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Kevin A. Sabet, Ph.D.
Director, University of Florida Drug Policy Institute,
Department of Psychiatry, Division of Addiction Medicine
Director, Project SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana)
Author, Reefer Sanity: Seven Great Myths About Marijuana

Before the United States Senate Judiciary Committee
September 10, 2013

Written Testimony
"Conflict Between State and Federal Laws"

Chairman Leahy, Ranking Member Grassley, distinguished members of the Committee,
thank you for providing me with the opportunity to appear before you today to discuss
marijuana policy, and more specifically, state laws authorizing the legalization of

I have studied, researched, and written about drug policy, drug markets, drug prevention,
drug treatment, criminal justice policy, addiction, and public policy analysis for almost
18 years. Most recently, from 2009-2011, I served in the Obama Administration as a
senior drug policy advisor. I am currently the co-founder, with former Congressman
Patrick J. Kennedy, of Project SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana). I am also the
author of Reefer Sanity: Seven Great Myths About Marijuana (Beaufort).

I am delighted to share with you my perspective, based on evidence and experience, on
current marijuana policies in the United States.

Because I share the Obama Administration's drug control goals of reducing drug abuse
and its consequences, as laid out in the President's National Drug Control Strategy, I
found the recent guidance by the U.S. Deputy Attorney General (hereafter "Cole 2013")
disturbing on both legal and policy grounds. The guidance, which expressly defers the
Department of Justice's (hereafter "Department") right to challenge and preempt laws
legalizing marijuana, contradicts both the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) and policy
principles designed to protect public health and safety.

Colorado and Washington have now been given the green light to become the first
jurisdictions in the world
to allow the retail sales and commercial production of
marijuana, far surpassing more relatively modest marijuana policy liberalization
measures taken up in countries like the Netherlands or Spain. Though marijuana use was
not subject to federal criminal penalties in the United States until the 1930s, its mass
commercial production and sales has never taken place here until now. Perhaps the most
striking feature of Cole 2013 is that it explicitly omits the creation of large, for-profit
entities in its criteria for possible federal action in the future.


The Importance of the CSA

Indeed, besides having an effect of violating the CSA on legal grounds, the Department's
guidance flies in the face of the evidence showing that marijuana should remain illegal.
The new guidance endangers Americans since it will facilitate the creation of a large
industry for marijuana use, production, trafficking, and sale. The CSA is an important
tool for promoting public health. By keeping marijuana illegal, its use is lower than the
use of our legal drugs. About 52% of Americans regularly drink, 27% use tobacco
products, and yet only 8% currently use marijuana, though this number has been rising in
recent years (about 25% since 2007) as we have become more accepting of marijuana as
a country.1

I applaud the way the CSA has been so far used by the federal government ' not to go
after low-level users with an addiction problem, but instead to target drug traffickers and
producers. Now, with Cole 2013, we are entering a whole new world where those drug
traffickers and producers are getting a "green light" from the federal government to

International Law

By giving Washington and Colorado the go-ahead to start a massive for-profit,
commercial industry for marijuana, the United States will violate its treaty obligations
under the United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961 and its
supplementary treaties, the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances and the 1988
Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances. These
treaties make up the global system of drug control to which almost every country in the
world has agreed. Already, with respect to laws authorizing both the recreational and
medical use of marijuana, the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), the quasi-
judicial, independent body that interprets and enforces international drug laws, has sent
several stern messages and warnings to United States officials about how such laws
contradict our treaty obligations.2

1 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Results from the 2012 National Survey on
Drug Use and Health: Summary of National Findings
, NSDUH Series H-46, HHS Publication No.
(SMA) 13-4795. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2013.
2 See for example: United Nations Information Services. (2012, November 15). INCB President voices
concern about the outcome of recent referenda about non-medical use of cannabis in the United States in a
number of states [Press Release]. Retrieved
from: United
Nations Information Services. (2013, March 13). INCB President calls on the United States Government to
address initiatives aimed at permitting recreational drug use [Press Release]. Retrieved
from: United
Nations Information Services. (2013, March 15). INCB President expresses grave concern about
inadequately regulated medical cannabis schemes which can lead to increased abuse [Press Release].


Last week I was invited to speak about legalization to a group of Mexican lawmakers in
Mexico City. Universally they asked, "Will people we (the Mexican government)
consider criminals ' drug traffickers and producers ' now be able to flee safely to
Colorado and Washington under your new laws?" They also asked me: "How can your
government keep telling Mexico to stop producing and trafficking marijuana when your
government is now openly approving and facilitating an increase in marijuana demand?
Indeed, how can America discuss international law on any subject with authority
anymore?" I had no good answers for them, and I worry about what Cole 2013 will mean
for our diplomats abroad. Indeed, as the US increasingly cites international law as a
reason for enforcing environmental regulations or military intervention, our case for
doing so is severely weakened now that we are openly defying and indeed even
promoting the violation of international law.

The Consequences of Legalization

In its memo, the Department lists priority areas it will focus on to determine future
intervention. The rest of my testimony is dedicated to showing how some of these areas
have already been violated under existing marijuana laws since in many respects we have
already witnessed the effects of the de facto legalization of retail marijuana sales under
state laws authorizing the use of marijuana for medical purposes:

(1) The distribution of marijuana to minors

Colorado provides an instructive example here. Though they legalized marijuana as
medicine in 2000, it was not until about 2009 that marijuana stores were established '
about 500 by 2012. The number of cardholders rose from about 1000 in 2006 to 108,000
in 2012.3

Anyone who has been to Colorado since 2009 can get a sense of what full legalization
looks like already. Mass advertising, promotion, using items that are attractive to kids '
like "medical marijuana lollipops," "Ring Pots," "Pot-Tarts" etc. ' are all characteristics
of current policy.

What has been the result of this de facto legalization for kids? For one, drug-related
referrals for high school students testing positive for marijuana have increased. During
2007 ' 2009 an average of 5.6 students tested positive for marijuana. During 2010 '
2012 the average number of students who tested positive for marijuana increased to 17.3
students per year. In 2007, tests positive for marijuana made up 33 percent of the total
drug screenings, by 2012 that num ber increased to 57 percent. A m em ber of the
Colorado Taskforce charged to regulate marijuana who also works for a drug testing

3 Rocky Mountain HIDTA. (August 2013). The Legalization of Marijuana in Colorado: The Impact ,
Preliminary Report
(volume 1).


company commented to the press that "A typical kid (is) between 50 and 100 nanograms.
Now we're seeing these up in the over 500, 700, 800, climbing."4

The journal JAMA Pediatrics reported that unintentional marijuana poisonings among
kids have risen significantly since marijuana as medicine has become available.5 Other
peer-reviewed papers are finding that medical marijuana is easily diverted to youth. The
Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry in 2012 surveyed
164 Denver-area teens in treatment, and 121 of them -- or nearly 74 percent -- said they
had used someone else's medical marijuana.6

This is all consistent with a recent National Bureau for Economic Research paper
conducted by some RAND researchers who found that specific dimensions of laws
authorizing the use of marijuana for medical purposes, namely home cultivation and legal
dispensaries ' two features found in Colorado and other states with similar laws ' are
positively associated with marijuana use and "have important implications for states
considering legalization of marijuana."7

(2) The revenue from the sale of marijuana going to criminal enterprises, gangs, and

Department of Justice officials have publicly said that the sales of marijuana for
supposedly "medical" purposes are in some cases going to criminal enterprises and
foreign drug trafficking groups.8 "It's very clear to me that there's outside sources," said
Jeff Sweetin, Special Agent In Charge of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency in
Colorado, in a news article. "From my investigations, I can tell you what the foreign
sources are; they're foreign cartel sources." The news story reported that "Sweetin says a
large percentage of the pot consumed by medical marijuana patients 'absolutely' comes
from Mexico." Sweetin continued, "These are real organized crime groups. There's a
faction that wants you to believe that these are just guys that are listening to their music,
they're driving their van, they're peaceful guys and they're moving a couple of ounces a
week to people that are not doing any problems. That's not what's happening."
This is also the case in other states, like California, where the U.S. Secret Service and the
DEA were involved in "what has amounted to a four-year investigation ... ... into an
organized criminal enterprise involving large-scale marijuana distribution, not only in the
Los Angeles area, but throughout the United States. This criminal enterprise hired known

4 See Conspire! Drug Testing Results and "Drug Testing Company Sees Spike in Children Using
Marijuana" found at
5 Wang, S.G., Roosevelt, G., & Heard, K. (2013). Pediatric Marijuana Exposures in a Medical Marijuana
State. JAMA Pediatrics, 167(7), 631.
6 Salomonsen-Sautel, S., et al. (2012). Medical Marijuana Use among Adolescents in Substance
Abuse Treatment. American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 5(7), 5.
7 (Pacula, R. et al. 2013). "Assessing the Effects of Medical Marijuana Laws on Marijuana and Alcohol
Use: The Devil is in the Details." NBER Working Paper No. 19302, August 2013, JEL No. I18,K32,K42
8 Mexican Gangs Linked To Colorado's Pot: Drug Enforcement Chief Says 'Organized Crime' Here.
(2010, January 7). ABC 7 News, the Denver Channel. Retrieved


gang members as enforcers. This organization was involved in the operation of multiple
retail marijuana dispensaries generating massive profits, repeatedly showing their
willingness to use violence and intimidation to expand their operations and dissuade
competition. To date, there have been 26 documented crimes..."9

As a Los Angeles newspaper mentioned in a story about dispensaries and criminal gangs,
"Many of the dispensaries and grow houses have ties to organized crime and sell to street
dealers as well, detectives said." The story quoted L.A. County Sheriff's Detective David
Mertens who said, "Most of the dispensaries are getting pot from these indoor grows,"
said L, who specializes in narcotics investigations. "It's not just the dispensaries they're
growing for. They're also selling to street dealers."10
(3) The diversion of marijuana from states where it is legal under state law in some
form to other states:

Once again, this is already happening. And simple economics would dictate that this is
hardly surprising. As the price for marijuana plummets in legalization states, we can
expect cheap marijuana to be sold in non-legalization states for a handsome profit. As
mentioned in a recent law enforcement report11, the El Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC)
has established the National Seizure System (NSS) for voluntary reporting interdiction
seizures throughout the country. According to this law enforcement report, in 2012, there
were 274 Colorado marijuana interdiction seizures destined for other states compared to
54 in 2005. This is a 407 percent increase. Of the 274 seizures in 2012, there were 37
different states destined to receive marijuana from Colorado. The most common
destinations were Kansas (37), Missouri (30), Illinois (22) Texas (18), Wisconsin (18),
Florida (16) and Nebraska (13). There were some seizures in which the destination state
was unknown. In 2012, there were 7,008 pounds of Colorado marijuana seized by
interdictions that were destined for other states in the country.

(4) State authorized marijuana activity being used as a cover or pretext for the
trafficking of other illegal drugs or other illegal activity; also violence and the use of
firearms in the cultivation and distribution of marijuana

Though most marijuana users do not commit violent crimes, the retail sales of de facto
legal marijuana has been linked to violence, firearms, illegal activity, and other illegal
drugs. A 2008 report from the California Police Chiefs Association documents how
"marijuana storefront businesses have allowed criminals to flourish in California" and
that "some monetary proceeds from the sale of harvested marijuana derived from plants
grown inside houses are being used by organized crime syndicates to fund other

9 Romero, D. (2013, April 17). Marijuana Shops In WeHo Raided As Gang-Related, Criminal Enterprises,
Cops Say. LA Weekly. Retrieved
10 Markus, B.P. (2010, September 3). Pot houses linked to gangs, marijuana dispensaries. San Gabriel
Valley Tribune.
Retrieved from:

11 Rocky Mountain HIDTA. (August 2013). The Legalization of Marijuana in Colorado: The Impact ,
Preliminary Report
(volume 1).


legitimate businesses for profit and the laundering of money, and to conduct illegal
business operations like prostitution, extortion, and drug trafficking."12 Reports by the
California Police Chiefs Association and Colorado law enforcement officials document
numerous instances where murder, illegal drug trafficking, robberies, and other crimes
take place at or near marijuana storefronts.
(5) An increase in drugged driving and the exacerbation of other adverse public
health consequences associated with marijuana use

The adverse consequences of marijuana use take a major toll on America. As the
movement to legalize marijuana has gained momentum over the past decade '
legalization campaigners have spent tens of millions of dollars on pro-marijuana
campaigns that have not only focused on changing state laws but also on creating
marijuana producers associations and aiming messages at NASCAR and NFL players and
fans ' youth perceptions of the harmfulness of marijuana has dropped dramatically. This
is troubling because marijuana use has the potential to be very harmful to adolescents,
whose brains are developing until age 25.

Marijuana advocates will claim that regulations surrounding legal marijuana will make it
harder for youth to access marijuana, since they will have to produce identification to
obtain marijuana. However, our experience with another intoxicant that can be deadly on
the roads and also inhibit learning outcomes ' alcohol ' shows us that once a drug is
accepted, normalized, and commercialized, youth will have an easier time accessing it
than if it was illegal. For example, a study from Columbia University found that alcohol
and cigarettes were the most readily accessible substances for youth, with 50% and 44%,
respectively, of youth reporting that they could obtain them within a day. Youth were
least likely to report that they could get marijuana within a day (31%); 45% report that
they would be unable to get marijuana at all.13

Marijuana advocates will also claim that we can learn from our tobacco experience ' no
one has been arrested for tobacco use and yet fewer young people use tobacco compared
to marijuana. But this claim completely neglects the social norm and media environment
that has emerged in the past two decades against tobacco. Tobacco is looked down upon
by many young people precisely because of government and non-governmental efforts to
make it so. There is no more a multimillion dollar campaign to legitimize tobacco like
there is today for marijuana, and certainly no one is making claims that tobacco is
harmless, as advocates routinely do. By contrast, marijuana use is regularly glorified and
promoted ' and since the defunding of the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign
there is virtually no well-financed voice getting the message out to young people that
marijuana use is harmful.

12 White Paper on Marijuana Dispensaries, California Police Chiefs Association. (2009).
13 Adapted by CESAR from The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia
University (CASA), National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse XVII: Teens, 2012.
Available online at and CESAR at


How harmful is marijuana use to adolescents? Despite popular myth and slick ad
campaigns by pro-legalization advocates, scientists from the American Medical
Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Psychological Association,
American Society of Addiction Medicine, and other groups are universal in stating that
marijuana use is harmful for young people.14 Marijuana use, especially among young
people, is significantly associated with a reduction in IQ15, mental illness16, poor learning
outcomes17, lung damage18, and addiction.19 According to the National Institutes of
Health, one out of every six adolescents who use marijuana will become addicted20, and
many more will develop some problems as a result of marijuana use. There are about
400,000 emergency room admissions for marijuana every year ' related to acute panic

14 American Medical Association. (2009). Report 3 on the Council of Science and Public Health: Use of
Cannabis for Medicinal
Purposes; Joffe, E. & Yancy, W.S. (2004). Legalization of Marijuana: Potential
impact on youth. Pediatrics: Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, 113(6); American
Psychological Association. (2009). Position Statement on Adolescent Substance Abuse; California Society
of Addiction Medicine. (2009). Impact of Marijuana on Children and Adolescents.; American Society of
Addiction Medicine Statement Retrieved here:

15 See Meier, M.H.; Caspi, A.; Ambler, A.; Harrington, H.; Houts, R.; Keefe, R.S.E.; McDonald, K.; Ward,
A.; Poulton, R.; and Moffitt, T. Persistent cannabis users show neuropsychological decline from childhood
to midlife.Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 109(40):E2657'E2664, 2012. Also
Moffitt, T.E.; Meier, M.H.; Caspi, A.; and Poulton, R. Reply to Rogeberg and Daly: No evidence that
socioeconomic status or personality differences confound the association between cannabis use and IQ
decline. Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences 110(11):E980-E982, 2013.
16 See for example: Andreasson S., et al. (1987). Cannabis and Schizophreia: A longitudinal study of
Swedish conscripts. Lancet, 2(8574); Moore, T.H., et al. (2007). Cannabis use and risk of psychotic or
affective mental health outcomes: a systematic review. Lancet, 370(9584); Large M., et al. (2011).
Cannabis Use and Earlier Onset of Psychosis: A Systematic Meta-analysis. Archives of General Psychiatry,
68(6); Harley, M., et al. (2010). Cannabis use and childhood trauma interact additively to increase risk of
psychotic symptoms in adolescences. Psychological Medicine, 40(10); Lynch, M.J., et al. (2012). The
Cannabis-Psychosis Link. Psychiatric Times.
17 Yucel, M., et al. (2008). Regional brain abnormalities associated with long-term heavy cannabis use.
Archives of General Psychiatry, 65(6).
18 See for example: American Lung Association. (2012, November 27). Health Hazards of Smoking
Marijuana. Retrieved from:
Tashkin, D.P., et al. (2002). Respiratory and immunologic consequences of smoking
marijuana. Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, 4(11); Moore, B.A., et al. (2005). Respiratory effects of
marijuana and tobacco use in a U.S. sample. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 20(1); Tetrault, J.M., et
al. (2007). Effects of marijuana smoking on pulmonary structure, function and symptoms. Thorax, 62(12);
Tan, W.C., et al. (2009). Marijuana and chronic obstructive lung disease.
19 See for example: Anthony, J.C., Warner, L.A., Kessler, R.C. (1994). Comparative epidemiology of
dependence on tobacco, alcohol, controlled substances, and inhalants: Basic findings from the National
Comorbidity Survey. Experiential and Clinical Psychopharmacology, 2; Budney, A.J., et al. (2008).
Comparison of cannabis and tobacco withdrawal: Severity and contributions to relapse. Journal of
Substance Abuse Treatment, 35
(4); Tanda, G., et al. (2003). Cannabinoids: Reward, dependence, and
underlying neurochemical mechanisms ' A recent preclinical data. Psychoparmacology, 169(2).
20 Anthony, J.C., Warner, L.A., Kessler, R.C. (1994). Comparative epidemiology of dependence on
tobacco, alcohol, controlled substances, and inhalants: Basic findings from the National Comorbidity
Survey. Experiential and Clinical Psychopharmacology, 2.


attacks and psychotic episodes21 ' and marijuana is the most cited drug for teens entering

As for drugged driving, a meta'analysis published in the peer-reviewed Epidemiological
looked at nine studies conducted over the past two decades on marijuana and
car-crash risk. It concluded, "drivers who test positive for marijuana or self'report using
marijuana are more than twice as likely as other drivers to be involved in motor vehicle
crashes."23 Indeed, we already know marijuana and driving is a growing problem in
states with loose marijuana laws. In Colorado, though traffic fatalities fell 16 percent
between 2006 and 2011 (consistent with national trends), fatalities involving drivers
testing positive for marijuana rose 112 percent.24

Experience Shows That "Regulation" Is Anything But

Finally, two independent reports released within days of each other last month
documented how Colorado's supposedly regulated system is not well regulated at all.
In the first of the two audits, the Colorado State Auditor concluded that there were
inappropriate recommendations made, a whopping 50% of recommendations were made
by only 12 physicians, that the state had not "established a process for caregivers to
indicate the significant responsibilities they are assuming for managing the well-being of
their patients," and that the state "cash fund" was out of compliance.25

The second audit26 reviewed the city of Denver's medical marijuana licensing practices
by the Department of Excise and Licenses. In concluded that the city of Denver "does not
have a basic control framework in place for effective governance of the... medical
marijuana program." The auditors wrote how the medical marijuana records are
"incomplete, inaccurate, inaccessible," and that many medical marijuana businesses are
operating without valid licenses. Moreover, the Department does not even know how

21 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and
Quality. (2011). Drug abuse warning network, 2008: National estimates of drug-related emergency
department visits. HHS Publication No. SMA 11-4618. Rockville, MD.
22 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics
and Quality. Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS): 2000-2010. National Admissions to Substance Abuse
Treatment Services. DASIS Series S-61, HHS Publication No. (SMA) 12-4701. Rockville, MD: Substance
Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2012
23 Mu-Chen Li, Joanne E. Brady, Charles J. DiMaggio, Arielle R. Lusardi, Keane Y. Tzong, and Guohua
Li. (2011). "Marijuana Use and Motor Vehicle Crashes." Epidemiologic Reviews.
24 Colorado Department of Transportation Drugged Driving Statistics 2006 - 2011, Retreived driving/druggeddriving/drugged-driving-
25 Colorado Office of the State Auditor. (June 2013). Medical Marijuana Regulatory System Part II
Performance Audit.

26 Office of the Auditor, Audit Services Division, City and County of Denver. (July 2013). Medical
Marijuana Licensing Performance Audit
. Retrieved


many medical marijuana businesses are operating in Denver. In addition, the audit
reported that the Department's personnel lacked formal policies and procedures to govern
the licensure process. Finally, the auditors concluded that the medical marijuana licensure
fee was established arbitrarily and the Department does not know the extent to which the
marijuana license fees cover the costs of administering the program.

As for implementing the laws passed in Washington and Colorado, earnest officials have
the very difficult task of trying to create a regulatory regime that they consider
responsible and safe. However, this has proven to be very difficult already. Even when
trying to curb very reasonable things like advertising, or the selling of marijuana
periodicals to minors, or the selling of items that would be attractive to children, they
have faced obstacles. For example, the multimillion-dollar pro-legalization lobby in
Colorado ' who financed Amendment 64 with upwards of $3 million ' has already
placed a billboard promoting marijuana use along the main boulevard leading to the
Denver Sports Authority Field. The marijuana industry also sued Colorado when the state
sought to place marijuana publications behind a counter in public retail stores "where
persons under twenty-one years of age are present."27 The state eventually changed the
law and now magazines such as High Times and The Daily Doobie will be sold within
reach of children there. We can expect further first amendment challenges to advertising
restrictions. Finally, we have also seen the proliferation of marijuana vending machines
generating millions of dollars in revenue dispensing "medicine." As Bloomberg
in May reported: "'We are in the right place at the right time,' says Bruce
Bedrick, a 44-year-old chiropractor, occasional pot user, and chief executive officer
of Medbox, maker of one of the world's first marijuana vending machines. 'We are
planning to literally dominate the industry.'"28 After spending decades trying to rid
America of tobacco vending machines because of the obvious effect on increased access
to children, it seems we are about to repeat history with marijuana.

None of this bodes well for the ushering in of an entirely new industry that will allow for
the production and sales of marijuana. Why would we assume that an infinitely more
difficult task ' the full legalization of marijuana '' will be better managed than the so-
called medicinal use of marijuana?


The CSA explicitly states that the use, possession, trafficking, and sales of marijuana is
against federal law. As the Department articulated in a 2011 letter to the city of Oakland,
"Congress has determined that marijuana is a controlled substance. Congress placed
marijuana in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) and, as such, growing,
distributing, and possessing marijuana in any capacity, other than as part of a federally
authorized research program, is a violation of federal law regardless of state laws

27 Trans-High Corp v Colorado (Denver)
28 See


permitting such activities (my emphasis)."29
By deferring its right to challenge state laws in Colorado and Washington, the
Department is effectively authorizing state entities to violate federal law. It is approving
of state infrastructures to generate revenue from an illegal substance, and, more
generally, it is contradicting the Administration's general posture on other issues '
immigration, voting rights, civil rights, healthcare, etc. ' that states cannot violate federal
law at will.
Though the Department listed some "triggers" that might spur federal action, we do not
have to wait for these phenomena to occur ' they already are at alarming rates. Our
experience with state laws authorizing the medicinal use of marijuana tells us that no
matter what controls are put on marijuana stores (e.g. no advertising or selling to minors),
these regulations are routinely violated, rarely enforced, and the sheer number of
marijuana stories tend to overwhelm federal and state resources.
Already, as marijuana laws have become more permissive over the last decade, marijuana
use has skyrocketed. In 2007, drug use had dipped to its lowest levels since 2001, but has
since been on the rise. Last week the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) released its annual drug
use survey. Although 12-to-17 year old marijuana use for boys and girls combined was
relatively unchanged since 2011, the survey revealed a 20% increase in marijuana
smoking among girls aged 12-17 since 2007, a 50% increase in the number of daily
marijuana smokers among those aged 12 and up, a 12% increase in marijuana use among
18-25 year olds since 2007, and a 25% increase in marijuana use among the general
population. The perceived risk of smoking marijuana once a month has fallen almost 30%
since 2007. One can only surmise how much legalization will further weaken these
numbers. Because it will make these numbers worse, the decision by the Department of
Justice will undermine the President's own efforts to boost education outcomes and
improve health and healthcare in the United States.

We are at a precipice. By threatening legal action, the Administration can prevent the
large-scale commercialization and retail sales of marijuana. Instead, we are about to usher
in a new era of marijuana usage. Already, an executive from Microsoft is teaming up
with a former Mexican president to try and "mint more marijuana millionaires than
Microsoft" in his goal to create a national brand, the "Starbucks of Marijuana."30 In states
that have failed at creating any sort of robust regulatory framework for marijuana as
medicine, the effects of retail marijuana sales are already known ' mass marketing and
increased negative consequences. Authorizing the large scale, commercial production of
marijuana will undoubtedly expand its access and availability. When we can prevent
negative consequences of the commercial sale and production of marijuana now, why

29 U.S. Department of Justice. (Feb. 11, 2011). Letter from U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag to John Russo,
Oakland City Attorney.
30 Ex-Microsoft exec plans 'Starbucks' of marijuana. (2013, May 31). United Press International. Retrieved


would we open the floodgates, hope for the best, and try with limited resources to patch
everything up when things go wrong?



Kevin A. Sabet, Ph.D. has studied, researched, and written about drug policy, drug
markets, drug prevention, drug treatment, criminal justice policy, addiction, and public
policy analysis for almost 18 years. In 2000, he served in the Office of National Drug
Control Policy in the Clinton Administration and from 2003-2004 he was the senior
speechwriter at the Office of National Drug Control Policy in the George W. Bush
Administration. From 2009-2011, he was a political appointee and senior drug policy
advisor to President Obama's drug control director, R. Gil Kerlikowske. Currently, he
advises several non-governmental organizations working to reduce drug abuse and its
consequences in the United States, and serves in an international role as an advisor, in
various capacities, to the United Nations and other multi-national organizations. In 2012-
2013, he served as one of thirty experts on the Organization of American States review
panel analyzing hemispheric drug policy.

Earlier this year, he founded, with former Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy, Project SAM
(Smart Approaches to Marijuana), which advocates for an approach to marijuana policy
that is focused neither on incarceration nor legalization ' but on health, prevention,
treatment, recovery, and public safety. SAM's board comprises the most distinguished
panel of public health physicians and addiction specialists in the country. He is also the
Director of the Drug Policy Institute at the University of Florida, Department of
Psychiatry, Division of Addiction Medicine. He is the author of numerous monographs,
peer-reviewed journal articles, and op-eds, and his first book, Reefer Sanity: Seven Great
Myths About Marijuana
, was published by Beaufort in 2013.

He received his doctorate and M.S. from Oxford University as a Marshall Scholar in
2007 and 2002, respectively, and his B.A. in Political Science from the University of
California, Berkeley in 2001. He resides in Cambridge, MA.

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    Observer's Propaganda Picks
    dripping with drug-war propaganda!

    Prohibition-era cartoons
    Anti-prohibition political cartoons from Prohibition I.

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