Fox News Makes Link Between Violence And Cannabis
Fox News host, Tucker Carlson, recently made a random and irresponsible connection between cannabis consumption and mass shootings.
The latest media personality to insinuate that cannabis is responsible for acts of violence is Tucker Carlson. The conservative political commentator recently suggested that because a mass shooter was “known” to be a cannabis consumer, there might be a connection between the plant and the heinous crime. Ummmm
While Carlson did little actual investigative journalism, and merely wondered aloud why people weren’t discussing the issue more, RxLeaf decided to run the numbers.
Tucker Carlson Draws Many Parallels Between Violence and Cannabis Consumption
Before we explore what was found, let’s admit something. Carlson is right in one regard: If there is a link between people who consume cannabis products and outrageous acts of violence, we should discuss and act on that.
However, if there is no such link, let’s admit it’s irresponsible to suggest otherwise. Especially when proof to the contrary is readily available.
Carlson aired his cannabis-causes-violence theory on August 27 during the nightly broadcast of his show. He pointed out that the mass shooter in the Dayton, Ohio tragedy tested positive for cocaine and Xanax and was known to use cannabis. He tied the mass shooting in an El Paso, Texas, Wal-Mart to the same cause: use of cannabis.
So let’s discuss.
None of the Perpetrators Actually Had Cannabis in Their Blood
It’s pretty hard to show a substance causes acts of violence from a biochemical perspective. You can show that certain drugs excite regions of the brain or inhibit others. However, you can’t say, “taking this drug makes people hit other people” any more than you can conclude, “this drug makes people sing ABBA songs.” Instead, researchers strive to show that a substance causes violence by looking at societal behavior patterns.
That’s what Carlson is trying to do. He’s not arguing medically, but sociologically. His reasoning is that if all mass shooters use cannabis, then cannabis must be responsible for their crimes.
So let’s look at what we know. Do all mass shooters consume cannabis?
First, the Dayton, Ohio, shooter did not test positive for cannabis, according to the toxicology report obtained by the Wall Street Journal. He murdered nine people with alcohol, cocaine, and Xanax in his body. The El Paso shooter surrendered to police custody and no toxicology report has been released. So we can’t say for sure. But we do know that Stephen Paddock who killed 58 people in Las Vegas in October of 2018 tested positive for anti-anxiety medicine, but not THC.
So far, it looks like Carlson’s hand-picked examples don’t square up with his logic. If cannabis causes acts of violence, wouldn’t these shooters test positive for cannabis? That’s pretty basic stuff. I mean, one can tests positive 30 days after consumption, so this connection doesn’t even make sense.
Is There a Link Between Cannabis and Acts of Violence?
Ok, let’s be generous. Maybe Carlson wasn’t saying that cannabis causes violence while it’s in the system. Maybe he was saying that there’s a correlation between people who have taken cannabis at least once in their lives and committing mass murder. It sounds like he was implying that the more cannabis a person uses, the more likely they are to commit acts of violence.
But again, there’s just no data to back to that up. Today, thirty three states in America have legalized recreational or medical cannabis use. And we know that more people in this country are consuming cannabis than ever before. And yet our violence rate remains the same. According to the FBI, the violent crime rate has decreased in recent years, having fallen to three hundred and eighty two in 2017, a steep drop off from its 1998 peak of five hundred and sixty eight.
And what about nations like the Netherlands and Canada? Shouldn’t citizens of those nations be far more violent than Americans? If it’s true that cannabis causes brutality, we should see more acts of violence in areas with more cannabis. But we don’t.
So, What Does Cause Acts of Violence?
While no one can connect mass shootings and cannabis, despite the best efforts of America’s right wing ideologues, there are some statistics that suggest there are other triggers.
Economics-friendly media outlet, Vox, has kept a tally of all mass shootings since the Sandy Hook tragedy in 2012. Since that time, the U.S. has seen more than two thousand mass shootings. These incidents have killed more than two and a half thousand people and injured nine thousand more. That’s a statistically significant sample size.
A 2016 study, published in the Epidemiologic Reviews, found a direct link between the number of guns in a country and the number of mass shootings.
We know that in fifty seven percent of all mass shootings, the shooter targets a current or former romantic partner, suggesting there is a link between domestic violence and mass shootings.
We also know that more acts of violence are caused by people on cocaine, alcohol, and other drugs than cannabis. One peer-reviewed literature review points out: “There is extensive research, much of it in economics, which suggests that there may actually be a stronger causal relationship between drug enforcement/control/prohibition and violent crime than drug use and criminal violence.”
In short: Tucker Carlson is wrong. There is no link between cannabis and acts of violence, however there are links between drug control efforts and violence. Maybe Carlson needs to look in the mirror the next time he’s wondering what’s causing all the pain.