(EDITOR'S NOTE: Four leaders who in recent months have been active in the effort to oppose marijuana legalization initiatives have co-authored a call to action for the treatment and recovery community. We present this article in sections authored by former U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy; Project SAM co-founder Kevin Sabet, PhD; CeDAR executive director Steven Millette, and CeDAR business development manager Ben Cort.)
SAM: Smart Approaches to Marijuana is a new group of professionals advocating a fresh approach that neither legalizes nor demonizes marijuana. We need a smart policy that reduces marijuana use but does not cripple marijuana users with life-devastating arrest records. This common-sense, third-way approach uses science, public health and public safety principles to guide marijuana policy.
Sure, most people will not get in trouble with marijuana use. Most will not get addicted, and most, after using a few times or less, will stop using drugs altogether. But for a growing minority of users, marijuana is a significant public health problem. And a policy of legalization, along with the American-style promotion and commercialization that will inevitably accompany it, will only expand problems associated with the drug.
And the science shows that marijuana use is increasingly a problem. That is why the American Medical Association (AMA) came out strongly against the legalization of marijuana sales and in favor of a public health approach. It reviewed the science and found some startling statistics not known by most Americans.
For example, marijuana contributes to psychosis and schizophrenia,1 leads to addiction for one in six children who ever try the drug,2 and reduces IQ among those who used marijuana regularly before age 18.3
Today’s marijuana is not your “Woodstock weed.” In the 1960s and '70s, THC levels of the marijuana smoked by Baby Boomers averaged around 1%, increased to just under 4% in 1983, and almost tripled in the subsequent 30 years to around 14% in 2012.4
Additionally, we know that a new marijuana industry similar to Big Tobacco has emerged. The former head of strategy for Microsoft has said that he wants to “mint more millionaires than Microsoft” with marijuana and wants to create the “Starbucks of Marijuana.”5 Already, private holding groups and financiers have raised millions of start-up dollars to promote businesses that will sell marijuana and marijuana-related merchandise.
Marijuana food and candy are being marketed to children and are already responsible for a growing number of marijuana-related ER visits.6 Edibles with names such as “Ring Pots” and “Pot Tarts” are inspired by common candy and dessert products appealing to children. Also, several profitable vending machines containing products such as marijuana brownies are emerging.7
1. Andreasson S, Allebeck P, Engstrom A, et al. Cannabis and schizophrenia: A longitudinal study of Swedish conscripts. Lancet 1987 Dec 26;2:1483-6.
2. Anthony JC, Warner LA, Kessler RC. Comparative epidemiology of dependence on tobacco, alcohol, controlled substances, and inhalants: Basic findings from the National Comorbidity Survey. Exper Clin Psychopharmacol 1994;2:244-68.
3. Meier MH, Caspi A, Ambler A, et al. Persistent cannabis users show neuropsychological decline from childhood to midlife. Proc Natl Acad Sci 2012 Oct 2;109:E2657-64.
4. Mehmedic Z, Chandra S, Slade D, et al. Potency trends of D9-THC and other cannabinoids in confiscated cannabis preparations from 1993 to 2008. J Forensic Sci 2010 Sep;55:1209-17.
5. United Press International. Ex-Microsoft exec plans 'Starbucks' of marijuana. May 31, 2013. Retrieved from www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2013/05/31/VIDEO-Ex-Microsoft-exec-plans-Starbuc...
6. Nature World News. Children poisoned by candy-looking marijuana products. May 27, 2013. Retrieved from https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/560/10/
7. Bloomberg Businessweek. Medbox: Dawn of the marijuana vending machine. May 9, 2013. Retrieved from www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-05-09/medbox-dawn-of-the-marijuana-ve...
8. Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America. Toolkit for States Facing Medical Marijuana and Marijuana Legalization Initiatives. Summer 2012