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Project SAM Stands No Chance Against Cannabis Legalization

Patrick Kennedy discusses his anti-marijuana lobbying group Project SAM on The Colbert Report.
Patrick Kennedy discusses his anti-marijuana lobbying group Project SAM on The Colbert Report.

Joint Opinions

Project SAM Stands No Chance Against Cannabis Legalization

A loud and uniquely contemporary voice has emerged on the anti-pot front.

Project SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana) is the brainchild of former White House Office of National Drug Control Policy staffer Kevin Sabet. Together with former U.S. Representative Patrick Kennedy the organization was formed as a part of the “third way” approach to cannabis and its complex web of legal, medical and social issues.

Kennedy described the cannabis legalization movement as a “300 mph freight train,” which makes for nice cultural relevance; it brings the Grateful Dead to mind. But who, or what, is Project SAM?

Simply put, SAM is Kevin Sabet’s baby. And Sabet is not a voice unknown in cannabis and drug policy circles.

Very active in the media and in states with cannabis legalization and medical legislation and initiatives, Sabet (and Project SAM) is devoted to blocking that 300 mph freight train of legalization.

Launched in January 2013, Project SAM immediately jumped into the ring to complain about the implementation of Colorado’s voter-approved cannabis legalization laws. An approach which, while often dramatic in its portrayals of Colorado’s future under legalization, has been ineffective at best.

But what is it Project SAM’s “smarter approach” to cannabis?

From their “legal reforms” page:

Marijuana Use/Possession:

* That possession or use of a small amount of marijuana be a civil offense subject to a mandatory health screening and marijuana-education program as appropriate. Referrals to treatment and/or social-support services should be made if needed. The individual could even be monitored for 6-12 months in a probation program designed to prevent further drug use.

* That there is an end to the practice of “stop-and-frisk.”

* That no marijuana use in any form is permitted in public view.

* That smoke-free laws apply to marijuana and tobacco.

* That there is expungement of any personal record regarding possession of small amounts of marijuana.

Production, Distribution, Dealing and Sale of Marijuana:

Smart Approaches to Marijuana seeks fair and proportionate penalties for these crimes and recommends:

 * That they remain misdemeanors or felonies based on amounts possessed.

* An end to mandatory minimum sentences so judges can exercise discretion under the law.

* Assessment and mandatory treatment in prison for those who are addicted. Appropriate aftercare should be provided by service providers licensed by the state upon release.

* Restoration of all civil rights once sentences have been served for a personal use marijuana conviction.

* Services for re-entry into the community through Justice Reinvestment or similar programs, such as the Drug Market Initiative(DMI).

Project SAM leaders – primarily Sabet – have maintained an active media profile. Their approach is that cannabis addicts need treatment. If treatment fails, it’s back to incarceration of “marijuana addicts.”

They are, however, running into opposition.

When asked about Project SAM, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) board member, Diane Goldstein, Lieutenant Commander (Ret.) of the Redondo Beach Police Department, had this to say:

“Despite Project Sam’s purported ‘smart approaches’ to marijuana policy, what is clear is that their insistence in maintaining the illicit market creates more danger for the safety of our children than a properly controlled and regulated market would. Project Sam has not proposed policy- just obfuscation using words to mire the many important discussions needed to critically analyze and design our national drug policy.”

The Marijuana Policy Project’s Communications Director Mason Tvert:

“The proposal [to give all marijuana users addiction treatment therapy] is on par with forcing every alcohol user into treatment at their own cost or at a cost to the state… In fact, it would be less logical because the science is clear that marijuana is far less toxic, less addictive, and less likely to be associated with acts of violence.

Sunil Kumar Aggarwal, MD, PhD, writing on Alternet about Sabet’s anti-pot claims:

According to Project SAM, “The raw marijuana plant material—which contains hundreds of unknown components—has not met FDA’s standards of safety and efficacy.”

Cannabis-marijuana plant material is one of the best studied and characterized plant materials in science. As of 2008, there were over 15,000 articles alone on the chemistry and pharmacology of cannabis.

Project SAM and Kevin Sabet and Patrick Kennedy will continue their crusade against cannabis and cannabists, although this writer wonders what chance they have against the momentum of a 300 mph freight train.

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