FOX31 Denver responds to activist’s claims of false reporting

Max Montrose taking the driving test during our original report in May. Montrose, an activist who used to host a webcast called Medical Marijuana TV, has created a YouTube video inaccurately criticizing our report.

Max Montrose taking the driving test during our original report in May. Montrose, an activist who used to host a webcast called Medical Marijuana TV, has created a YouTube video inaccurately criticizing our report.

DENVER – FOX31 Denver is responding to false claims of inaccurate reporting made by the participant of a report we aired in May looking at the effects of marijuana on drivers.

Our story asked several volunteers to take a driving test using a multi-purpose simulator both before and after they had taken a dose of marijuana they were legally allowed to take through a medical marijuana prescription.

Max Montrose has created a YouTube video claiming FOX31 Denver intentionally “created this test to fail and reported false news to the state of Colorado.”

Our report was broadcast in May, as the buzz was building for Amendment 64, a referendum to legalize marijuana in the state. The amendment was overwhelmingly approved by voters in November.

We received questions from viewers wondering if the new law would mean more drivers would be on the streets with marijuana in their system.

The state legislature briefly considered – and then failed to pass – a “too high to drive” standard, and FOX31 Denver tested this standard called “Delta 9” concentration. The measure proposed that any Colorado driver would be considered impaired if more than five nanograms per milliliter of marijuana were found in their blood.

To test if this was an effective standard, we recruited several volunteers, all of whom had a valid license to use marijuana for medicinal reasons. We then asked them to test their driving skills in a simulator.

The volunteers allowed us to test their blood for marijuana before taking the driving test. They then medicated and took the driving test again with marijuana in their system.

Our story concluded that the state standard of Delta 9 concentration was not an accurate or objective way to test whether someone was too high to drive.

That is exactly what Montrose has stated his own YouTube report was hoping to prove.

Further, Montrose is a marijuana activist who has hosted a show on medicalmarijuana.tv.

Since he appears confused about the findings of our report and intent on spreading gross inaccuracies about the way our study was conducted, we feel compelled to respond to his hidden camera video.

Below is our detail response. It addresses each of the concerns shown in Montrose’s YouTube video in a minute-by-minute breakdown.

1:22:

Montrose says he crafted his hidden camera report to “help prove a point that THC in your system is way different than having alcohol or other pharmaceuticals in your system.”

(Note: THC or Tetrahydrocannabinol is the active ingredient in marijuana)

Montrose called our report “a story with bias.” However, at no point in our report did we say that we were “trying to prove” any specific point. That statement is a blatant evidence of bias. It is something Montrose’s report contained, and our report did not.

3:40/3:55:

We cut a good deal of our lengthy interview with Montrose from our report.

In his video, he shows one continuation of his interview with our reporter Mark Meredith at the 3:30 mark. The portion of the interview included in Montrose’s report, and not ours, shows Montrose stating that he “would never advocate in a million years anyone to drive intoxicated on anything for any reason.”

At the 3:55 mark, Montrose states “Fox portrayed to their audience that people like Max think it’s okay to get stoned and drive. They did not show his full interview.”

To the extent Montrose is upset that we did not use every second of footage we shot interviewing him: That is not a realistic expectation.

All news is edited. In the case of television, editing is necessary due to limited broadcast time.  The question is whether the edited piece fairly conveys the information. Our report does that.

Why was it fair to omit this portion of Montrose’s interview?

Every medical marijuana patient who participated in our study shared Montrose’s opinion that driving intoxicated should not be advocated. Frankly, we believe the overwhelming majority of our state’s population would not condone driving under the influence of any substance.

To that end, we determined the omitted portions of the interviews were redundant and simply stated the obvious, and thus they were left out of the report.

With time being precious, we seek to include only the most unique and important news. Montrose was not only unique, but alone among our study participants in his opinion that one might “come back down to what you would consider a more normal state” after using medical marijuana.

That is why that portion of his interview was aired in lieu of his entire statement.

Furthermore, we find it interesting that Montrose would criticize us for editing out certain parts of his interview and simulation when his own report contains a substantial amount of editing. Specifically, Montrose chose to omit 3 minutes and 42 seconds from our 7 minute, 9 second report.

That means Montrose included roughly half of our report in his hidden camera project. You can find our original report in its entirety here.

4:44:

Montrose’s report states, “Max and the other participants drove 3 times longer while medicated, until forced to crash by the sim controller.” It then shows Montrose crashing into a pedestrian or car who/that suddenly appear in front of him despite the fact that he had a green light.

“Even though I had a green light? He crashed into me? Is that okay?” Montrose asks.

A member of our crew then says, “Cut. We got it.”

Mistakenly referring to our station as Fox News (we are a privately owned FOX affaliate, carrying the network’s prime-time entertainment programming. We are owned by LocalTV LLC., and not by FOX or its parent company, News Corporation), Montrose goes on to say “Fox News was manipulating the simulator and made Max crash, when he actually had the right of way.”

The report then accentuates this line: “Fox created a story with bias,” and suggests a Fox camera man will confirm these details on hidden camera.

The camera operator calls the driving test “ridiculous,” and goes on to state that he “doesn’t know how that’s an accurate simulator at all.”

The camera operator shown in Montrose’s report is a FOX31 Denver employee. However, he was not involved in any way in the writing or editing of the story, nor was he familiar with the testing methodology.  He is entitled to his opinion, but that opinion was not based on accurate information.

The simulator is built to measure reaction time, not replicate everyday driving conditions. It was administered by a third party expert who is not affiliated with FOX31 Denver. We had no interest or ability to skew any simulator results, as it was being run by the third party expert.

Montrose asked the camera operator if he took the driving test. Before giving the camera operator a chance to respond, Montrose said, “It didn’t feel real at all, did it?”

As a matter of fact, our camera operator took a joy ride on the simulator, not the actual test given to our study participants.

Later, at the 8:30 mark in his report, Montrose suggests the simulator was housed in a “school that tests truck drivers that drive 18-wheelers.” He goes on to suggest that the simulator was modeled after an “18-wheel rig.”

That information is mostly false.

While the simulator was housed at a facility that deals with commercial drivers’ licenses, that is not its sole purpose. In addition, the simulator that our study participants took has multiple settings. We chose the setting for a 4-door SUV, among the most commonly-driven vehicles in Colorado.

Montrose indicates that study participants were “forced to crash.” Later in his report, at the 9:20 mark, Montrose suggests that “no one aced their test, that’s because no one was aloud too (sic).”

However, according to the third party expert’s standards, crashing was not a sign that study participants failed the driving test. In fact, at the 6:30 mark of Montrose’s report, our Mark Meredith points out that “some of the participants passed with flying colors” even though they were under the influence of marijuana, as defined by the previously-proposed state statute. Meredith also acknowledges that, like Montrose, many of the participants did not care for the simulator.

Furthermore, FOX31 Denver did not judge the simulator results. The judging of those results was also handled by the third party expert.

Later in his report, at the 9:20 mark, Montrose states the aim of his hidden camera experiment is to “prove a point that cannabis stays in your system way longer than the effect.”

At the 6:30 mark in Montrose’s report is an interview with a phlebotomist. She challenges the previously-proposed 5 nanogram standard, saying she believes each individual reacts differently to marijuana.

With that fact in mind, we can find no other conclusion: Our report confirms what Montrose was hoping it would.

In setting out to disagree with a report that actually confirms his own beliefs, we can’t help but think Montrose had a good deal of his report formulated before he even took part in our study.

A fair viewing of our report prior to Montrose’s editing does not support his premise that we were dead-set on portraying anyone who uses medical marijuana as unfit to drive.

If anything, a complete viewing of our story calls into question the fairness of the previously-proposed Colorado statute that sets an arbitrary 5 nanogram limit.

7:45

A web poll from KDVR.com is shown at the 7:45 mark in Montrose’s report. The poll shows visitors to KDVR.com overwhelmingly believe driving drunk is more dangerous than driving high.

Montrose claims we “immediately took that poll down” upon seeing the results. That is false. In fact, 544 users have been able to find this poll since Montrose claims we took it down.

You can find it here.

Max Montrosse’s video:

FOX31 Denver original report:


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