Laughter erupted in the Maryland state senate chamber after Michael Pristoop, the chief of Annapolis police, cited a story from a satirical website claiming that 37 people died in Colorado after marijuana was legalized.
“The first day of legalization, that’s when Colorado experienced 37 deaths that day from overdose on marijuana,” Pristoop testified on Tuesday at a state senate judiciary committee hearing on legalizing marijuana, The (Annapolis) Capital reported. “I remember the first day it was decriminalized there were 37 deaths.”
A senator who had proposed legalizing and taxing marijuana in the state corrected Pristoop.
“Unless you have some other source for this, I’m afraid I’ve got to spoil the party here,” said Sen. Jamie Raskin. “Your assertion that 37 people died of a marijuana overdose in Colorado was a hoax on the Daily Currant and the Comedy Central website.”
A crowd wearing marijuana hats laughed at Pristoop.
On Jan. 2, The Daily Currant, which is a satirical website, published a story with the dramatic news of numerous pot-related deaths.
“According to a report in the Rocky Mountain News, 37 people were killed across the state on Jan. 1, the first day the drug became legal for all adults to purchase,” read the joke site. “Several more are clinging onto life in local emergency rooms and are not expected to survive.”
The article went viral, generating 1.5 million Facebook likes and over 9,000 tweets.
Pristoop was testifying against two bills on Tuesday. One would lower the fine for possession of the drug to $100. The other, proposed by Sen. Raskin, would decriminalize, deregulate, and tax it.
Pristoop released a statement Tuesday.
“I apologize for the information I provided concerning the deaths. I believed the information I obtained was accurate but I now know the story is nothing more than an urban legend,” Pristoop stated. “This does not take away from the other facts presented in opposition to legalization or the good work of the Maryland Chiefs and Maryland Sheriffs Associations.”
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