Post-Truth Part 2: Check the Sources

September 9, 2017

If recreational marijuana is going to continue to thrive, it will need facts and good reporting. With that in mind, we’re producing a series focusing on two important subjects: how to gauge the validity of marijuana news articles, and  tips on the telltale signs that an article might have an agenda other than to inform.

So you’ve taken the plunge and clicked past the headline of the latest story purporting to be telling the truth about marijuana. Hooray! Now comes step two:

#2: Check The Sources

We all know not to trust a claim without any citations, but it’s just as important to examine existing citations and read the source material for yourself. Many sites’ assertions come with footnotes and cited sources, but that doesn’t mean that their analysis is unbiased or even in line with what the source intended.


The website for the Foundation for a Drug-Free World, for example, presents informational guides about a wide variety of drugs and their effects. Marijuana is no exception, and in a section titled “The Truth About Marijuana,” they highlight different types of cannabis consumables and the alleged dangers that each poses. Following their footnotes back to the original sources, however, paints a different picture.


In a section explaining the effects of edibles, the foundation presents two cases as examples of why they should be avoided. The first is an account published in the New York Times that includes a reporter’s negative experience with a cannabis-infused candy bar; the second is the much more serious tragedy of a teenager jumping to his death while high on marijuana. Clicking through to these articles confirms the basic facts of each story, but what the foundation leaves out is that both instances involved someone ingesting far above the recommended dose. Bizarrely, the site goes out of its way to insist that the teenager ate ⅙ of an infused cookie, whereas the article (and police report) explain that he had actually eaten six times the recommended amount.


Separating fact from fiction is especially vital in cases like these because of the legitimate criticism that’s threaded in and around the sensationalism. Establishing dosing standards for edibles and infusions is an important issue facing the cannabis industry, as is the need for a more informed public. But demonizing the edibles themselves doesn’t bring attention to these issues, it just feeds people’s fears and confuses the matter more. By taking a few extra moments to check the sources yourself, you get the whole story. Even better, you give yourself the chance to make up your own mind.


Here are some things to lookout for when you’re reading any informational article:

  • Do they link back to the source article? This isn’t an automatic red flag (sometimes it has more to with a publication’s style standards than any ill intent), but it often means you’ll want to dig a little deeper. If an organization is confident in their interpretation of a
    source, they should be equally confident in giving their readers access to that source.


  • Take a look at the other articles they’ve published or news items they’ve featured. Are they all negative, all the time? Or maybe it’s a nonstop hit parade of everything that’s going right. Legalization has made scores of scientific studies on cannabis and its effects possible, which means a wide range of results as we continue to learn. Anyone reporting solely on the extremes, even if each individual story is confirmable, is likely cherry-picking their examples to fit a predetermined narrative.

  • Double check the site’s About page: this might seem like a no-brainer, but many sites that appear impartial at first glance will give a clearer picture of their editorial goals once you click away from the content itself.


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