Tucker Carlson, Other Fox News Hosts Blame Weed for Gun Massacres - Rolling Stone
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Reefer Madness: Tucker Carlson and Friends Blame Weed for Gun Massacres

The myth that cannabis use leads to violence has long been present in American politics

Tucker Carlson, Other Fox News Hosts Blame Weed for Gun MassacresTucker Carlson, Other Fox News Hosts Blame Weed for Gun Massacres

In this April 2, 2016 file photo, a demonstrator waves a flag with marijuana leaves on it during a protest calling for the legalization of marijuana, outside of the White House in Washington, D.C.

Jose Luis Magana/AP

Fox News hosts have once again been struck with an outbreak of Reefer Madness, an illness characterized by an urge to blame cannabis use for various unrelated social ills. The latest flare-up was triggered by the Republican Party’s need to deflect public attention away from gun control after a seemingly endless string of mass shootings in the United States. 

On Tuesday night, Tucker Carlson laid blame for the murder of six people at a 4th of July parade in Highland Park, Illinois, on social media, porn, video games, women who are too naggy, and young men being “​​high on government endorsed weed.” 

Carlson was not alone in erroneously attempting to link cannabis use to violent behavior. Fellow Fox host Laura Ingraham claimed on Tuesday that “there is mounting scientific evidence of a connection between the increase in violent behavior among young people and regular sustained cannabis use.”

“These are the eyes of some of the mass killers who have reportedly been regular pot users” Ingrahm,” Ingraham said, flashing a collage of mass shooters “look at them.” 

The myth that cannabis use leads to violence has long been present in American politics. The 1936 exploitation film Reefer Madness infamously played into racial stereotypes to portray cannabis use as a catalyst to violent crime. The myth was revived in 2019 by Covid conspiracy theorist Alex Berenson, who published a book claiming that the legalization of marijuana would lead to a signinifcant increase in murders, assaults, and mental illness, despite evidence of the opposite being true. Berenson’s central thesis held that “marijuana causes psychosis. Psychosis causes violence. The obvious implication is that marijuana causes violence.” Berenson, who regularly appears on Fox, has also cited “cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome” (known memetically as “scromiting”) as evidence that smoking weed can lead to a paradoxical effect that causes the user to become violent.

The revival of cannabis panic by Fox is not unexpected. In fact, it regularly makes appearances on the network, often after an instance of mass violence by an armed gunman as the network is seeking to shift the conversation onto anything but guns. Following the murder of 19 students and two teachers by a gunman in Uvalde, Texas, Ingraham implied certain forces were attempting to cover up the link between cannabis use and murderous violence as part of a “pro-marijuana” conspiracy.   

The claims made by Carlson, Ingraham, and Berenson, who was invited onto The Ingraham Angle Tuesday night to invent a link between weed and gun massacres, have been widely debunked. Multiple studies have found there is no significant connection between marijuana use and violent crime. Indeed much of the evidence points to the opposite: cannabis users tend to just chill out.   

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