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NORML Deputy Director Rails Media Coverage


Nug of the Month: Aug 2008
"I do not at all think it's a hyperbole," Paul Armentano, the deputy director of NORML, said, "when we refer to the War on Drugs as a war on young people."

Armentano spoke Wednesday night at a NORML meeting in Student Union room 218.

Armentano's work is not exclusively with the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws: his writing has appeared in over 500 publications, he speaks publicly about marijuana policy and contributes regularly to Heads Magazine.

At the NORML meeting Wednesday, Armentano delivered a presentation about the media's role in fair and balanced coverage of marijuana policy, or lack thereof. Starting just under 40 years ago, Armentano documented numerous instances where the media was getting the story wrong.

"In the early 1970s, the media started buying into all this junk science," Armentano said. "There were published stories that said men who smoked marijuana grew breasts."

According to Armentano, major reports had surfaced from Costa Rica and Jamaica about the effects of marijuana during the early 70s, all of which proved the plant to be rather harmless. However, the media chose to ignore the findings, in favor of stories that would garner higher ratings.

Armentano shared a few headlines he found in today's press that outlined his arguments: "Cannabis Bigger Cancer Risk Than Cigarettes" by Reuters, "Marijuana Use May Increase Risk of Heart Attack, Stroke" also by Reuters and "Marijuana Makes Teeth Fall Out," which was actually covered twice by the Washington Post.

Taking the headlines a step further, Armentano proceeded to debunk some of them.

As far as cannabis being a bigger risk than cigarettes, Armenatno asserted the story ran days before the actual study ran.

The findings concluded that heavy tobacco users were 24 times more likely to contract lung cancer, and heavy marijuana smokers were six times more likely.

If you think marijuana will increase your chances of heart disease, consulting additional sources would be a good idea, considering researchers conducting the study did not check patients to see whether they suffered from any heart conditions, or if there was history of heart disease in their family, Armentano said.

"So by now you're probably saying, 'Paul, I get it, I know media coverage sucks,'" Armentano said. "But why does it suck?"

Armentano cited news stations' drive to be first with a breaking story or headline as part of the reason. After all, "If it bleeds, it leads," Armentano said during his PowerPoint presentation.

Lazy reporting was another aspect Armentano took issue with. He referred to a reporter from USA Today who called him about a story on the difference between pot in the 1970s and today's pot, implying today's cannabis is more potent.

The way Armentano told the story, when he said that was not the case, the reporter would not have it, saying to Armentano, "I just need a quote from you, I'm not going to re-work my story," according to Armentano.

Armentano also made reference to a news story put together by the Drug Czar's Office, in which there was a statistic showing there were more medical marijuana dispensaries in San Francisco than Starbucks.

The Drug Czar's Office reported 96 dispensaries, but The San Francisco Chronicle refuted the claim, counting only 24. Eventually, the Drug Czar admitted to using information on Los Angeles dispensaries.

"A government agency put out a news story that was an outright lie," Armentano said. "How is that not a big deal?"

Freshman Jack Gibson seemed to have mixed reactions to Armentano's speech.

"I mean, I was pro-legalization already, but I did notice a couple logical fallacies in his arguments," Gibson said.

Following Armentano's speech was a raffle for gift certificates and glass pipes. Winners of a multicolored glass pipe and an elephant-shaped glass pipe were NORML members Oscar H. Ramirez and K.D.

NORML President Brendon Rivard announced that NORML will be giving away their last piece, a two foot tall rasta-colored glass waterpipe at the last gathering of the semester.

News Hawk- Ganjarden 420 MAGAZINE ® - Medical Marijuana Publication & Social Networking
Source: Central Florida Future
Author: James Cruikshank
Contact: Central Flordia Furture
Copyright: 2008 Central Florida Future
Website: NORML Deputy Director Rails Media Coverage

Keith Lake

420 Emeritus
420 Staff
These NORML guys are on the right track

If the portions of media can be made to feel guilty for their sloppy, lazy coverage we might get a more fair shake going forward.

This of course won't help with the "true believer" or beholden to political interests portion of the media

We need to push forward into general public opinion with the truth about the drug war.

It's the prohibition that causes the harm not the cannabis

Dr. 215

New Member
I wish they explained that freshman kids quote more, he said his arguments were fallacious but no explanation of why...

Keith Lake

420 Emeritus
420 Staff
Suggest you read the whole article. The post above is a summary

The Hill Blog Blog Archive We've Cut Cigarette Smoking By Half and We Didnt Have To Arrest 20 Million Americans To Do It

The only thing he said that was wrong in my opinion was the following. "Sellers are typically criminal entrepreneurs..."

In my opinion and experience, a lot of the sales are a group of people pooling money or one person buying a larger bag and selling off parts to smoke for free. Others grow their own, and others yet are altruists who share.

Still, I hugely agree with Mr. Armentano and think his work is making a real difference for the cause.

I will be balanced by saying that some of the argument on our side is fallacious (i.e. "Alcohol is worse and it's legal" is the classic fallacy of two wrongs don't make a right). While true this appeals to the sense of fairness, rather than the merit of the argument as to whether cannabis is safe. {of course we all know it is safer}
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