A Snarky Response To Kevin Sabet's Judiciary Testimony


The Batman never sleeps.  For somewhere in Gotham, the Joker is scheming.  In this metaphor, the Joker is Project SAM Director and career rehabitionist Kevin Anslinger Sabet.  Here is the written testimony submitted by Sabet to the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on State Marijuana Legalization yesterday, with snarky responses from me interspersed.  And who am I?  I'm Batman.  (I couldn't resist.)

kevin sabet tobacco web sites marijuana

(via wikipedia)

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.

Or because those two products are highly addictive and cannabis is not... And just because I know this stat off the top of my head, when I was a high school senior (1985) 90% of my classmates drank and 70% smoked and 50% toked.  Now those figures for the class of 2012 are about 70% drink, 40% smoked and 42% toked.  Anyway, go on...

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.

You know, like Dr. Mollie Fry and Dale Schafer.  Or Richard Flor or Roger Christie.  You know, the bad guys.

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.

This just in... The United States may violate a treaty.  Tell Sitting Bull.

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.

See, if we let people smoke legal weed, how will we ever justify bombing people who didn't attack us?

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 number increased to 57 percent.

Gee, 17.3 student testing positive in the state of Colorado in a year?!? What a crisis!  (I'm sure he's trying to refer to a rate, maybe a percentage.)  And let's see, when teens do drugs, a third of the time it used to be pot, now it's pot more than half the time, instead of other more harmful drugs?  Horrors!

The journal JAMA Pediatrics reported that unintentional marijuana poisonings among kids have risen significantly since marijuana as medicine has become available.\

You cannot die from marijuana.  You can die from poisons.  That word does not mean what I think you think it means, sir.

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.

Would those be the criminal enterprises who are selling to to the majority of pot smokers who aren't medical?  Aren't those the enterprises going out of business as soon as they can't compete with a legal enterprise?

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 it currently is and as it always has been.  Even before medical marijuana, cheaper California bud found its way to New York.  Other states having regressive policies is no argument for stopping progressive policies in Colorado and Washington.  And besides, isn't it the proceeds from expensive marijuana that fuels those criminal enterprises you're worried about it?  Hmm, expensive weed benefits gangs, but don't make it cheap and legal?

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.

Rarely true, but when it is, it is because we make these businesses cash-only, we don't let them hire professional security, and we only allow 10% of marijuana consumers (medical users) to be legal consumers.

...youth perceptions of the harmfulness of marijuana has dropped dramatically.

Huh, you mean when we tell them cannabis is a non-toxic healing herb instead of an egg in a frying pan that will lead you straight to heroin and make your girlfriend leave your for a cartoon alien, the kids think marijuana is less harmful?  Funny what truthful education can do.

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.

Important distinction with the word "accessing" rather than "buying".  When asked which is easiest to buy, teens regularly cite marijuana over alcohol.  This "access" refers to kids getting ahold of dad's beer in the fridge or mom's smokes in the purse.   So now, marijuana has to remain prohibited to protect kids from lax parental oversight?

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.

So you admit we can reduce youth use of an addictive drug like tobacco through social norms and media, even if it is legal at age 18 or 19... but we could never muster any government and non-government efforts to do the same for cannabis?

Marijuana use, especially among young people, is significantly associated with a reduction in IQ, mental illness, poor learning outcomes, lung damage, and addiction.

A quinella of lies and distortion!  The IQ reduction was debunked and is better explained by poverty.  Rates of mental illness remain static despite wide swings in marijuana usage.  Poor learning outcomes are again better explained by poverty and the remaining problems are explained by prohibition that removes students from schools for positive drugs tests and denies them higher education assistance.  Marijuana smokers don't suffer greater risk of cancer, emphysema, bronchitis, or COPD, but do tend to develop a cough.  And addiction?  About as addictive as coffee and withdrawals can't kill you.

According to the National Institutes of Health, one out of every six adolescents who use marijuana will become addicted, and many more will develop some problems as a result of marijuana use.

Don't you think if 1 in 6 of the millions of teens who try pot got "addicted", we'd be overrun with "pot addicts" by now?  Yet, even as the pot has gotten stronger and the laws have gotten weaker, half as many kids smoke pot now as they did in the late 1970s - early 1980s.

There are about 400,000 emergency room admissions for marijuana every year - related to acute panic attacks and psychotic episodes - and marijuana is the most cited drug for teens entering treatment.

Related to panic and psychoses, really?  Or is that the DAWN stats where someone's mention of pot use or testing for pot metabolites makes it "related to" marijuana.  Break your leg skiing, mention you smoked pot the night before, bam! marijuana-related ER visit.  Same goes for the teens entering treatment - when getting caught is enough to force you into treatment and marijuana is the most popular drug, of course it is the most cited.

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.

So, Colorado, having the rampant medical marijuana you scare us about, had a similar decrease in traffic fatalities as the rest of the country?  Funny how the "correlation equals causation" game works for Kevin everywhere else, except the one where there are fewer people dying in traffic accidents and drunk drivers make up a smaller percentage of them.

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...

Right, because of marijuana's prohibition, so many physicians don't or can't recommend marijuana, leaving it to the specialists to make the majority of recommendations.  Just like how there's one doctor performing the majority of abortions in Wichita, Kansas.

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 many medical marijuana businesses are operating in Denver.

Largely because the offices that regulate are vastly underfunded, a problem the state hopes to rectify with high taxes on recreational marijuana.  And again, much of the problem of medical marijuana (what little that exists) comes from the vast majority of the consumers still being illegal.  How many (more) problems with alcohol would we have if only left-handed people were allowed to drink?  Do you think some people would fake left-handedness?  Do you think there'd be significant diversion to right-handed people?

For example, the multimillion-dollar pro-legalization lobby in Colorado -

As opposed to the multibillion-dollar pro-prohibition government with guns and tanks and the bully pulpit... go on...

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.

No, it asked the NFL why it punishes its players for using a legal substance safer than the one the NFL counts as a significant sponsor.

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." 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.

Why does Kevin Sabet hate the Constitution?  Is he concerned with magazines like Maxim, Cosmopolitan, Lowrider, Ink, Cigar Aficionado and such at the local Barnes & Nobles?

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.

I'm trying to recall the cigarette vending machine that was built like a tank and features "biometric identification security, and an unalterable internal record keeping system."  The ones I remember were in restaurants and just required coins.  They weren't kept just in adults-only locations and required my name in its database and a thumbprint to get the Marlboros.

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?

Because we stopped the impossible task of separating marijuana consumers by who's healthy enough to be imprisoned and sick enough to be legal?  Because we finally addressed not just the marijuana use but the marijuana market?  Because we accepted that some adults like to smoke pot and it's none of the government's business so long as they harm no others?

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.

So... as laws became permissive from 2001-2007, pot use went down?  Then in 2008, it started going up after Barack "I inhaled, that was the point" Obama was elected?  Why is that not the correlation you ascribe causation to?  In 2009, the Ogden memo, as you state, "opened the floodgates" and use went up.  In 2011, the Cole memo and numbers of raids pushed back and use went up.  In states that still have intense prohibition, use went up.

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.

All true - nationwide.  So why did those Florida kids with no dispensaries and 21 gram felonies smoke more pot?  You're going to blame that all on Colorado and Washington?  What you're not telling the Senate, Kevin, is that hard drug use among kids went down.  And cannabis use went up far more among adults than kids.  And driving fatalities, drunk driving, and workplace illness and injury are all down.  Gross domestic product and employment are up.  How much more correlation equals causation do you want to play?

When we can prevent negative consequences of the commercial sale and production of marijuana now, why would we open the floodgates, hope for the best, and try with limited resources to patch everything up when things go wrong?

Only someone who can look at lives currently ruined by incarceration, asset forfeiture, child seizure, career loss, denied education, pharmaceutical healthcare, and a poisoned planet can look at the status quo of prohibition and declare it superior to regulations.  Every argument he makes is a better argument for re-prohibiting alcohol.