Last week, Fox News host Laura Ingraham suggested that the rising use and cultural acceptance of cannabis is an attributing factor to the trend of mass shootings in the U.S. As my colleague astutely noted in Ganjapreneur’s coverage of Ingraham’s statement, “the modern mass shooting crisis … outdates the modern cannabis legalization movement by nearly five decades,” pointing out that that the gun violence crisis has its roots the 1966 massacre at the University of Texas.
This is far from the first time Ingraham has used her Fox News platform to demonize cannabis and those who consume it. On New Year’s Day 2019, reacting to a CNN segment featuring reporter Randi Kaye on a canna-bus in Denver, Colorado, Ingraham tweeted, “We’ll see how this all works out for our country. More potheads, increase in cases of schizophrenia, psychosis, more impaired driving…as #BigWeed makes billions.”
Ingraham also has a habit of calling cannabis consumers “weedies” (adjective bias) and retweeting opinions from cannabis opponents. Ingraham has also described cannabis consumers as “dopes smoking dope” and that cannabis is “wrecking the minds of young people,” according to a Cheat Sheet report.
A study published last year in the Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law Online examining previous studies linking violent behavior and cannabis found a “strictly correlational link” between cannabis use and violence – not causational – the strength of which “varies depending on the population (e.g., populations with severe and persistent mental illness versus the general population).”
A study published last month in Scientific Reports suggests cannabis consumers are more empathetic, moral, and prosocial than non-consumers. Hardly seems like the personality types to commit mass shootings.
And, to be fair, it’s not just Ingraham making these claims. A quick Google search finds opinion articles making this claim, right-wing news organizations, and gun control (and anti-legalization) groups. These same groups have also claimed that violent video games and prescription drugs are to blame.
Yes, studies – including this often-cited one from British and Dutch researchers – have found that daily cannabis use increased the likelihood of violence for people with psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia, but that is linked to those already diagnosed with the disorder.
Katherine Newman, author of “Rampage: The Social Roots of School Shootings” and University of Massachusetts System Chancellor for Academic Programs, called the claims that cannabis use is a key factor in mass school shootings “absolute nonsense” in an interview with Politifact.
“There is no link whatsoever between marijuana and extreme violence,” she said.
For the book, Newman, a sociologist, interviewed more than 200 interviews with residents of towns where these mass casualty events occurred.
In 2019, more than 100 scholars published a letter refuting the claims of school-shooter and cannabis links, calling the “science” behind the assertions “junk.”
“While associations between marijuana use and mental illness have been established, research suggests that the association is complex and mediated by multiple factors other than marijuana, including genetics,” the letter states. “Similarly, associations between individual characteristics and violence are multi-factorial. Thus, establishing marijuana as a causal link to violence at the individual level is both theoretically and empirically problematic.”
Education Week tracks school shootings – there have been 10 so far this year – and of those four occurred in states where cannabis is legal for adult use (one occurred in Washington, D.C. where adult-use is permitted but there is no legal access.) The Uvalde shooting, the nation’s deadliest thus far, happened in Texas, which has among the most stringent cannabis laws in the nation. So even if legalization increased cannabis access for youth, which it doesn’t, this type of violence has occurred this year mostly in states where cannabis remains illegal.
Remedy: Just stop. Right-wing news organizations and groups need to blame gun violence on something and it’s easier to blame everything other than gun access. We at Cannabias are not in the business of taking positions on firearm policy but this ‘blame marijuana’ narrative is just as hollow as the ‘blame heavy metal’ narrative that followed Columbine (which happened when cannabis was outlawed in all 50 states) and the ‘blame violent video games’ narrative that always pops up (despite a complete lack of evidence). It’s a red herring and a distraction from the real causes of gun violence, which is almost certainly not cannabis.
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