So let me be the first to say that this all has been much more confusing than I would have ever expected.
To rehash for everyone, the other day I was contacted by a fellow marijuana supporter telling me to call 973-409-3274 to “help legalize marijuana”. I called the number, but something didn’t seem right to me since there was no identification whatsoever for who was conducting this poll. I chose not to vote and, instead, started googling to hopefully figure out who was behind this number.
The first bit of information I found claimed that the number was related/endorsed by Change.org, however, I could not find any information which would support this claim on Change.org’s website. I sent an e-mail off and got a reply from Ben Rattray (founder and CEO of Change.org) who dismissed the claim and denied any endorsement for the number. Update: Change.org has posted its own reply to this confusion.
Some claims made regarding the number said it was a “national census” being conducted, others claimed it was directly related to specific pro-marijuana bills which needed support.
It appeared that there was much mystery/controversy surrounding this combination of digits which made it appear very shady.
Thankfully, though, we have reached the end of this adventure and have finally figured out what exactly this number is, what is is not, and, most importantly, who owns it.
I was up fairly late last night updating this whole escapade with new information, planning to realease a follow-up article to various social networks this morning. Before I could do so, however, I noticed a new twitter message which claimed that it was not a scam and was owned by Humor Hotlines (most famously known for their “reject-hotlines“).
When I checked out their website, I did notice that they had a section for a “Marijuana Legalization Endorsement Line”, but the number was not the same as the one in question.
In this same block of time, I received an e-mail from an intern at RHBrands.com (the apparent owner of Humor Hotlines), saying:
Hello, my name is Michael. I am an intern with RH Brands in Atlanta, Ga. We manage a portfolio of hundreds of humorous hotlines that you may be familiar with such as The Rejection Hotline, Psychiatric Hotline, It Could Always Suck More, and Call to Santa. you can find out more at rejectionhotline.com. Today, I ran across some tweets of yours saying that our Marijuana Legalization Endorsement Line (973-409-3274) is a scam. I just wanted to let you know that we aren’t scamming anyone. All of our numbers are completely free to call, and we fully intend on sending a petition to Washington once we reach 1,000,000+ endorsements. Although most of our services are humor related, this particular line isn’t. Sorry for any confusion. Feel free to contact us with any questions regarding the number, and have a good day.
Finally! Looks like we are making progress…
Through Michael, I was able to get on a phone call with Jeff Goldblatt, President and Founder of RHBrands.com who helped clarify everything.
What appears to have happened is an unfortunate series of events which started with Goldblatt’s company creating a legitimate phone-poll petition in hopes of legitimately presenting it to people in the government through various contacts. RH Brands is not an actual political/advocacy group and has no major connections or affiliation with any political group/person which could ensure something like this would “make it in front of the Preisdent” (as so many messages online made it appear to be), and in Goldblatt’s own words it is a “half-a-step-better” than calling your congressman.
RH Brands did not misrepresent itself, though… it just probably should have represented itself a bit more. Due to the fact that Goldblatt wanted the poll to be taking seriously, he did omit adding “brought to you by Humor Hotlines” and admits that this was–in retrospect–probably not a good decision (as it aided in the confusion).
What appears to have happened is a few rogue users wanted to help spread this phone number so they invented stories to make it seem more legitimate (by claiming it was backed by Change.org, for example). We all know how the game of “telephone” works, and as one person told another and that person told another, the story began to slowly evolve into the various ones currently seen throughout the internet.
So let me break it down simply into what this number is and what this number is not:What this number is: This number is one of many numbers created by the novelty-number company Humor Hotlines. Unlike other numbers from HH, Goldblatt claims this is a legitimate poll being conducted which he plans to compile and give to various contacts within the government in hopes that it will be presented to Congress and President Barack Obama. This number is completely free and has apparently no known risks/fees associated with it outside of normal cell phone charges/minutes used/etc. If the number reaches a certain amount of votes (1,000,000), HH has every intention to follow through and send the compiled petition to the government. What this number is NOT: A scam. This number has no relation with any political group or marijuana advocacy group. Endorsed by any politician, political group, advocacy group, or any person/group in a position of political authority. This number has no deadline. The number has no more power/authority to legalize marijuana than any other petition created by people online (however, every bit helps). Though some have claimed to have received charges after calling this number, it must have been coincidence or confusion because the number does not appear to create any charges (though if you can prove to me it does, feel free to contact me).
So… should you call it? If you want to, yes… there doesn’t appear to be any harm in it and it actually may end up being a good petition. But please do not think that you are directly helping to “legalize marijuana”, and definitely do not tell others it is backed by groups which have no idea what it is.
Honesty is crucial and when people lie to get others to do something–even if they think it is right–things like this happen.
I apologized to Goldblatt for the confusion, however he was very understanding and even admitted that he himself is wary of things that sound “too good to be true” and understands why I was warning others to be cautious. While Humor Hotlines has undoubtedly benefited from the mass confusion regarding their number, it is clear that this is not the fault of Goldblatt’s company… rather, it appears to be the result of some trouble makers online and the ripple-effect of social networking.
I’d like to thank him again for taking the time to clear things up and hopefully now that the mystery is gone surrounding this number people can begin calling it for what it is, rather than calling it under the false-assumption of it being something it is not.