This week’s Whispers include a report on the difficulty in obtaining accurate data on the number of medical marijuana cards in the state from the Arkansas Department of Health.
Contributing Editor Gwen Moritz requested the card numbers in order to compile our list (see Medical Marijuana Cards Prized in North-Central Arkansas) and assemble our Page 1 map showing the percentage of medical marijuana card holders by population. As our readers know, accurate information is the lifeblood of business. It follows that accurate information is the lifeblood of a business publication.
This is an Opinion
But the first list obtained from the Health Department contained what appeared to be striking anomalies. For example, 26% of the residents of Arkansas County held marijuana cards, if the ADH totals were to be believed.
We’re not brain surgeons or nuclear scientists at Arkansas Business, but we usually know when numbers don’t look right. The Health Department acknowledged some problems with the first list, but its revision was equally suspect: ADH confirmed the Arkansas County figure, and it now showed that 34% of Searcy County residents had received cards. The data wasn’t just shared with Arkansas Business; it was included in an official report to the Legislature.
Now, could we have been wrong? Of course. As much as we hate it, we get things wrong. And then we run corrections on the Whispers pages, the best-read pages of the paper (as you will observe in this very issue). But time-consuming efforts to find anyone who could explain what ADH claimed was true, including anyone at ADH, proved futile.
Finally, 27 days after Arkansas Business first flagged questionable data, the department acknowledged a “flaw in the algorithm.” A third set of numbers coincide with common sense and previous trends, so we feel comfortable sharing them with you.
But if any government agency should understand the importance of accurate data, it’s the Arkansas Department of Health. As a lethal pandemic should have made abundantly clear.