Anti-Cannabis Group Teaches a Master Class on Data Manipulation to Suit Your Narrative
Project SAM has been steadily losing relevance in the public eye for the past few years. In the past, I have frequently written balancing perspectives to their anti-cannabis narratives, analyzing the integrity of their arguments and data. Today however, I’d like to commend Project SAM for having the balls to teach the world about Data manipulation to suit ones narrative.
The blatancy of their act is what makes it such a perfect example. What’s more appealing about this story is that the data sets were funded by Project SAM, which shows you that despite a proliferate anti-cannabis organization’s attempts to showcase the ills of marijuana – the will of the people shines through!
Of course, the reason we’re writing this article is because of data manipulation and how you can reframe a narrative even if the data doesn’t support your position. Point in case, Project SAM’s interpretation of the Emerson College Polls where they are attempting to argue that when people are presented with different forms of legalization, only a minority support recreational cannabis. M
The survey provided four options;
Recreational Legalization 38%
Medical Cannabis Legalization (30%)
This means that when you look at those who have some sort of favorable legal action on cannabis policy, roughly 68% are in favor. The group of decriminalization indicates that at least 1 in 5 adults don’t agree with current prohibition and believe that “criminal penalties” need to be removed. Only 14% of the surveyors had a favorable view of prohibition. With polls like these, it’s easy to conclude that the majority of the people are in favor of some sort of “pro cannabis reform”.
However, SAM isolated the category of “Recreational Legalization” and compared it to “other non-legalization marijuana policies” i.e (Decriminalization and Medical Marijuana legalization & prohibition). Optically speaking, it paints a picture that “full marijuana legalization” isn’t as popular as we might think.
Compared to the “other” category, Recreational legalization appears to be the least popular option with 38% vs 72%; even though it’s the “most popular” option out of the four points. In fact, if we were to use the same metrics as SAM and isolate “prohibition” versus “Other non-prohibition Marijuana Policies” we get an even more optically damaging view – 86% vs 14%.
Marijuana Moment reported on this story where they quoted Kevin Sabet, the president of SAM saying this;
“Big Pot, which is rapidly being taken over by the giants of Big Tobacco, Big Alcohol, and even Big Pharma, wants lawmakers to believe it enjoys widespread support among voters,” SAM President Kevin Sabet argued in a press release. “It pushes this false narrative with the public and uses decision-makers to expand its addiction-for-profit business model.” – Source: MARIJUANA MOMENT
While this is empirically a false statement, SAM applied the same mechanisms of reframing the data in Maryland and New Hampshire, where polling for legalizing cannabis for recreational purposes almost surpassed 50% on it’s own.
When adding the other “pro cannabis policy shifts”, you’re seeing the numbers poll in the high 80 percentile in favor of cannabis legalization. Nonetheless, Project SAM uses these skewed data sets to argue their case that overwhelmingly, “Americans are against cannabis!” Or as Sabet wishes to frame it, “Big Pot!”
Don’t get me wrong, I too am worried about Big Pot and the freedom of smaller players within a more globalized marketplace – however, I am also confident that the cannabis marketplace is well-equipped to circumvent laws if the game gets too “rigged”. After all, anyone with seeds can grow their own weed, therefore, unlike many other markets – consumers do have a superpower!
Big Pot is concerning because of added regulations it will want to bring to the marketplace, increasing costs and thereby pushing out independent brands from competing. They also don’t seem to care about the end-user, and would cut corners where OG merchants would “take care of the spirit of the plant”.
While Sabet and I share concerns about Big Pot, I don’t want to keep Big Pot out of the marketplace, I just believe there should be different Tiered costs for certain kinds of business. For example, if local businesses could get additional tax breaks and opportunities not available to “Giant Faceless Conglomerates”, then you’d allow these giant corporate entities to participate in the market while stimulating the local economy.
I’m not too afraid of “doctored science” as cannabis will remain relevant within the scientific world for decades to come. We’ll only become more proficient and accurate with risk assessment that cannabis medicines will eventually become staple globally. Eventually we’ll see psychedelic medicine also become mainstream, but that’s another topic.
What to learn from Project SAM?
Whenever you hear a statistic being read to you, stop and think for a moment. Our minds are geared to learn statistics and assimilate it into fact. Our problem solving brain can’t help itself because these “facts” help us make sense of the world. In turn, we internalize the “truth” and our behavior is modified as a result.
This is why understanding how statistics work, how research is conducted and the quality of the data is so important. You should never simply “accept” that “62% of blackbirds have a curve in their beaks to help with airborne hunting” because even if it sounds to be true, it can be completely fabricated.
If there is one thing that prohibition should teach us it’s that we should all become “scientific” in our thinking. It is no longer valid to simply “trust the experts” because everyone can be compromised by their own internal biases or erroneous interpretations and at worst, gaming the system.
Which is the fear of Kevin Sabet because as he so perfectly eludes – the Tobacco Industry did just that. And so did the Pharmaceutical companies. And so did many biotech companies in the past. What this proves is that you can’t simply take someone’s “word” for it…it is imperative that you are able to interpret studies and data sets as part of your critical skills of survival in the age of information.
Thanks Project SAM – you’ve been a great help as showing us how misinformation works.
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