Aoshilong, a Chinese clothing manufacturer that sells its line on Amazon, produces leggings for little girls in various prints. There is a flower print, a Chesire Cat print, a forest-under-a-starry-sky print, and, if numerous news sources can be believed, a marijuana leaf print.
According to a December 12 story from WFTX, the Fox station in Fort Myers, Florida, that was uncritically repeated by many other outlets, "the pants are covered with marijuana leaves," which "has some parents and grandparents upset." One unnamed but supposedly representative grandparent told WFTX reporter Jillian Idle, "I just think that's very inappropriate for a 3-year-old, not something they should be advertising." An anti-drug activist agreed, saying "you're advertising that you're showing acceptability."
By the time UPI's Ben Hooper got ahold of the story the next day, the parents and grandparents were not merely "upset" but "outraged." In an interview with Huffington Post reporter David Moye several hours later, another anti-drug activist justified the indignation. "Anything that normalizes marijuana with kids is child abuse," he explained. Yesterday Parent Herald's Claire Parker declared a "backlash" against the "marijuana-printed leggings," reporting that "parents and anti-drug activists are not happy." Evidently someone at Amazon took note, because the offending item has been removed.
Noting the disappearance of the leggings, Some News blogger Catherine LeClair said "the seller, AOSHILONG-Baby, called the pattern 'digital printed leaves,' leaving room for interpretation, but we all know a weed leaf when we see one." Or do we? Now that this menace to the youth of America has been eliminated, let's take a deep breath and ask which is more plausible: that a Chinese manufacturer of decidedly mainstream clothing made leggings for little girls printed with marijuana leaves and offered them for sale on Amazon, or that a few hyperventilating cannabiphobes mistook Japanese maple leaves for marijuana leaves? It would not be the first time.
As you may recall, Bureau County, Illinois, Sheriff James Reed made that very mistake when he falsely reported that someone was giving local trick-or-treaters marijuana-infused candy. He later admitted that the "suspicious looking candy," which supposedly tested "positive for containing cannabis," was "safe for consumption," noting that "the design on the wrapper is actually a Japanese Maple Leaf, which closely resembles a cannabis leaf." The same confusion was responsible for the 2014 suspension of a Virginia sixth-grader who brought a suspicious-looking leaf to school.
Dankspace, the blog that blew the lid off Reed's Halloween scare, notes that the "marijuana leaves" on the banned-from-Amazon leggings (above right) look a lot like Japanese maple leaves (above left) and asks, "Is it really that hard to Google whether there might be a leaf design similar to cannabis that has been hugely popular in Asia for many generations?" The problem is not so much laziness as bad incentives. Assuming that the offended Amazon browsers are honestly befuddled, neither the anti-drug activists nor the reporters regurgitating their concerns had anything to gain by questioning the story, which reinforces the antipot narrative and generates clicks.
Just as you should not expect prohibitionists to stop stoking unfounded fears of malevolent strangers trying to get your kids high on Halloween, there is no reason to think they will drop their objections to Aoshilong's leggings. After all, even if the pants depict maple leaves and have nothing to do with cannabis, they could easily be misinterpreted as an endorsement of the drug culture, as the activists' own confusion demonstrates.