How Many Errors and/or Downright Lies Can David Frum Fit Into One Anti-Pot Column?

It appears that David Frum's piece for the very last print edition of Newsweek, "The Perils of Legalizing Pot," went to press before the magazine's fact checker(s) could take a pass at it (Update: sources tell me Newsweek has no fact checkers. That explains what follows below). 

In the second paragraph of his column, Frum writes, "Marijuana possession is now legal in Colorado and Washington. California also allows marijuana possession, if users can pay a doctor to prescribe it as 'medicine.'" Because marijuana is a Schedule I drug, doctors can't "prescribe" marijuana, they can only recommend it. 

While that error may seem semantic (it's not), the error Frum makes in the very next paragraph of his column is far more stark: "Even in the 47 states that formally ban marijuana, the drug is available everywhere and at modest cost." Eighteen states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana; Rhode Island decriminalized it this year, and other states and municipalities have done so in the past. Ergo, 47 states do not have formal bans on pot. 

As much (deserved) flack as Newsweek gets these days, I'm still surprised that the second error made it into print, as it contradicts Newsweek's own reporting on the subject. From an Oct. 22, 2012 story, titled "The New Pot Barons: Businessmen Bank on Marijuana": 

Twelve states now treat a personal stash like a minor traffic offense, 17 allow medical marijuana...

With November's passage of a medical marijuana ballot initiative in Massachusetts, the total is now 18.

David Frum didn't just insult the intelligence of his readers by failing to do even a smidgeon of research, he also insulted his colleague, Tony Dokoupil, who has done a lot of marijuana reporting this year. Most (but not all) of it has been sound enough to have served Frum's column. 

Take a look at some of the verifiable claims he simply guesses at: 

Although data are difficult to come by, it’s generally scientifically accepted that Americans smoke more marijuana per person than any other people on earth.

Data is not actually difficult to come by. From the 2012 U.N. World Drug Report

Overall, annual prevalence of cannabis use remained stable in 2010 (2.8-4.5 per cent of the adult population in 2009), the highest prevalence of cannabis use being reported in Oceania (essentially Australia and New Zealand) at 9.1-14.6 per cent, followed by North America (10.8 per cent), Western and Central Europe (7.0 per cent) and West and Central Africa (5.2-13.5 per cent). While the prevalence of cannabis use in Asia (1.0 - 3.4 per cent) remains lower than the global average, due to Asia's large population the absolute number of users in Asia, estimated between 26 million and 92 million, remains the highest worldwide.

More Frum:

If there’s one thing on which we can all agree, it is that legalization will mean even more use by even more people.

Again, research pertaining to this claim is available, for free. A 2011 study published in Addiction (and analyzed by Jacob Sullum) found that "the prevalence of cannabis use among Dutch citizens rose and fell as the number of coffeeshops increased and later declined, but only modestly." A study conducted by medical researchers at Brown University, meanwhile, found that "while marijuana use was common, there was no significant difference in rates of pot use between the years before and after legalization in Rhode Island."

Frum goes on to say that marijuana users have "have fewer friends and occupy lower rungs on the socioeconomic ladder." While I couldn't find any research indicating that pot smokers have fewer friends (or more), the success of pot smokers like Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Mitch Daniels, Peter Lewis, and many, many, many others suggests that it's possible to smoke pot and be successful. Upon reaching full volume, Frum does away with facts entirely: "Marijuana smoking is a sign of trouble, a warning to heed, a behavior to regret and deplore." 

He's entitled to his opinion, of course. But Newsweek should not have let him lie and distort research to bolster it. 

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  • anon||

    David who?

  • SugarFree||

    David Frum is the punchline to a joke no one wanted to hear in the first place.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Marijuana smoking is a sign of trouble, a warning to heed, a behavior to regret and deplore.

    But yet, some people have made a multi-million dollar career out of it.

    Strange, that.

  • anon||

    But, but, marijuana use leads to sucking cock in the alley for crack. No, I don't have any evidence of this, MJ is still a GATEWAY DRUG!!!111

  • Heroic Mulatto||

  • Doctor Whom||

    No, I don't have any evidence of this

    You have the burden of production of evidence that it doesn't. Then, when you produce it, I'll give you that all-purpose scathing rebuttal known as "La la la, I can't hear you" and declare victory.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    There's still a Newsweek?

  • Jordan||

    More like Newsweak! Amirite? Bueller?

  • ||

    Mkay?

  • Brett L||

    How Many Errors and/or Downright Lies Can David Frum Fit Into One Anti-Pot Column?

    How many column inches does he have?

  • nicole||

    I think the post title was a dare

  • John||

    Although data are difficult to come by, it’s generally scientifically accepted that Americans smoke more marijuana per person than any other people on earth.

    That is just appalling. If there is no data, how can it be "generally scientifically accepted"? Lets count the fallacies in that one sentence.

    1. It is unfalsifiable since he admits the data he is referring to doesn't exist.

    2. It is an appeal to authority.

    This is the kind of shit that would be graded down in a 12th grade term paper. And this clown gets to get paid for writing it?

  • Cytotoxic||

    Frum is kind of amazing that way. He is the ultimate establishmentarian 'just trust ass' douchebag. And a HUGE victim/TP martyr. Kay at the NP has him on a fucking cross.

  • anon||

    CONSENSUS!

    /tony

  • Cytotoxic||

    Frum once wrote a column a couple years back saying it was time for conservatives to kneel before Krugman because he had gotten every economic prediction right.

    This asshole is ruining the National Post. Either join me in the comments section there or take him back.

  • Way Of The Crane||

    "Even in the 47 states that formally ban marijuana, the drug is available everywhere and at modest cost."

    Even if I did consider $30-$50 for a quarter-ounce of schwag to be a "modest cost," I don't think of the thousands of dollars in fines, legal fees, and property seizures for those arrested for possession as such.

  • nicole||

    I wish I understood his point in that sentence, because all it says to me is, "Prohibition doesn't motherfucking works, guys."

  • Hugh Akston||

    But we can't afford to legalize!

  • Hyperion||

    Neither does gun control, but just listen at the proglodytes the last couple of days. They don't care what works, they need to feel good, and control everyones lives, that is what is importnat, not what works or doesn't.

  • Way Of The Crane||

    David Frum's thinking is so shallow that I doubt it even qualifies as 2 dimensional. How does one write that sentence then go on to argue that further prohibition is the correct course?

  • Hyperion||

    Even in the 47 states

    And look, yet another error that Reason didn't catch. There are 57 states! Durrr, everyone knows that!

    that formally ban marijuana, the drug is available everywhere and at modest cost

    Well, then we need moar WOD, because it is working out so great!

  • jway||

    Once again we're reminded that marijuana prohibition is a cult. And like all cults, it doesn't matter how much proves that you're wrong, you DO NOT question your beliefs and you do not EVER back down.

    For most people, seventy years of failure would be enough to at least encourage you to review your assumptions, but for the cult members of marijuana prohibition, seven decades of unmitigated and unprecedented failure is NOTHING! Don't back down, don't question your beliefs is the only real goal they have.

  • Doctor Whom||

    People commonly apply the same thought processes to political and religious matters, including "Reality is negotiable; dogma isn't."

  • Paul.||

    Is he wearing loafers with no socks in that picture?

  • Hugh Akston||

    Those might be moccasins, which would be even worse.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    David Frum is a dumb cunt. And I don't care if that's an insult to honest hard-working dumb cunts everywhere.

  • Paul.||

    I don't feel insulted, so I think you're good.

  • shamalam||

    Twat you say?
    Cunt hear you.
    Bare ass me again.

  • Hyperion||

    We must continue to wage this useless and obscenely expensive WOD. We must have forced gun control that will be obscenely expensive to enforce. We must have socialized medicine that will be obscenely expensive.

    Moar laws, moar regulations, moar welfare, moar foodstamps, moar foreign wars, moar government agencies, moar subsidized everything, moar, moar, moar... I hear this creaking sound that happens right before a big crash.

  • Way Of The Crane||

    Mike, how could you leave out this clearly erroneous statement:

    Americans drink more than other people, eat more, crash their cars more, and shoot themselves (and each other) more.

    With the exception of the eating claim, for which I could not find statistics, the United States doesn't doesn't hit the top ten in any of those categories.

  • NL_||

    His argument is basically that people who use marijuana are poor, dumb losers and even if marijuana doesn't cause those problems but rather those problems cause marijuana usage, we should prohibit it anyway. Pure social posturing: poor people use drugs so drugs should be banned. No mention of banning alcohol or decrying the culture that celebrates alcohol usage with microbrews and vineyard tours.

  • BlogimiDei||

    If the "blood of Christ" had been imagined to be green and leafy instead of red and watery then maybe Western Society would've been a little less reefer-maddened

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    Didn't stop the 18th Amendment.

  • GILMORE||

    NL_| 12.17.12 @ 12:52PM |#

    His argument is basically that people who use marijuana are poor, dumb losers

    ...like the president, or former governor of california.... he may have a point.

  • Brendan||

    Between that and this doozy on CNN, I can't help but wonder what world he lives in.

    On another note, punchable face or most punchable face?

  • Robert||

    No, Mr. Riggs, you got it wrong and Frum got it right. What do you think "prescribe" means? It means "recommend". A lot of people get this wrong, though. They seem to think a "prescription" is a command of some sort, or some kind of deed or other legal document or title. Even one pharmacology textbook got it wrong. I phoned some people to quiz them a few years ago about what a "prescription" was, and they all (including Stanton Peele and I forgot which other drug reformers) got it wrong, except Thomas Szasz, who answered, "advice, medical advice".

    "Rx" is shorthand for "recipe", Latin for "receive" or "take". Note that it's not "give". It is an instruction to a patient, not to anyone else.

    When a doctor in California recommends marijuana, s/he is prescribing it.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Funny that you give the Latin for recipe but not for praescribo, which, indeed, means to order or command.

  • Robert||

    Whatever the etymology is, Riggs is wrong in saying doctors can't legally prescribe schedule 1 drugs. Of course they can. So can non-doctors, for that matter.

  • DWC||

    Don't you have to wonder what the motives of people like David Frum are. Isn't it baffling - where exactly these sorts of humans are coming from? No one seriously thinks that David Frum has a sincere concern about the well being of anybody other than himself or the well being of the country itself. No one who endorses the drug war can seriously argue that it is in any way good for the country as a whole. This is my theory about people like Frum: Certainly you have been to meetings where there is invariably one person with the secret agenda to derail progress and consensus and to create discord and confusion. They are sociopaths who have learned to function in an apparently acceptable manner among normal people. I believe David Frum is one of those kinds of people as are many well known partisan type on both left and right. You know who these people are. You see them all the time on the Sunday Morning News shows and moving among those whose hands are on the levers of power. There are people who enjoy producing and enabling suffering in the world and those who are sophisticated enough can rise to positions where they have influence on a broad scale and are able to hide their true natures.

  • ||

    While I couldn't find any research indicating that pot smokers have fewer friends (or more), the success of pot smokers like Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Mitch Daniels, Peter Lewis, and many, many, many others suggests that it's possible to smoke pot and be successful.

    Michael Phelps!
    Winners smoke pot!

  • sohbet||

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