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Making Sense of Maureen Dowd's Bad Marijuana Trip

Jun 9, 2014

New York Times Columnist Maureen Dowd was in the state of Colorado a while back, a state that has legalized the recreational use of marijuana.

She decided to eat a couple of bites of a marijuana-infused chocolate bar as she sat in her hotel room.

And now she's written about the experience -- which was not a good one.

In a column titled, "Don't Harsh my Mellow, Dude", Dowd wrote that she lay curled up in a hallucinatory state for the next eight hours.

"As my paranoia deepened," Dowd wrote,  "I became convinced that I had died and no one was telling me."

What she should have been paranoid about was the internet's reaction.

Comedy Central tweeted, "Maureen Dowd curled up in a hallucinatory state after eating pot candy. Funny. That's what most people do after reading Maureen Dowd."

And there were many, many, many more snarky comments like that.

Dowd was trying to make a serious point about the lack of labeling on marijuana edibles in Colorado and the increasing reports of marijuana overdoses because of that.

But, her point was lost amid a flood of internet bashing of her naive marijuana experimentation.

"Well, she kind of painted a big old target on her back," said Kelly McBride of the Poynter Institute's Sense-Making Project. "Maureen Dowd is well established columnist and she's been part of the political scene in the United States for decades. She's in her 60's. And she goes out to Colorado and she has this experience.

"She was actually out in Colorado in January when this happened. But she published this column now. And I have a hard time believing anyone at the New York Times couldn't have predicted how the public would react to this column. Either they let her do it and they set her up or they were perfectly comfortable letting her become a laughingstock in the twitterverse and on the comedy shows."

Now, there's nothing wrong, journalistically, with Dowd doing this kind of first-person reporting on the marijuana edibles market.

"Maureen Dowd is a columnist and and columnists have always combined the job of reporter with the job of pontificator," McBride explained. "So she used this personal experience she had to riff off a story that the New York Times ran that was documenting the fact that other people have had a similar experience. So that's legit. The problem is she's Maureen Dowd. If it had been anybody else, it would have just gone into the marketplace of ideas with all the other conversations we're having about legal pot. But, it's Maureen Dowd and so she immediately became the target of everybody's joke."

Could Dowd have still related her pot candy experience and avoided the ridicule?

"I think she could have been a little more transparent about the circumstances surrounding this and why she didn't use more of her reporting skills before she ate the pot chocolate bar rather than after," said McBride.