The anti-cannabis group, Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM), has learned an important lesson about fact checking this week after issuing a press release which claimed, “heavy marijuana use [is] soaring among young people.”
On September 10, the same day that many media outlets published articles with headlines like, ” Teen Marijuana Use Holds Steady,” SAM issued a press release stating the exact opposite. Both sides were analyzing the same report issued by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
As seen in the screenshot of the release below, the group announced:
“Today, the Department of Health and Human Services found that heavy marijuana use among monthly users – defined as 20 or more days of marijuana use per month – significantly increased among 12-to-17 year-olds in 2014 compared to 2013.”
Chris Ingram of the Washington Post was the first person to realize the mistake, and notify SAM’s director, Kevin Sabet. According to Ingram, Sabet’s team mistakenly reported the stat tables which analyzed the margins of error in the study, instead of the actual results.
The real numbers (shown in the screenshot below), show that the amount of teens aged 12 to 17 using cannabis regularly is actually lower than it has been since 2009.
Although the group did issue a correction, it is likely that the false report reached some ears that the correction may not.