Pubdate: Sun, 20 May 2001
Source: Denver Rocky Mountain News (CO)
Copyright: 2001 Denver Publishing Co.
Author: Dave Kopel
Bookmark: (Oakland Cannabis Court Case)
Note: Only first 3 paragraphs about Medical Marijuana.


Paper's Editors Say Recent Supreme Court Decision Spells Doom For State 
Provisions; But It's Not True

I don't usually comment on editorials -- opinions needn't be balanced or 
fair -- but a Denver Post editorial last week asserted that the result of 
the U.S. Supreme Court decision on medical marijuana was "invalidating 
statutes in eight states, including Colorado." Allegedly, "the court's 
decision . . . left no room for any of the [state] provisions to survive."

That's simply not so.

The Supreme Court ruled that the federal anti-marijuana law contains no 
exception for medical necessity. Nothing in the Supreme Court decision 
means that state laws on medical marijuana are invalid -- only that the 
state laws don't have the effect of also invalidating the federal law. So 
in Colorado, if you use marijuana in accordance with the state medical 
marijuana law, you can't be prosecuted by state or local officials. You 
could be prosecuted by federal attorneys, but as the medical marijuana 
advocates point out, 99 out of 100 drug prosecutions happen at the state level.

A Mothers Day front page story in the Post claimed, "Some studies show that 
male-dominated fields often pay more even if they require less skill and 
education." Well, how about naming the studies, so that readers can assess 
them for themselves? And why assume that "skill and education" are the only 
things that should determine pay? What about risk of injury, exposure to 
harsh weather, degree of manual labor, and the hours?

Do newspapers have an ethical obligation to their most vulnerable readers 
not to run deceptive advertising? If so, why is the Denver Newspaper 
Agency, which controls advertising in both the Post and the News, raising 
money by selling ad space to a company making a sleazy pitch involving coins?

I'm told that both the News and Post on Friday were going to publish the ad 
that appeared in Thursday's Post, but since my deadline is Thursday, I'll 
confine my analysis here to Thursday's large display ad.

The tarted-up ad was designed to look like a newspaper article. It had a 
headline ("Public to get FREE U.S. Coins") and carried a byline of "Thomas 
Waterfield, Media Services." The text purported to be a newspaperlike story 
about the "United States Commemorative Gallery" giving away "free" coins. 
According to the story, "without notice, the Gallery decided not to sell 
the individual coins but instead will give them away FREE in an effort to 
increase awareness of the age-old hobby of collecting U.S. coins."

Tiny print at the bottom of the ad admits that the "United States 
Commemorative Gallery" has no "affiliation with any government entity." But 
the full-size main text of the ad creates a different impression: "The U.S. 
Mint has announced the release of the North Carolina state quarter. To 
insure equal nationwide coverage, you can receive an uncirculated North 
Carolina Quarter Free."

The "free" North Carolina quarter is available for $1.85. The five-coin set 
which is supposedly available for "free" are the five new 2001 state 
quarters. To get these five "free" coins, plus a second "free" North 
Carolina quarter, plus a display unit, you have to send $17 plus $2.95 for 

To check on the value of this offer, I called Daryl Mercer, owner of Tebo 
Coins in Boulder. Tebo has been in business since 1968, and is a reputable 
place to buy collectible coins, as well gold or silver. Mercer told me that 
uncirculated 2001 quarters are available at his store for 99 cents each. 
Five-coin display units sell for $1.70 to $4.95. In other words, the ad 
(which also runs in the Rocky Mountain News) offers something for nearly 
$20 whose true value is, at most, about $10.

Indeed, explained Mercer, in coin collecting, an "uncirculated" coin really 
just means one that has no visible wear. Quite plainly, even a beginning 
coin collector won't fall for the "United States Commemorative Gallery" 
sale of "free" coins. Even so, the "United States Commemorative Gallery" 
apparently finds the Post and News to be profitable places to hook suckers. 
A few weeks ago, "The Gallery" ran a similar ad offering a "free" North 
Carolina quarter which would cost $1.36 to obtain.

One advantage of having two newspapers on weekdays is that one can compare 
how the papers treat an identical event. At the state capitol last Sunday, 
anti-gun and pro-gun activists held competing rallies. Both rallies drew 
about 200 people. The News story, on page 15A, presented each group's point 
of view, with the anti-gun people getting slightly more words. The anti-gun 
rally, organized by the Million Mom March, was far smaller than a similar 
rally last year. "But organizers weren't disappointed with the turnout," 
the News reported. It would have been better for the News to write, 
"Organizers said they weren't disappointed with the turnout." It's not 
entirely plausible that organizers of any rally aren't disappointed about 
seeing its size plummet by more than 90 percent.

The Post ran a beautiful picture (a man smelling a flower) from the 
anti-gun rally on Page 1, and then put the story on the first page of the 
Denver and the West section. In the Post story, an anti-gun organizer 
admitted "We're a little disappointed" about the turnout. The Post story 
gave many more words to the anti-gun rally than to the nearby pro-gun rally.
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MAP posted-by: GD