Author and New Yorker contributor Malcolm Gladwell has doubled down on his controversial article published last month discussing the dangers of marijuana. In an interview with The Daily Beast at the South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas, Gladwell said he was only “rephrasing” a report on cannabis by the National Academy of Medicine in an effort to “engage the worst-case scenario.” Gladwell’s New Yorker piece relied heavily on anecdotal evidence, and correlated the rise in murder and aggravated assault rates in Washington state to the legalization of marijuana. When questioned why he promoted this correlation, the author said he was “representing the state of knowledge in the scientific community” in order to make the argument that there is a lack of information on the effects of marijuana use. “Look, if you were to put a label on an ounce of marijuana, what would the label say?... Can you tell me at what age someone should safely start smoking it? You can’t,” Gladwell said.
Gladwell called it “a little odd” that there is a violent crime problem in the state of Washington. To which Daily Beast reporter Marlow Stern responded: “That’s because income inequality has risen in the state—including over the period in question, 2014-2017. It’s the 10th highest when it comes to income inequality in the U.S.” Gladwell countered that both were examples of correlation without causation, adding: “The city with the greatest income inequality in America is probably New York City... probably one of the safest cities in America.” “New York is not one of the safest cities in America,” Stern replied. “New York is an insanely safe city. It’s one of the safest cities in the world.... I don’t think you’re on firmer ground than me,” Gladwell said.