually need help."
Here are three marijuana-centric clips about Pristoops's oops.
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Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.
More from our Marijuana archive circa January 6: "'Marijuana Overdoses Kill 37' story among Colorado pot satires some take seriously."