Annapolis Police Chief Michael Pristoop learned the hard way that not everything on the internet is, shall we say, to be trusted.
Pristoop was part of a group of police chiefs who testified Tuesday before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee against a bill that would decriminalize small amounts of pot and another that would legalize the drug for recreational use.
The chief of the Annapolis Police Department wanted to make it clear that weed is dangerous. He could have saved himself some embarrassment if he’d just done a little investigative work.
“The first day of legalization, that’s when Colorado experienced 37 deaths that day from overdose,” Pristoop said, adding that the state was “seeing a significant problem with overdoses.”
The trouble is, Colorado has no such overdose problem and three dozen people didn’t die because of marijuana-related overdoses.
Sen. Jamin B. “Jamie” Raskin, D-Montgomery, immediately quizzed Pristoop on his information.
“Unless you have some other source, I’m afraid I have to spoil the party,” Raskin said, adding that the death count cited by the police chief “was a hoax.”
The death toll cited by the chief comes from a faux-story on the Daily Currant website. That site quotes a non-existent Rocky Mountain News story that says Colorado officials are reconsidering the law legalizing the recreational use of weed after 37 people overdosed on the first day. The Daily Currant does not provide a link back to the source article (a clue, in police terms, that something is not quite right).
Another clue to the hoax was a reference to two conditions killing people— hypospadias, acquired trimethylaminuria.
Hypospadias is a deformity affecting male infants that produces “a penis that not only performs inefficiently but also looks different,” according to the Urology Care Foundation.
Trimethylaminuria is a condition in which the body is unable to break down the chemical trimethylaminea. That failure causes pungent odor “described as smelling like rotting fish, rotting eggs, garbage, or urine,” according to the National Institutes of Health.
More clues that the article stinks.
The article also includes the following quote:
“It’s complete chaos here,” says Dr. Jack Shepard, chief of surgery at St. Luke’s Medical Center in Denver. “I’ve put five college students in body bags since breakfast and more are arriving every minute.
But again, it’s fake. Even the Daily Currant’s “About” page explains that the stories posted are false.
Pritoop initially told Raskin he had other sources but couldn’t immediately produce the citation.
Raskin took to Twitter to criticize the comment, calling it “Marijuana Prohibition’s last stand!”
Not long after, Pristoop apologized on the department’s Facebook page:
“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.”