Amicus lector
Did Demi Moore smoke “synthetic marijuana?” Not exactly

Herbal incense may have just found its most famous accidental advocate.

Demi Moore, she of “Ghost” and “A Few Good Men” fame, went into a convulsive state in front of a friend after ingesting too much nitrous oxide and “smoking something.”

The descriptions of Ms. Moore’s reactions to the substance - which was “like marijuana” but more like incense - align with some of the horror stories cops in Sioux Falls like to tell about kids who smoke herbal incense. Or potpourri. Or whatever else the smoke shops are calling the stuff, all of which is clearly marked “not for human consumption,” but can be and is smoked regularly for recreational purposes.

In Pierre, where they’re trying to ban broad categories of synthetic chemicals, legislators were told that a high school kid licked a door after smoking the stuff.

Another kid threatened his sister with a knife.

Scary, right? Drug horror stories usually are.

Judging by the explosion of sales in Sioux Falls (one herbal incense dealer in Sioux Falls started with one store in March and is about to open a third) and the relatively low number of poison control calls, it’s probably safe to say that most people don’t react so violently.

Clearly, some do. Anyone thinking about sampling the chemically-treated herbs would benefit from listening to the Demi Moore 911 tape.

That’s what it sounds like when a friend goes down doing bad drugs. She was convulsing, couldn’t speak, etc. I’m sure her buddy didn’t want to spend her evening talking through a medical emergency with a 911 operator.

Ok, so here’s the point: “Synthetic marijuana” is the term used by the cops. It’s the term used by KELO-TV, a station which has posted 11 stories about it in the past 10 days.

They’re actually using the Demi Moore recording as a springboard for another full report about it on tonight’s broadcast. They also tried to localize the Tiger Woods scandal …

Anyway, “synthetic marijuana” is the wrong term. It’s not the right word for the cops, and its use in news reports is a sign of lazy journalism. It’s like calling a bunch of chemicals in a 20-ounce pop bottle a “meth lab.” It’s inaccurate, even if almost everyone does it.

People generally don’t go into convulsive states after smoking marijuana. People generally don’t attack their families. Any cop, lawyer or doctor could tell you that.

Just because it’s green and leafy doesn’t excuse the comparison.Even the fact that many of them include synthetic cannabinoids doesn’t really make it OK.

Some of it can be far more dangerous. Some of it isn’t. Some designer drugs mimic the effects of LSD or methamphetamine. Some of them were invented a few months ago and certainly aren’t field-tested or FDA approved. People die doing these drugs.

Calling it “synthetic marijuana” equates a huge swath of mind-altering chemicals to a drug regarded by a large number of Americans to be relatively harmless.

None of this is to say that marijuana’s hunky dory (or that shake and bake is a safe way to make meth), it’s just to point out that the general public’s understanding of illicit drugs and their associated problems can easily be compromised by half-baked terminology. See what I did there?

That said, I’m sure an editor will attach the term to a headline on one of my stories eventually.

As you can see here, not everyone in my office feels quite as strongly about this as I do. I realize I’m in the minority on this. Fine. I also can’t stand it when people use the word “piece” to describe a news article, and that hasn’t stopped anyone from doing it.

  1. jhult posted this
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