Sunday, March 20, 2011

Headline news

Posted By on Sun, Mar 20, 2011 at 11:30 AM

Today's Missoulian included a story with a particularly eye-catching headline: "Poll: Majority of Montanans favor repeal of medical marijuana law."

That sounds like big news.

The first sentence, however, offers a little context: "A slim majority of Montanans favor repealing the law legalizing medical marijuana, but in response to another question, a much larger percentage support tightening regulations on the industry rather than terminating the law, a new Lee Newspapers poll shows."

Basically, when asked if they'd repeal the 2004 law that legalized marijuana, 52 percent of those polled answered yes, hence the headline. When asked a different question, 83 percent said they preferred the state enact stricter regulations to the current law rather than leaving it intact. Reporter Chuck Johnson (who, it should be noted, doesn't handle headlines) went on to explain perhaps the most notable part of the poll:

Another question asked voters to choose among three options: repealing the medical marijuana law, enacting stricter regulations or leaving the current law intact.

The poll showed 57 percent backing stricter regulations and licensing requirements, while 31 percent wanted to repeal the law and 11 percent favored keeping the current law intact. The remaining 1 percent were uncertain.

This answer would appear to raise questions about the headline. So, how did other Lee newspapers handle the same story? They took a decidedly different approach than their Missoula colleagues.

Helena I-R: "Cannabis: Most polled prefer regulation to repeal."

Billings Gazette: "Gazette Poll: Tightening up medical marijuana law preferable to repeal."

Montana Standard: "Lee newspaper poll: Tighten up law on pot, don't repeal."

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