DENVER – A 60 Minutes report concering an upcoming vote in Pueblo, Colo., on recreational marijuana drew criticism from a leading cannabis consulting firm for what it considered “biased and unsubstantiated” information.
Denver Consulting Group (DCG) took issue with “The Pot Vote,” an Oct. 30 segment of the prime-time CBS news magazine.
The report came as Pueblo voters face a Nov. 8 ballot with up to five restrictive measures on marijuana growing, processing and sales – including Issue 200, an outright citywide ban by Oct. 31 next year.
In a statement, DCG noted that 6o Minutes Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Jonathan LaPook, interviewed Dr. Steven Simerville, a pediatrician at Saint Mary Corwin Medical Center in Pueblo, who supports a ballot initiative to ban recreational cannabis because he says he’s noticed more babies being born with THC in their system.
According to DCG, 60 Minutes gave just passing mention that Dr. Simerville’s observations were anecdotal, not scientific, but proceeded to state, “In the first nine months of this year, 27 babies born at this hospital tested positive for THC. That’s on track to be about 15% higher than last year.”
However, the DCG noted that, in 2015, the center treated almost three-time-more newborns with intrauterine opioid addiction as it did the year prior. Nor did the report mention that according to the United States Census Bureau, the overall population of Pueblo County has grown in recent years.
“Perhaps illicit drug use is the bigger issue here,” said Justin Jones, DCG co-founder. “Since drug use is often attributed to economic hardship, it should be noted that the legal cannabis industry has created 1,300 new jobs and more than 60 new businesses in Pueblo” he said. (The CBS report also cited the new jobs and business data.)
“A more-important story would be on the town’s opioid addiction, which legal cannabis can also help solve,” Jones commented.
The 60 Minutes report also stated that, “Research suggests babies exposed to marijuana in utero may develop verbal, memory and behavioral problems during early childhood,” although no specific studies were attributed.
DCG noted that thehe report failed to mention numerous studies conclude that the active compounds in cannabis are neuroprotective. The National Institute of Health published a research study that stated, “Cannabidiol, THC and other cannabinoids are potent antioxidants. Cannabidiol was superior to both alpha-tocopherol (Vitamin E) and ascorbate (Vitamin C) in (neuro) protective capacity.”
DCG also cited a major study recently concluded that in there has been no increase in teen use of cannabis in Colorado since legalization in 2014.
The CBS report noted a 70% increase this year, through October, of teenagers coming into Saint Mary’s emergency room with marijuana in their system. It also mentioned this year’s total so far at 71 teens, making for an actual increase of less than three cases per month.
“DCG and everyone in the legal marijuana industry takes child safety very seriously,” said Greg Gamet, DCG co-founder. “However, the best way to make cannabis as safe as possible is through legalization and regulation.
“We are appalled that 60 Minutes would allow anyone to make statements without scientific backing. Moreover, the report failed to mention the plethora of research supporting the medicinal value of cannabis.”
DCG also took issue with Pueblo County Sheriff Kirk Taylor’s statement on 60 Minutes that, “I can tell you the black market is alive and well and thriving. In fact, it’s exploding.”
60 Minutes, according to the DCG, failed to report that according to the Colorado Department of Public Safety, “The total number of marijuana arrests decreased by 46% between 2012 (pre-legalization) and 2014 (post-legalization),” and as a share of total arrests, marijuana related offenses fell by 50%.
The DCG noted that Sal Pace, a Pueblo County commissioner, recently told the Denver Post that county voters overwhelmingly approved the constitutional amendment legalizing marijuana sales, and that it was good for business.
“We’re seeing a significant economic boost” from marijuana businesses, accounting for 60 percent of new construction permits and $3 million a year in taxes.
“We absolutely don’t want to see mothers using THC when they’re pregnant,” Pace said. But if Pueblo bans recreational marijuana sales, “these jobs and tax revenues will just go to another community. I don’t think we can afford to turn away these jobs and tax revenues.”
“There is nothing more important than the integrity and the reputation of the legal cannabis industry,” Jones said. “So when a report from a widely-viewed news organization comes out that is purported to be factual, but is filled with unsubstantiated claims and opinions, we feel it is our duty to comment and correct the record.”