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Kellyanne Conway has been ridiculed on social media after seemingly linking the rise in overdose deaths to marijuana.
Speaking on Fox News on Monday, the former Trump adviser attempted to take a jab at Pennsylvania Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman for hanging a marijuana flag in the state capitol. Her remarks received backlash from political commentators and Twitter users who argued marijuana use was not a contributing factor in the opioid epidemic.
“[Fetterman] put the marijuana flag up. He thought that was funny. He’s trolling his opponents, he thinks that’s funny,” Ms Conway said. “Here’s what’s not funny. There’s been a doubling of overdose deaths in Pennsylvania while he’s been in office from 2015 to 2021. Fentanyl is rankling every corner of the state.”
Mr Fetterman, who faces Republican opponent Dr Mehmet Oz in the Senate race in Pennsylvania, has been vocal about his support for legalising marijuana in the state, where only patients prescribed medical marijuana are allowed to buy the substance from a state-approved dispensary.
Ms Conway, known for coining the oxymoron “alternative facts” during the Trump administration, was mocked for characterising marijuana as a potentially dangerous drug — no marijuana overdose deaths have ever been reported, according to the Drug Enforcement Agency.
Fentanyl contributed to a 65 per cent overall increase in overdose deaths between 2015 and 2017, according to data from the DEA. However, the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office reported that overdose deaths rose by 16.4 per cent in 2020, and 6 per cent in 2021 — after Mr Fetterman took office in 2019.
Kellyanne: He put the marijuana flag up. He thought that was funny.. Here’s what’s not funny. There’s been a doubling of overdose deaths.. pic.twitter.com/HWeoZ3K8eB
— Acyn (@Acyn) September 27, 2022
Responding to Ms Conway’s remarks, political columnist and TV commentator Cheri Jacobus tweeted: “If marijuana deaths were doubled, the number would still be zero, you gaslighting cartoon.”
Political strategist Steve Schmidt echoed Ms Jacobus’ comments and criticised America’s “marijuana crusade.”
“I thought [John Fetterman] put it up to protest the abject stupidity of the US Govt spending $50 billion in taxpayer money on a marijuana crusade that is riddled with hypocrisy. Who gets locked up? Black people. Marijuana and Fentanyl have as much to do with each other as Coors Light does,” he tweeted.
“Kellyanne Conway is right. There haven’t been this many marijuana deaths since the Bowling Green massacre,” another Twitter user wrote sarcastically, referencing a fictitious incident mentioned by the then-advisor to Trump in several interviews in 2017.
Mr Fetterman is facing criticism from several GOP leaders as the senate campaign in the Keystone State intensifies. Mr Trump recently went on an extended rant about Mr Fetterman that ended with him accusing Mr Fetterman of using multiple illegal drugs.
“Fetterman supports taxpayer-funded drug dens and the complete decriminalization of illegal drugs, including heroin, cocaine, crystal meth and ultra lethal fentanyl,” Mr Trump said. “And by the way, he takes them himself”.
There is no evidence that Mr Fetterman, who recently returned to the campaign trail after suffering a stroke, has ever used any of the substances Mr Trump mentioned. In a statement, Fetterman campaign spokesperson Joe Calvello called the ex-president’s claims “more and more lies from Trump and Dr Oz”.