People were astonished Thursday morning when they went to their favorite website and read about marijuana overdoses in Colorado being responsible for a wave of deaths. They can relax. Colorado residents are not dying off because of legalized pot. It’s just a report from the website Daily Currant, known for its satire of all things sacred.
According to the article, Colorado is rethinking its decision to allow recreational marijuana use after dozens of people overdosed. The Rocky Mountain News was credited as the source for the death toll–strange, since the Denver daily had shut its doors in 2009.
For anyone caring to read a little more and not be gullible about headlines, a quick search on the Daily Currant’s “About” section says that the stories are fictional, but are meant to talk about real-world issues. While heavy with satire, links to genuine pieces online are included.
The story even provided quotes from a non-existent physician named “Dr. Jack Shepard.” Shepard, according to Daily Currant, is the surgical chief at Denver’s St. Luke Medical Center.
Blaming the deaths on legalized marijuana in Colorado, the piece went on to say that Shepard reports the hospital as seeing cardiac arrests, hypospadias, acquired trimethylaminuria and multiple organ failures. The dreamed-up doctor goes on to say that the number of victims could hit as high as 300.
Despite a reference to the hit television series, Breaking Bad, many readers still fell for the gag. According to the article, 29-year-old Jesse Bruce Pinkman was one of the victims. The piece goes on to tell the story of Pinkman, a New Mexican meth dealer who set up a medical marijuana storefront in Boulder in an attempt to go straight.
“This is just a terrible tragedy,” says Pinkman’s friend Peter. “Jesse was trying to go legit and now this happens? I guess drugs really are as dangerous as they say.”
The fake news report was believed by so many readers that the real St. Luke was forced to issue a press release stating that here is no Jack Shepard on staff and there have been no overdoses due to legalized pot.
The Daily Currant was also creative in its selection of conditions reported by the fake doctor. Hypospadias is a birth defect involving the penis, while trimethlaminuria is a genetic disease that used to be called “fish odor system” because it generates a terrible body odor which some people liken to rotting fish.
The fake story also made fun of Amendment 64, the measure which was passed by voters in Colorado in 2012 that mandated recreational marijuana possession and sales should be legalized and taxed like alcohol.
While many people saw the joke, others reading it on social media were completely taken in. One man stated in a YouTube video that he was just “blown away” that 37 people would die on New Year’s Day in Colorado. Apparently attempting to put the fake death toll in perspective, the man went on to point out that the number of potential deaths—hundreds—were more than an average day in the Afghanistan and Iraqi wars put together.
In a later YouTube posting, the man owned up to the fact that he was a victim of a hoax. “I got sucked in,” he said.
Keep in mind that the people who believe the article probably consider themselves to be vastly more intelligent than “stupid pot-heads.”
Editorial by Jerry Nelson