The False Dichotomy of Legalization and Criminalization

Is marijuana the next Big Tobacco? Dr. Sabet will go through the latest developments over the battle to legalize marijuana and will review the latest science about the drug – highlighting why science and policy are often disconnected. Dr. Sabet makes the claim that our greatest concern about the recent wave of marijuana legalization should be the inevitable rise of a second Big Tobacco industry.

View YouTube Video here.

Kevin A. Sabet, Ph.D., advisor to three U.S. presidential administrations, has studied, researched, written about, and implemented drug policy for more than 20 years. In 2013, he co-founded a non-profit organization, Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM), with Congressman Patrick Kennedy and David Frum, which advocates for a public health based marijuana policy. He is currently the Director of the Drug Policy Institute at the University of Florida and the President of SAM. His book, Reefer Sanity: Seven Great Myths About Marijuana, was published by Beaufort (Midpoint) in 2013 and will be released in its second edition at the end of 2017.

This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at

Medical marijuana company breaks ground on Ohio grow site

Growing marijuana for medicinal purposes is about to begin in Ohio.

A company called Cresco Labs held a groundbreaking event on Thursday in a corn field in Yellow Springs, where the company will build a 50,000 square-foot greenhouse to grow medical marijuana.

The field is next to Antioch University Midwest.

Cresco Labs is one of 12 companies licensed by Ohio to grow medical pot on an industrial sale.

“Proud to announce to Ohio that relief has arrived,” Cresco Labs CEO Charles Bachtell said to a supportive crowd during the groundbreaking.

Bachtell praised Ohio’s new medical marijuana program and the small village of Yellow Springs.

Read the rest of the article here.

Week One!

California just marked its first week of full legalization of marijuana and our counterparts in California already have deep concerns.
The country’s oldest dispensary opened for recreational business on the first day touting 109 types of edibles ranging from orange soda to spicy snack mix and many varieties of gummies and candy-like products. Additionally, they are featuring 27 types of flowers. Sixteen have over 20% THC going as high as 28.3%. It is also selling 82 types of concentrates ranging up to 90% THC with names like Animal Cookies.
Every imaginable form of consumption is available at one-stop stores with names and products appealing to children or easily confused as standard food products. The concern grows as it appears the floodgates are open wide to a highly creative and industrialized marijuana market.
We will continue to watch closely this unfolding story and how our California colleagues counter this growing industry. We will continue to learn from them.
To make things more interesting, this week the U.S. Justice Department sent a letter to U.S. Attorneys rescinding some of the former administration’s directives of discouraging federal prosecutors from bringing charges of marijuana-related crimes in states that have legalize marijuana.
Prosecutors are advised to use their own discretion by taking into consideration the Department of Justice’s limited resources, the seriousness of the crime and whether charges were appropriate. If enforcement takes place, it could be a game changer for legalization states. Read story here.
PAA Legislative Update January 9, 2018

Legalized States Show Higher Marijuana Use Versus U.S. As A Whole

Statement on NSDUH State Estimates 2015-2016

New Federal Data Show Legalized States’ Marijuana Use At Alarming Rates; Colorado Now Top State in US for First-Time Marijuana Users

Other legal states also show alarming increases in use

The average rate of regular teen marijuana use in the legalized states of Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington is 30% higher than the U.S. rate as a whole, according to new data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Almost a third of all 18 to 25 year olds in legal states used marijuana in the past month, up from around one-fifth ten years ago.

New data released last week show Colorado as the top state in the Nation for first time marijuana users, and its rate of first time users has more than doubled in the last decade. In that state, use among people 18 and over has also skyrocketed, as well as use among young adults aged 18-25.

Use among 12-17 year olds is slightly higher than 10 years ago (though lower versus last year).

Monthly use has also gone up in Washington by 10% since last year, and in virtually all legal marijuana states since before legalization, among household residents 12 and older.

Young adult use skyrocketing

Of particular concern was the fact that the use rate among 18 to 25 year olds has increased across the board. In Colorado, almost half of young adults used marijuana at least once in the past year, up from 37% in 2005. Washington DC’s number is 51%, up from 30% in 2005 – representing a more than 50% increase in users. In Oregon, use is up in this category more than 10% versus last year, and it is up 50% in the past ten years.

Teen use still a concern

In Colorado, 7.6% of 12 to 17 year olds used marijuana in the past month in 2005-2006, compared to 9.1% currently. While that number is lower than in recent years, we do not know how many of these users are heavy users. National estimates have reported significant increases in the number of heavy marijuana users in the U.S. Medical marijuana became commercialized around 2009, and that is when use started to rise. In Oregon, youth monthly use is up since last year, and in Washington it is up since 2008-2009.

Adult use is a major problem

For adults, many of whom drive regularly and are in the U.S. workplace, marijuana use can be a public health and safety hazard. Adult monthly use has increased in Colorado and Oregon almost 40% since legalization, and yearly use has also increased across all legal states since laws have changed.

NEW POLL REPORTED IN WASHINGTON POST: Support for Legalization Falls When Voters Have More Choices

As reported today in the Washington Post:


By Keith Humphreys December 12 at 6:30 AM

The proportion of Americans who express support for marijuana legalization in opinion polls has risen sharply over the past decade from the low 30s to as high as 60 percent. But a new poll shows that what Americans who support “marijuana legalization” actually want is more nuanced than it might appear.

The anti-legalization advocacy organization Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) commissioned Emerson College pollsters to ask 600 registered voters in New York State about marijuana policy. The proportion who agreed that “the use of marijuana should be made legal for adults aged 21 and older” was 60 percent, virtually identical to the 62 percent who answered the same question affirmatively in a prior Emerson College poll of New York State voters commissioned by legalization advocacy organizations. Respondents don’t know the views of the organization that has commissioned the poll, so it is unsurprising that the results were so similar across polls despite the opposing views of their sponsors.

However, the SAM poll included a second question, which took into account the fact that New York State has already legalized medical marijuana and has removed criminal penalties for possessing small amounts of marijuana (a policy known as “decriminalization”). This more detailed question was “Knowing that personal marijuana possession is already decriminalized and medicalized in New York, which one of the following policies do you prefer?”

Given more options from which to choose, respondents’ support for legalization dropped by a third, from 60 percent to 40 percent. Apparently, some of the poll respondents who had previously expressed support for legalization assumed they were being asked about the legality of medical marijuana or of personal marijuana possession. The “60 percent support” was thus actually a mix of people who supported legalization and those who opposed it but wanted marijuana to be accessible to severely ill people, opposed criminal penalties for personal consumption, or both.

The influence of question wording is often overlooked when marijuana-related polls are discussed, but has been familiar to drug policy scholars for many years. In their 2001 book Drug War Heresies, Professors Rob MacCoun and Peter Reuter, noted that survey responses vary depending on whether full legalization, decriminalization and prohibition are all included as response alternatives, and that posing stark choices at the extremes might even understate the public’s support for more modest reform options.

Substantively, the New York data shows that a strong majority of voters do not want anyone arrested for using marijuana (i.e., they support either legalization or decriminalization) and do want sick people to have access to medical marijuana (i.e., they support either legalization or medical marijuana).

But full legalization – corporate farms, marijuana processing companies, advertising, lobbying and the like – is considered desirable by a minority of New York voters.

About SAM Action

SAM Action is a non-profit, 501(c)(4) social welfare organization dedicated to promoting healthy marijuana policies that do not involve legalizing drugs. Learn more about SAM Action and its work at visit

Marijuana – New Ballot Initiative Threatened

As anticipated, with only twelve large and twelve smaller cultivators having been chosen to grow marijuana for Ohio’s Medical Marijuana Control Program, some who weren’t selected are convinced that the process was flawed and the program’s progression needs to be stopped and revaluated. After all, there is much at stake. Being awarded a cultivator license has the promise of bringing the investors big returns and no one wants to be left on the sidelines with so much potential profit.

We believe the State of Ohio did their due diligence in making this arduous process as unbiased as possible. They assembled teams comprised of experts in the industry from across the country to evaluate the comprehensive applications. These teams were not given any information that would divulge the identity of the companies or their principals. The scores were based solely on the merit of the application. A second team of reviewers were given all the identifying information to make sure the businesses were law abiding, paid taxes, and had no law suits or complaints that would be a disqualifier.

Now, the entire process could languish as lawsuits begin to emerge. One particular applicant, formerly Responsible Ohio, which was heavily invested in the 2015 Issue 3 ballot initiative, is kicking up a dust storm. They uncovered that one of the consultants hired by the state had a felony drug conviction from 12 years ago on his criminal record. Using this as political fodder, they, in addition to political candidates, politicians, and other hopeful entrepreneurs are jumping into the fray. At this point the State of Ohio is undeterred and is continuing to move forward with the Medical Marijuana Control Program. This turmoil will continue to play out in the coming weeks and months.

Why should we be concerned? Those same individuals who were behind issue 3 and who called Ohio’s medical marijuana bill the best in the United States failed to obtain a cultivator license. Now, they’ve announced that they will push for a “free market” recreational marijuana measure for the 2018 ballot called the “regulate marijuana like alcohol amendment.” At this time, details are still coming out, but it’s already clear that this amendment would, among other things, make it legal for anyone 21 and up to grow and use marijuana.

As community leaders, we will once again need to ramp up our educational efforts. We need to start now. The alcohol and tobacco industries have flourished at the expense of public health and well-being and now marijuana is knocking on the door to become the third. Together we can stop the greed that threatens healthy children and communities.

Marcie Seidel
Executive Director
Prevention Action Alliance

Trump administration freezes database of addiction and mental health treatments

Federal health officials have suspended a program that helps thousands of professionals and community groups across the country find effective interventions for preventing and treating mental illness and substance-use disorders.

The National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices (NREPP) is housed within the Health and Human Services Department’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

The registry, which was launched in 1997, offers a database of hundreds of mental health and substance abuse programs that have been assessed by an independent contractor and deemed scientifically sound. Getting a program or therapeutic approach included in this registry amounts to receiving federal recognition as an evidence-based practice. Mental health and addiction specialists say they rely on this database as a key source for finding appropriate and effective therapies.

Since 2015, the registry has also included evidence that certain interventions do not work, which helps practitioners avoid wasting resources on those programs.

Administration officials confirmed that the contract for running the database has been terminated. A new entity will take over the program’s duties. A director for that group was announced Monday, but no other staff members are in place. Agency spokesman Brian Dominguez said Wednesday that the new entity is “working closely” with other parts of the agency to “institute an even more scientifically rigorous approach to better inform the identification and implementation of evidence-based programs and practices.”

Read more here.

No guns: Ohio’s medical marijuana users won’t be able to have firearms

People who register with the state of Ohio to legally use medical marijuana will be prohibited from possessing firearms under federal law, according to guidance released by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

In an open letter to federally licensed firearms dealers, the ATF advised in 2011 that marijuana is still a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law so any use of the drug is unlawful, and gun dealers are prohibited from providing guns or ammo to anyone they have cause to believe uses pot.

“There are no exceptions in federal law for marijuana purportedly used for medicinal purposes, even if such is sanctioned by state law,” the memo says.

The law applies to more than just buying guns. The ATF letter says marijuana users are prohibited from “shipping, transporting, receiving or possessing firearms or ammunition.”

Anyone applying to purchase a gun from a licensed dealer must sign a form attesting he or she is not “an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance.”

“Warning: The use or possession of marijuana remains unlawful under Federal law regardless of whether it has been legalized or decriminalized for medicinal or recreational purposes in the state where you reside,” the form notes.

Lying on the form is a felony under federal law, punishable with up to 10 years in prison.

Click here to read more.

Should pot be used for opioid withdrawal in Ohio? Doctor, recovering addict weigh in

Doctor, recovering addict question marijuana’s usefulness as treatment for addictions involving drugs such as heroin

Using marijuana to treat people addicted to opioids is an idea that appears to be gaining traction among some who helped craft Ohio’s medical marijuana law.

Even though the state is about 10 months away from launching its medical pot program, there’s already talk of expanding the list of qualifying conditions.

But as a recovering addict, Tyler Schmidt doesn’t see how such a move would help people who are trying to kick a heroin habit or stop using opioids.

“I’ve seen a lot of close friends of mine, peers of mine, that have sought an easier, softer way through marijuana,” Schmidt said. “And ultimately, I’ve seen a lot of that lead them right back to their drug of choice.”

Continue reading here.

Fentanyl bust nets enough drugs to wipe out population of Ohio

Police who busted a fentanyl ring in Columbus, Ohio found enough of the drug to kill the population of the entire city, prosecutors told Fox News.

Investigators ended up finding 4.5 pounds of fentanyl in a drug bust in October, which could have wiped out the city of about 800,000 residents.

But that’s not even close to what was found in the Ohio capital the following month when police seized 20 pounds of pure fentanyl.

“So it would probably be enough to kill all, the entire population in the state of Ohio,” Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien said.

Ohio has 11.6 million residents and, at 2 to 3 milligrams per lethal dose, the amount of fentanyl discovered in the November bust could potentially kill more than 9 million people.

“Two or three milligrams of fentanyl is not much more than five or six small grains of salt,” O’Brien said.

But the epidemic goes beyond Ohio. Some of the major opioid busts this year could have killed the entire populations of several states.

Continue reading here.

In The Age Of Legalization, Talking To Kids About Marijuana Gets Tougher

After Yarly Raygoza attended a drug prevention program at the Boys & Girls Club in Westminster, Calif., last year, she used what she learned to talk a few friends out of using marijuana.

The 14-year-old took the class again this year but worries that counseling her friends will become more difficult.

Recreational marijuana is now legal for adults in California, which could bring a massive boom in drug sales and advertising when stores can begin selling the drug without a prescription in January.

But it’s bringing a new challenge, too. Yarly believes that as more people 21 and older use marijuana legally, teenagers will have trouble understanding that they shouldn’t use it. Teens may also have easier access to the drug as recreational pot shops start to open, on top of the already plentiful medical marijuana shops sprinkled throughout the state, she says.

Continue reading here.