How The Media Demonizes Marijuana


UPDATE: The story has since been changed to “Police: Couple found abusing drugs with baby at Burger King”, opening with “A couple was arrested after they were allegedly found abusing drugs at a Burger King with a 5-month-old baby.” But the URL is still just so you know… –“R”R

It’s all in how you tell the story, the order in which you lay out the facts. The emphasis you give to irrelevant parts of the story in favor of giving the critical news the short-shrift. In the hands of news writer for a FOX station in Indianapolis, it’s amazing what you can do.

First, start with a sensational headline, like this:

Police: Couple found high on marijuana with baby at Burger King

Next, make sure your lead paragraphs accentuate the danger to the children from these monsters who dared to be parents grabbing munchies at the Burger King:

A couple was arrested after they were allegedly found high on marijuana at a Burger King with a 5-month-old baby.

Melanie Jayne Smith, 35, of Marksville, Louisiana, is charged with neglect of a dependent, obstruction of justice, possession of paraphernalia and possession of marijuana.

Murl Tyler Jr., also of Marksville, was charged with neglect of a dependent.

Holy crap! Melanie and Murl were so high it was worthy of “neglect of a dependent” charges? Just how diggity dank is this Indianapolis marijuana, anyway?

The story continues with the details of the arrest. They were busted at this Burger King for causing problems with some of the other customers. Huh? Are we sure this wasn’t synthetic marijuana or bath salts or something?

When the cops arrived on the scene, Murl is in the back seat of the pickup with his 5-month old baby and his pal William (c’mon, probably “Billy”,) is in the front driver’s seat. As cops try to talk with Murl, they report that “he did not know where he was at or what he was doing” and he “was also having trouble talking and sitting up.”

OK, was this edibles these guys had eaten? Too much extract? Loaded up on RSO?

Next, Melanie comes out of the Burger King and gets in the passenger seat. She then tells the cops she’s going to be sick and runs back in to the Burger King. A female cop follows and catches Melanie flushing pot down the toilet. When Melanie’s brought back to the car, she, too, is slurring her speech and unable to stand.

So you’re probably thinking at this point what I’m thinking. Let’s not delay this any longer than the original story did, which was this bit buried in the 11th paragraph (emphasis mine):

The officers spoke with [William], and he told police that he had smoked marijuana and he had a stash in his boot. He also told police that [Murl] and [Melanie] had also smoked and they had taken pain pills “all day.”

OH! OK, so this couple was so whacked out on oxy they were neglecting their kid… and they happened to be pot smokers. Funny how that headline wasn’t “Police: couple found high on pain pills with baby at Burger King”, ain’t it?

Well, not really, if you’re a FOX station in Indiana dependent on pharmaceutical advertising revenue.

Russ Belville

"Radical" Russ Belville is a blogger, podcaster, and host of The Russ Belville Show, a daily two-hour talk radio show focused on the evolution of the legal marijuana industry in the United States. The program is airing live at 3pm Pacific Time from Portland, Oregon, on, with podcast available on iTunes and Stitcher Radio. Russ began his marijuana activism in 2005 with Oregon NORML, then in 2009 went on to work for National NORML, and found and direct Portland 2015.