Reality Check: Marijuana Did Not Kill Fiorina’s Daughter. So What Did?

It didn’t get much time in the CNN debate, but the issue of marijuana did come up.

At issue: are these candidates actually hypocrites for their views on marijuana?

And do they know what they are talking about, or are they selling fear?

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This is a Reality Check you won’t see anywhere else.

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During last week’s CNN debate, there were a lot of issues that came up. Mostly, the candidates talked about each other. But in the slim sections that dealt with policy, one issue had some fairly interesting responses: marijuana.

“There is a prominent example on this stage of someone who says they smoked pot in high school and yet the people going to jail for this are often poor people, often blacks and Hispanics, and yet the rich kids who use drugs aren’t,” Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul said, calling out Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

“Forty years ago, I smoked marijuana,” he said. “I admit it, and I am sure there are other people up here who might have also, and might not want to admit it in front of 25 million people. My mom’s not happy that I just did.”

Yes, Bush admits that, 40 years ago, he smoked marijuana. He’s probably right that at least some of the other candidates against him for president have as well.

So what?

The real issue is one of hypocrisy.

Does Bush, or other politician, have one set of standards for themselves and one set for others?

“In Florida, Governor Bush campaigned against medical marijuana, which means that a small child who has 500 seizures a day and is failing on nine different medications, and if you try, they will take the child away and put the family in jail,” Paul said. “And in Florida, that’s what that means. If you are against people using medical marijuana, you are willing to put them in jail and kids who have influence like you don’t go to jail. Poor kids go to jail. You want to put poor people in jail.”

“I don’t want to put poor people in jail,” Bush replied. “It was on the ballot and as a citizen of Florida, I voted no.”

So Bush voted against medical marijuana as a private citizen only? Actually, no.

In 2014, the Tampa Bay Times reported that Bush did, in fact, campaign against Florida’s medical marijuana initiative, saying, “I strongly urge Floridians to vote against Amendment 2 this November.” The medical marijuana bill in Florida failed.

Then, former HP CEO Carly Fiorina jumped into the conversation.

“My husband Frank and I buried a child to drug addiction,” Fiorina said. “So we must invest more in the treatment of drugs. I agree with Senator Paul about states’ rights but we are misleading young people when we say that marijuana is like having a beer, and the marijuana that kids are smoking today is not the same as what Jeb Bush smoked 40 years ago.”

So let’s talk about those two claims. Is marijuana like having a beer?

No. It’s actually safer.

According to the federal government’s national survey on drug use and health, marijuana causes fewer trips to the emergency room than alcohol or even over-the-counter pharmaceuticals per 1,000 users.

Here’s another fact: according to the Centers for Disease Control, 1 in 10 deaths among working-age adults can be attributed to excessive alcohol use. Alcohol poisonings account for more than 2,000 American deaths every year. Meanwhile, most experts say there has never been a documented overdose death from marijuana use in someone without an underlying condition.

So what Fiorina says here isn’t true.

What is also not true? That marijuana led to the death of her daughter.

When Fiorina said, “My husband Frank and I buried a child to drug addiction,” that drug was not marijuana. In fact, according to Fiorina’s own book, Rise to the Challenge, she claims that her step-daughter’s struggles with alcohol, prescription pills, and bulimia led to her death at age 35.

It’s at the end of the first prologue that Fiorina writes, “Lori’s potential was never fulfilled but death is not the only thing that crushes potential. . . . What I also know is that Americans are failing to achieve their potential today.”

So what you need know is that while, technically, Fiorina didn’t say which drug was responsible for her daughter’s death, she was entirely dishonest by making the statement out of her mouth about marijuana use.

Why isn’t Fiorina calling for a ban on prescription painkillers? Why not a ban on alcohol?

Meanwhile, marijuana—which we should be calling cannabis—comes in hundreds of strains. And today, tens of thousands of American families are benefiting from cannabis oil, which is curing children of epilepsy and treating people with cancer.

Fiorina’s statements and the policies she advocates would rob those families of hope, while doing nothing to prevent the tragedy she and her husband went through.


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