There continues to be no end to false Internet rumors concerning our favorite herb. The most recent, currently being widely circulated on Facebook, claims that NASA-affiliated scientists at the University of Hawaii discovered "trace amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) on a meteorite found in the Nevada desert in 2010."
One of the scientists (conveniently anonymous) is quoted: "These findings will have a profound impact on the science of astrobiology as a whole. If psychoactive elements are found outside of this planet's atmosphere, what does it say about the rest of the universe? If these chemical substances, that change brain functions and result in alterations in perception, mood, or consciousness in mammals as well as humans, find their origin in outer space, what role then has cometary impacts played on the human species? Or on life on the planet as whole? This discovery ultimately leaves us with more questions than answers. It also gives a whole new meaning to the term getting high."
One of the sites running this story is World News Daily Report, which also boasts such top headlines as "Russia: Man grows gills after having fish genes added to his DNA," "Florida: 16 Girls Found Pregnant After Teenager Ejaculates in Pool" and "Punxsutawney Phil predicts 'crushing victory' for Jeb Bush." Not exactly what you might call a touchstone for veracity.
Other sites running the story are seemingly more legitimate, like The Health Disorder, which looks—on a perfunctory view—like a legit health news site. Look a little closer, and you will find some blatant corner-cutting—like the Jan. 31 story "Medical Marijuana Is Now Legal In All 50 States Thanks To Congress." No, it isn't. Congress legalized nothing. It merely voted in this year's budget bill to cut off the funds for federal enforcement against medical marijuana in states that have legalized it.
"The purpose of this satire web publication and fake news article about marijuana being found on a meteorite is designed to gather website traffic off of false information," Phishlist explained. "It uses a provocative title in order to cause anxiety, shock, or intrigue unsuspecting online visitors to visit the website. More traffic for the website means that more people are likely to click on Cost-Per-Click advertisements embedded into the satire website. More traffic will also raise the impressions for a given webpage and help the website generate a higher volume of revenue off of the unsuspecting reader. It's a cruel way to make a quick buck!"
Actually, they are being too generous.
NotAllowedTo.com is better termed a hoax site than a "satire" site, which would elevate it to the level of The Onion. There isn't any political spoofing going on here—just a cynical effort to trick the gullible. World News Daily Report was probably in on the "joke." The Health Disorder may have actually been played for rubes.
In any event, think twice before you share improbable claims on Facebook—and don't believe the hype.
(Photo Courtesy of The Stoner's Cookbook)