Anti-Marijuana Group Wants ‘Mandatory Assessment’ For Consumers

Anti-Marijuana Group Wants ‘Mandatory Assessment’ For Consumers

Since being founded in 2013, anti-legalization organization Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) has consistently presented itself as supporting a balanced middle-ground approach between incarceration for consumers and the commercialization of cannabis. But it has never clearly described what it thinks police and government agencies should do to people caught possessing marijuana instead of putting them behind bars or just ignoring them.

Until now.

In a new document uploaded to SAM’s website last week, the group lays out “several key points to be addressed in model legislation” for cannabis at the state level.

Chief among them:

“Require mandatory assessment of problem drug use by a treatment professional after the first citation; those who are diagnosed with a substance use disorder can be diverted into a treatment track where they receive the appropriate level of care, those who are not problem users can be directed to social services for follow-up and addressing other life factors contributing to drug use.”

Let’s break that down.

If the police catch someone possessing a small amount of marijuana once, the person is directed to a “mandatory assessment of problem drug use.” If they are diagnosed as having a substance use disorder they are then forced to undergo treatment. If they refuse, presumably they’d be incarcerated or otherwise punished in some way.

But even if it is determined that the person is “not a problem” user, they still get directed to “social services” to dig into “other life factors” associated with their decision to consume cannabis.

“Project SAM, like U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, firmly believe that ‘good people don’t use marijuana,’” Paul Armentano, NORML’s deputy director, told Marijuana Moment after reading the prohibitionist organization’s proposal. “In SAM’s case, their overarching philosophy appears to be, ‘Only people with problems use marijuana.’”

“Clearly, SAM believes that marijuana use per se should be defined under the law as aberrant behavior requiring varying degrees of state intervention,” he said. “Such an approach perpetuates the needless stigmatization of marijuana and those who consume it, and is clearly at odds with the attitudes of the majority of the public who desire to see and end to these discriminatory and punitive public policies.”

SAM representatives did not respond to Marijuana Moment’s request for clarification about whether and how people would be punished for refusing mandatory assessments, treatment or participation in social services programs.

While the organization this year endorsed New Jersey decriminalization legislation that would require people caught with marijuana to undergo assessments, the new blog post appears to be the first time the group has made a considerable effort to articulate its favored alternative to cannabis legalization despite repeated promises over the course of years that it would “soon” release information about its policy aims beyond just impeding efforts to end prohibition.

Under the new plan, it appears that most people caught with marijuana would have to pay for treatment themselves.

But in a concession to legalization advocates who have pointed out that marijuana laws are often enforced more harshly against those from communities with lesser economic means, SAM does suggest waiving fines and treatment costs for people who don’t have the money to pay. They also say community service could be an alternative to shouldering the monetary costs for those with “severe financial hardship.”

Kevin Sabet, SAM’s president, has consistently said in interviews that he doesn’t seek to punish people for consuming or cultivating marijuana at home and is merely concerned with stopping “Big Marijuana” companies from commercializing addiction. But his organization has repeatedly opposed legislative proposals to allow possession and limited cultivation with no sales.

“You could grow a plant at home, actually. You could homegrow,” he said in a 2016 interview, for example. “You could do gifting. You could do a kind of decriminalization where basically we turn the other way.”

Nonetheless, the group opposed a 2014 ballot measure in Washington, D.C. to legalize low-level possession and homegrow, as well as legislation in Vermont this year to allow the same thing. Neither proposed to create a legal, commercialized cannabis sales market and instead allows adults to “gift” marijuana to one another in line with Sabet’s statement.

Both measures were enacted into law over SAM’s objections.

Perhaps tiring of standing on the sidelines yelling “no” to legalization to no avail, the group is finally preparing to try its hand in shaping policy. It remains to be seen if the new “model legislation” document leads to a more hands-on role in the cannabis legislative process for the prohibitionist organization.

See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:

Anti-Marijuana Group Wants ‘Mandatory Assessment’ For Consumers

Anti-Marijuana Group Wants Campaign Finance Transparency, Kind Of

Anti-Marijuana Group Wants Campaign Finance Transparency, Kind Of

A leading anti-legalization group is cooking up a new follow-the-money tool, ostensibly to track contributions from the marijuana industry to lawmakers.

At least, that seems to be what Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) is doing with this interactive map on its website:

SAM website screenshot

If you visit the page and click on a highlighted state, it brings you to a list naming select members of Congress, the district they represent and an undefined monetary “amount.”

SAM website screenshot

Presumably, this is a beta version of something that SAM has been talking about for some time.

Take last year, for example. A group of 44 U.S. House members signed a letter to the chairman of a key subcommittee, asking that language restricting the Department of Justice from interfering in state marijuana programs be included in an appropriations bill. In response, SAM president Kevin Sabet announced plans to “investigate campaign contributions” of signees.

“Legalization is about making a small number of people very rich,” Sabet said in a press release. “For them, it’s all about the money.”

“The representatives who sign on to this letter will be investigated, and any ties to the pot industry lobby will be exposed. There’s a money trail behind further relaxation of federal marijuana laws, and it points to politicians who have taken money from the next big addictive industry.”

It’s admittedly difficult to follow the money using the current version of SAM’s online map, though. There are few citations showing where the group’s information is coming from, and for most states, when you click on one of the hyperlinked “amounts,” it takes you here:

SAM website screenshot

For some reason, nearly every hyperlinked amount points to a URL apparently meant for Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), and the page only shows a 404 error message.

At least one state, Washington, seems to be mostly functional.

SAM website screenshot

SAM website screenshot

SAM representatives did not respond to a request for comment by the time of publication, but they do appear to have slightly edited the webpage after receiving Marijuana Moment’s inquiry. The title “The Money Trail: Where Big Pot Meets Big Politics” was added above the map, and the phrase “(Work In Progress)” was appended to all sub-pages.

This story will be updated if the organization sends comment.

What SAM appears to be interested in accomplishing is drawing links between campaign contributions from cannabis industry interests and politicians who’ve come to embrace marijuana reform. Or in other words, campaign finance transparency.

Missing from that agenda, though, is disclosure of SAM’s own finances—a subject of particular interest to advocates and reporters following the marijuana legalization debate.

Sabet touted the group’s financial expansion over the past two years in a recent curriculum vitae (not linked here, as it appears to reveal his personal phone number). A summary of Sabet’s work at SAM noted that the 12-person organization has a $1 million budget, with $4.5 million in reserve.

The group also recently opened a new office in Manhattan.

When this reporter asked Sabet about financial contributions to SAM in a 2016 interview, he emphasized the role of grassroots, individual contributions. There is limited public information available about SAM’s financing.

An FAQ published on SAM’s website states:

“SAM is funded by small family foundations (with no interest in the opioid, tobacco, alcohol, or prison industries) and individuals affected by drug use and its consequences. SAM does not receive a dollar from the opioid, pharmaceutical, alcohol, or tobacco industries – unlike some pro-legalization groups like Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP), which takes money from Big Tobacco.”

Another potential source of ongoing funding may be past supporter Julie Schauer, a retired art professor who donated at least $1.3 million to SAM Action’s efforts to defeat 2016 marijuana ballot initiatives in California and other states.

It remains to be seen when SAM will officially launch its online campaign donation tracking tool and what its impact will be.

See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:

Anti-Marijuana Group Wants Campaign Finance Transparency, Kind Of

Why Congressional Democrats Deleted Their Anti-Marijuana Tweet

Why Congressional Democrats Deleted Their Anti-Marijuana Tweet

A Democratic organization tasked with regaining the party’s control of the U.S. House of Representatives tweeted a bizarre anti-marijuana attack on a politically vulnerable Republican congressman this week, but the group meekly walked back the comments after being called out about it…by me and some of the lawmakers it represents.

It started with a tweet, posted on Monday by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC).

“GOP Rep. Dana Rohrabacher…has a ‘cult-like fixation on marijuana,’” the supposedly progressive group tweeted, quoting an article from conservative magazine National Review bashing the California congressman.

“It’s why [Democratic opponent] @HarleyRouda needs your help flipping this seat Clinton won from #RedToBlue,” the party organ added.

deleted tweet

I was immediately struck by the tweet when I saw it minutes after it was posted. The vast majority of Democratic voters support marijuana legalization, as do all of the party’s U.S. senators who are thought to be weighing 2020 presidential campaigns.

Whenever Rohrbacher’s amendment to protect state medical cannabis laws from federal interference has reached the House floor, the overwhelming majority of Democratic lawmakers have consistently voted for it.

“There are a lot of reasons why Democrats and progressives would wish for Rohrabacher to lose his reelection fight, aside from the fact that ‘flipping this seat from red to blue’ could make the difference in determining which party controls the House come January. But marijuana is not one of them,” I wrote in a Los Angeles Times op-ed on Thursday.

“The Democratic committee could have highlighted Rohrabacher’s position that homeowners should have the right to refuse to sell property to gay people — something mentioned by National Review in the same sentence as that cannabis quip. Or his position on climate change. Or healthcare.

“Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), who has cosponsored many marijuana measures with Rohrabacher, told me in an emailed statement that the campaign committee’s tweet was ‘stupid,’ adding that he expressed those sentiments directly to the organization itself.”

Hours after the publication of my piece, DCCC has deleted the offending tweet, without comment.

In addition to Blumenauer’s public blasting of the organization’s tweet in my op-ed, at least one other Democratic congressman raised the issue during the party’s House Steering and Policy Committee on Thursday, a lawmaker who was in the room, but wished not to be named, told me.

“Pure bad karma and politics,” the legislator said, of the DCC tweet.

Indeed, beyond just Democrats, a growing majority of voters overall, as well independents and even Republicans specifically now support legalization.

California’s 2016 legal cannabis measure won by a significant margin in Rohrabacher’s district, so it’s somewhat of a mystery as to why Democrats thought attacking him over his leadership on the issue was a smart strategy to win back the seat.

Rohrabacher himself seemed to revel in the Democrats’ stepping in it and having to walk back their attack.

GOP pollster Frank Luntz chimed in, too.

One fun note that I didn’t have space to include in my LA Times op-ed is the fact that DCCC’s own chairman, Congressman Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), himself voted three times on the House floor in favor of Rohrabacher’s medical cannabis amendment and even backed a broader measure from Congressman Tom McClintock (R-CA) that would have protected state recreational marijuana laws from federal interference.

Democrats should be campaigning on, instead of attacking, marijuana law reform.

Unless they want to remain the minority party.

See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:

Why Congressional Democrats Deleted Their Anti-Marijuana Tweet

These Big Companies Don’t Want Cannabis to be Legal

Not everyone is happy about the spread of legal cannabis in the US. Despite numerous studies that prove the effectiveness of the plant and its positive impact on curbing illegal drug distribution, some businesses simply refuse to support cannabis.

These companies, listed below, have gone out of their way to kneecap the achievements of pro-cannabis groups by making monumental donations to opposing organizations. The offerings were mostly made in 2016 – a pivotal year for the nascent industry, as residents across the country voted on legal cannabis measures during the November ballots.

Remember, supporting cannabis legalization doesn’t stop at the ballots. These companies used their earnings to derail pro-cannabis movements – money that came from the pockets of everyday consumers. Be smart about the businesses that you support by making sure their values are in line with your lifestyle and views about cannabis.

Read on to learn about trendy companies and businesses that quietly (in some cases, loudly) underpin the efforts of anti-cannabis groups.

1. Discount Tire

discount tire anti marijuana

Discount Tire, a leading tire and wheel retailer with over 900 locations across the US, is first on the list. In 2016, the Michigan-based business splurged $1 million on an anti-marijuana campaign under Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy in Opposition to Prop. 205. At the time, the main objective of the group was to curtail the momentum of pro-cannabis organizations campaigning for the full (recreational) legalization of the plant.

Unfortunately, Prop. 205 failed to come to fruition, as voters rejected the initiative (roughly 52-48). On a positive note, medical cannabis is still legal in the state (Prop. 203), which was approved in 2010. Under Arizona legislation, patients are allowed to possess up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis for medical treatment.

2. Uline

uline anti marijuana

Uline is the latest business to express unfavorable views toward cannabis. Recently uncovered by The Evergreen Market, a Washington-based cannabis products seller, the family-owned distributor of shipping and packing materials announced its opinion about the plant on its website:

“Marijuana stays in your system for at least 5 days. This can affect Uline warehouse employees who go up 30 feet in the air to pick products off the shelves. It affects your children or grandchildren, who may be busy telling you it’s safer than alcohol. It’s bad news. It remains a gateway drug.”

Eric Gaston, co-founder of The Evergreen Market, pointed out in a blog post that a large bulk of the industry depends on the company’s services to streamline operations. Sadly, Uline’s bold and inaccurate statements have forced some businesses in the sector to look elsewhere for their packaging needs.

3. Venetian Hotel (Las Vegas)

venetian hotel anti marijuana

One of the most prolific anti-cannabis company to date is the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas. The upbeat hotel is owned by billionaire tycoon Sheldon Adelson, who is also owner of the Palazzo and CEO of the Sands Corporation. His net worth (projected by Forbes in 2017) is around $31 billion, giving him some serious funding power in the fight to keep cannabis illegal. Adelson’s contributions went to anti-marijuana campaigns in Arizona ($500,000), Massachusetts ($1 million) and Nevada ($2 million).

The Sands Corporation CEO also scooped up the Las Vegas Review Journal for $140 million in 2015. Many believe he used the publication as a medium to fuel his anti-marijuana interests.

4. Insys Therapeutics

why do these big companies hate marijuana

Insys Therapeutics has opposed the legalization of cannabis from day one. The pharmaceutical brand is widely known for manufacturing and selling fentanyl (under Subsys), a synthetic opioid painkiller used by patients participating in chemotherapy treatments. Interestingly, Insys was responsible for releasing an FDA-approved synthetic cannabinoid (dronabinol, under Syndros). The oral spray, which was classified as a Schedule II substance by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) earlier this year, is designed to stimulate the appetite of patients undergoing cancer chemotherapy.

Like Discount Tire and the Venetian Hotel’s Adelson, Insys contributed to the efforts of Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy. According to reports, the drug maker donated $500,000 to the campaign.

5. Publix

why do these big companies hate marijuana

In Florida, one of the largest donations against cannabis came from Publix, a popular grocery chain brand in the state. Official records confirmed that $800,000 in contributions to Drug Free Florida originated from the Carol Jenkins Barnett Family Trust. Some speculate that the company fought against cannabis legalization in order to protect its pharmaceutical establishments (Publix is one of the largest pharmacies in the area, according to Miami New Times, and therefore profits from the sale of prescription drugs that could be replaced by cannabis).

6. DriveTime

why do these big companies hate marjiuana

In 2016, DriveTime’s pledge to keep cannabis illegal in Arizona was issued at a very crucial time, as most of the donations to the opposing group were given in the final stretch of the battle. The $250,000 package was provided by Ernie Garcia, the owner of the business. DriveTime specializes in credit solutions for automotive purchases. In 2014, the business was fined $8 million by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) due to aggressive debt collection practices and inaccurate credit reporting to governing agencies. An investigation that supported the civil penalty found roughly 45 percent of DriveTime’s auto installment agreements to be delinquent during operations (yikes).

7. U-Haul

uhaul anti marijuana

U-Haul, with its headquarters based in Phoenix, Arizona, joined several companies in the fight against Prop. 205. The business donated $25,000 to the opposing group with unclear motives for the offering. Compared to other donors, U-Haul has been very silent about its pledge. From a business perspective, cannabis prohibition is actually working against the brand, since illegal smugglers have been known to use the company’s trucks to transport large batches of the herb for unregulated consumption.

8. Wynn Resorts

wynn resorts anti marjijuana

The second Las Vegas establishment to make it on the list is Wynn Resorts. Steve Wynn, owner and CEO of the business, donated $100,000 to a massive anti-cannabis campaign in Massachusetts backed by Governor Charlie Baker. This contribution was issued just one day before Wynn received the green light to move forward with a development project in Everett. Some groups speculate that his donation was used to “nudge” the application to the state Gaming Commission in the right direction.

9. AAA (American Automobile Association)

aaa anti marijuana

Last but not least, the AAA of Connecticut has lashed out against legal cannabis, claiming that the plant impairs drivers on public roads. Despite a handful of studies debunking the effects of cannabis on driving, the AAA is still persistent about its negative views surrounding the herb.

“There’s no science that shows drivers become impaired at a specific level of THC in the blood. A lot depends upon the individual,” explained Joan Lowy from The Big Story.

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