The economic success of marijuana legalization and the rapid growth in popularity of alternative cannabis-based medicines has gotten the attention of major players in the pharmaceutical industry.
As more patients are turning to medical cannabis, and turning away from addictive painkillers, “Big-Pharma” is beginning to be concerned about losing a profitable part of its share of the pharmaceutical market.
Meet the organization Smart Approaches to Marijuana, or SAM. SAM has tremendous financial backing, having recruiting former representative Patrick Kennedy (D—Rhode Island) and redoing its image to try to fight the wave of marijuana legalization that swept the U.S. beginning in the early 2010s.
Other SAM board members include prominent drug policy advisor Kaven Sabet, who worked for both the Bush and Obama administration and who happens to be SAM’s president.
What SAM does not reveal, however, are its financial backers. But it is suspected that major monetary support for SAM comes from the pharmaceutical industry and conservative Christian organizations. SAMs public statements seem to present an organization with unlimited resources, ready for a long campaign against legalizing cannabis.
SAM’s critique of marijuana legalization addresses health, social, and economic concerns.
SAM claims that regulated marijuana would be just another tobacco industry marketing its products to children. Yet in every state where cannabis is legal, there is a legal age requirement of 21+.
SAM also claims that legalization is designed only to make a small cohort of businessmen rich.
They also argue that cannabis lowers user’s satisfaction with life, relationships, family, and friends.
While cannabis use has never resulted in a direct overdose, neither has tobacco, argues SAM.
For their 2016 campaign, SAM is trying to present a less monolithic anti-marijuana stance.
SAM president Kevin Sabet recently told Vox that he supports removing or reducing criminal penalties for marijuana possession and even thinks that marijuana arrests shouldn’t make it onto someone’s record, potentially costing them their job.
Sabet says he’s okay with a small, nonviolent underground market for cannabis, “which is what the marijuana market is — most people get marijuana from a friend or grow their own,” Sabet said.
But while Sabet is fine with 8% of Americans using and selling marijuana illegally, he believes that that number could raise as high as 55% with legalization.
Claiming to possess evidence that shows how cannabis “contributes to mental illness,” SAM is gearing up for a major anti-marijuana push leading up to the general elections in November.