The anti-cannabis group, Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM), has learned an important lesson about fact checking this week after issuing a press release which claimed, “heavy marijuana use [is] soaring among young people.”
On September 10, the same day that many media outlets published articles with headlines like, ” Teen Marijuana Use Holds Steady,” SAM issued a press release stating the exact opposite. Both sides were analyzing the same report issued by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
As seen in the screenshot of the release below, the group announced:
“Today, the Department of Health and Human Services found that heavy marijuana use among monthly users – defined as 20 or more days of marijuana use per month – significantly increased among 12-to-17 year-olds in 2014 compared to 2013.”
Chris Ingram of the Washington Post was the first person to realize the mistake, and notify SAM’s director, Kevin Sabet. According to Ingram, Sabet’s team mistakenly reported the stat tables which analyzed the margins of error in the study, instead of the actual results.
The real numbers (shown in the screenshot below), show that the amount of teens aged 12 to 17 using cannabis regularly is actually lower than it has been since 2009.
Although the group did issue a correction, it is likely that the false report reached some ears that the correction may not.
In an effort to pave the way for more beneficial research regarding the legalization and use of marijuana, Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) — an organization that is opposed to the legalization of marijuana — released a plan that supports the complete overhaul of the marijuana research process. The process is in dire need of redesign to help the United States government acknowledge the value of cannabis and its potential contribution to medical science.
While SAM is not calling for total legalization, the group does want the government to realize the benefits that its use can offer the medical community in terms of developing treatments for people who are seriously ill. They want to study and research the plant without making it legal for public use and consumption.
Up until this point, the U.S. government has maintained a stranglehold on marijuana research. The government currently overseas the only sanctioned marijuana research operation in the U.S.. It is also nearly impossible for researchers to gain access to cannabis for scientific studies because it remains a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act. Critics feel that this is largely due to the insufficient amount of scientific data on marijuana.
Key highlights of SAM’s proposal include:
- Encourages the DEA and NIDA to sanction and oversee multiple research grants or authorizations for legal entities to grow marijuana for research purposes.
- Create and support beneficial and compassionate research programs for seriously ill individuals who are interested in medicinal marijuana.
- Prohibit medical marijuana companies, growers, processors and other affiliated entities that don’t follow the rules or laws from operating and profiting.
- Requires for local, state and federal governments to work together to create a pure cannabidiol (CBD) product.
SAM also wants the government to put an end to the Department of Health and Services’ (DHS) review process. This process currently requires for any federally unsanctioned or unfunded marijuana research initiative to go through review with Public Service. This process is labeled highly unfair and impractical since research involving many other controlled substances that are classified as Schedule I are not subject to this review process.
Supporters of legal marijuana are applauding SAM’s efforts to help shape the face of marijuana reform policy. Dan Riffle, director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) stated that they have been looking forward to the end of the National Drug Institute – Drug Enforcement Agency’s monopoly on the access and availability of marijuana for research purposes. And for that, the MPP gladly welcomes Project SAM into their coalition.