A rumor that the United States government is paying people $3,000 a week to smoke marijuana through a federal clinical study has all the ingredients it needs to go viral: Money, marijuana, and federal involvement.
This particular rumor began with now-defunct repeat offender News Watch 33, which only published hoax and satire stories, but which was formatted to look like a site belonging to a local television station in order to hoodwink unsuspecting readers into sharing its articles.
In a story that has since been removed from the site (which itself is now defunct), News Watch 33 appeared to report in September 2015 that a clinical study paid participants $3,000 per week to smoke weed.
Then, in November 2015, the false report resurfaced when two blog sites rekindled the flame. A website called The Joint Picked up the story with a story headlined,“Federal Study Will Pay You $3,000 Per Week to Consume Cannabis”:
The United States National Research Center (NRC) has been commissioned by the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) to conduct comprehensive research evaluating the effects of cannabis on the human body.
The research, which will take part in seven facilities across the nation, is intended to determine whether or not cannabis can be used to relieve stress and stress-related disorders, while allowing consumers of the plant to maintain normal function in their lives.
“This is one of the first, very promising studies, that will finally reveal the answer of the age old acquisition that stoners are ‘Just Lazy’,” says lead researcher Michael Gregory. “It’s an exciting new study that may push the legality of marijuana to all 50 states.”
For the research, participants will be required to stay at the facility for six months (making it immediately un-doable for many if not most people), while performing various everyday activities such as cleaning, watching TV and reading, while also regularly consuming cannabis. During all of this, participants will be evaluated by medical staff.
The Joint Blog later posted an update saying that the National Institute of Drug Abuse had informed them that there was no such study, and apologized for the confusion.
However, as is the nature of such things, the original false claim went much further than the correction. The site Green Rush Daily then picked up the report, which never was retracted or corrected — but it is also false.
Also, it should be noted that Congress voted in July 2015 to block federal studies on medical marijuana. House Republicans shot down an amendment that would have encouraged the National Institutes of Health and the Drug Enforcement Agency to work together on studies to determine its potential medical benefits. While there are indications that attitudes toward marijuana are softening throughout the federal government, the timing of that particular vote underscores the satirical intent behind this story.