Earlier this week, the official Twitter account of the Drug Free America Foundation posed this question: "What happens if marijuana is legalized?"
A perfectly reasonable question to ask. But the graphic that accompanied the question was far less so. For starters, it included zombies:
What happens if marijuana is legalized? pic.twitter.com/cLc0nsQCcr
— DrugFreeAmerica (@DrugFreeAmerica) February 5, 2014
Without citing any studies or data, DFAF's graphic claimed that marijuana legalization would not only lead to an increase the number of teenage and adult users of cannabis -- doubling or tripling the total number of users -- but perhaps trigger one of the Internet's favorite fantasies: the zombie apocalypse.
Immediately, people on Twitter reacted by questioning the science behind this "Marijuana Fact." Tom Angell of the pot-policy reform group Marijuana Majority tweeted:
@DrugFreeAmerica hilarious. Can you cite the source of your "double & most likely triple" data?
— Tom Angell (@tomangell) February 7, 2014
Other Twitter users just dismissed the graphic altogether:
@DrugFreeAmerica Go home Drug Free America: You're drunk.
— TheComboBreaker (@TheComboBreaker) February 7, 2014
When pressed by Angell and The New York Times' Jack Healy for citations that could support the graphic's claims, DFAF first responded with a link to a website with questionable marijuana data, called UnmaskingMarijuana.org. Then the organization followed up with this:
— DrugFreeAmerica (@DrugFreeAmerica) February 7, 2014
Of course, marijuana legalization advocates and drug policy reformers had strong reactions to that tweet, too.
"When it comes to marijuana, the only ones stumbling around, grumbling incoherently, and slowly dying off are those fighting to keep it illegal," said Mason Tvert, communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project, in a statement to HuffPost. "Using marijuana does not make you lazy, but making wild claims without even attempting to back them up does. If they truly believe in what they are saying about marijuana, it wouldn't surprise me if they also truly believe in real zombies."
Representatives for DFAF did not respond to repeated requests for comment for this article.
The organization's figures on the current number of Americans who claim to use marijuana also appear to be incorrect, and in fact too low. According to several studies on marijuana use in the U.S., there are anywhere between 19 and 25 million Americans who claim to smoke marijuana at least once per year.
"It's sad but not at all out of character for the Drug Free America Foundation to resort to scare tactics in light of the fact that they're so clearly losing the public debate about marijuana legalization," Angell told HuffPost about the tweet. "Thankfully, polls show that the majority of the American people agrees with us."
A recent Gallup poll found that for the first time in U.S. history, more than half of Americans -- 58 percent -- think that marijuana use should be made legal.
"Most of the country is committed to ending marijuana prohibition and developing more effective ways to control it," Stephen Gutwillig, deputy executive director of drug-policy reform group Drug Policy Alliance, told HuffPost. "This well-meaning but misguided group is only demonstrating its irrelevance in the face of real progress to reform our long-outdated marijuana policies."
DFAF's tweet and others like it from anti-marijuana groups highlight a point that Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) made earlier this week during a House Oversight Committee hearing about the federal government's inconsistent marijuana policy. Although 20 states in the U.S. have legalized marijuana in some form, be it medical or recreational, the federal government continues to ban the plant.
Blumenauer asked Michael Botticelli, deputy director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, if marijuana was more dangerous than cocaine or methamphetamines.
Botticelli reluctantly admitted that marijuana was less dangerous than alcohol, but wouldn't give a clear answer on its danger compared to harder drugs.
"Being unable to answer something clearly and definitively when there is unquestioned evidence to the contrary is why young people don't believe the propaganda, why they think it's benign," Blumenauer said. "If a professional like you can't answer clearly that meth is more dangerous than marijuana -- which every kid on the street knows, which every parent knows -- if you can't answer that, maybe that's why we're failing to educate people about the dangers. If the deputy director of the office of drug policy can't answer that question, how do you expect high school kids to take you seriously?"