The Russ Belville Show
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I will not stop my smoking pot.  So keep your pills, I like them not.

I will not stop my smoking pot. So keep your pills, I like them not.

So Former Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy (an oxy addict silver spoon descendant of bootleggers) has joined with David “Just Say No is a good policy because it is easy to follow” Frum and my one non-pot-smoking “friend” Dr. Kevin “I don’t want a War on Drugs. I just want to keep threatening pot smokers with jail” Sabet have formed SAM, “Smart Approach to Marijuana”. (I assume they disregarded “Sensible” because we own that one.)  I’ve decided to call them “SAM I AmStealth Approach to Marijuana-Incarcerated Americans”. They are launching tomorrow, so spread this graphic far and wide to expose what their “smart” approach is.

There is a petition formed by MPP to expose the hypocrisy of a man who CHOSE rehab after wrecking his car high on oxy, a man who is also wealthy and politically powerful because his granddad sold liquor, telling us pot smokers we need to be forced into rehab for merely being caught smoking pot.  Sign here:  The drug warriors are going to be lauding the inclusion of a liberal stalwart like Kennedy leading SAM I Am.

Basically, this is Kevin Sabet’s game plan writ large.  Sabet wants to paint the “War on Drugs” on one side and the “Legalizers” on the other side and proclaim them both to be irrational extremes, and only SAM I Am will have the rational, middle ground approach.

It’s a bit of genius he’s stealing from Rick Steves and Washington State. Rick always says Europe is “not hard on drugs or soft on drugs, but smart on drugs”, so Sabet is stealing that thunder by appropriating “smart” and the rejection of hard and soft extremes. The “Approach” part is right out of Alison Holcomb‘s playbook – paint it not as the solution, but the beginning.

The problem, of course, is that SAM I Am is just lipstick on the pig of prohibition. SAM I Am would keep marijuana illegal and use the force of law to mandate re-education and monitoring of peaceful pot smokers. Think “drug courts” for every pot smoker, even if that pot smoker wasn’t breaking any law or bothering anyone else. it wold be like mandating inpatient alcoholic treatment for anyone you catch with a Budweiser.

Sabet claims the debate is polarized and it is a false dichotomy between legalization and drug war. Yes, it is a polarized dichotomy, because there are only two stances you can take:

Government ought to stop people from smoking pot by force – or – Government ought to leave pot smokers alone.

Here are some of the policy positions of SAM I Am.  You decide which side of the Drug War you think they fall into:

  • [P]ossession or use of a small amount of marijuana be a civil offense subject to a mandatory health screening and marijuana-education program. Referrals to treatment and/or social-support services should be made if needed. The individual could even be monitored for 6-12 months in a probation program designed to prevent further drug use.
  • That no marijuana use in any form is permitted in public view.
  • Production, Distribution, Dealing and Sale of Marijuana … remain misdemeanors or felonies based on amounts possessed.
  • Driving with any amount of marijuana in one’s system be at least a misdemeanor. Repeat offenses need harsher punishments.
  • Driving under the influence of any amount of marijuana result in a mandatory health assessment, marijuana-education program and referral to treatment or social services.
  • [P]olicies outlawing marijuana storefronts or limiting the sale of drug paraphernalia…
  • For those who have not progressed to full marijuana addiction, a process called SBIRT — screening, brief interventions and referral to treatment — may be appropriate. SBIRT services include an initial drug screen by general primary care physicians or counselors to identify at-risk people. Brief interventions may range from one meeting for educational consultation to 12 sessions of substance-use intervention. If necessary, there are referrals to treatment for specialized services, case management and follow-up support in the community.
  • A major method to treat marijuana addiction is through cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). Cognitive-behavioral therapy comprises a combination of approaches meant to increase self-control.
  • Motivational approaches, such as motivational interviewing, are best used to produce rapid, internally motivated change. These brief interventions focus on a non-confrontational therapeutic alliance to facilitate a patient’s willingness to change.

SAM I Am basically believes that it’s OK if you smoke pot, but only if nobody ever knows you do.  Once we know, once you’re found to be in possession of some pot or we have evidence you have used some pot after we’ve pulled you over in your car and taken your urine or blood or saliva, even if that pot use was long before you ever got in your car, then you must report to the mandatory government re-education camp and subject yourself to monitoring of your bodily fluids.  Public knowledge of your marijuana use is proof that you are mentally ill and we must non-confontationally facilitate your willingness to change… to Budweiser, I suppose.

And if you decide that you don’t really need rehab?  It’s a prison cell for you, isn’t it?  And forget about growing or buying any, because those guys still go to prison, right?  So, really, what change does SAM I Am offer?  Pot smokers will go to drug courts, get sentenced to rehab, be forced to pee test on probation, and criminals will still make enormous profits supplying a black market.  Well, here are a few distracting positives that SAM I Am offers:

  • That there is an end to the practice of “stop-and-frisk.”
  • That there is expungement of any personal record regarding possession of small amounts of marijuana.
  • An end to mandatory minimum sentences so judges can exercise discretion under the law.
  • Restoration of all civil rights once sentences have been served.

I hope the people aren’t fooled by this maneuver, because what SAM I Am is doing here is ceding a few un-winnable battles in order to win the war.  None of these suggestions end marijuana being contraband and possession of it being punishable by law.  But they do address some of the most egregious harms of the Drug War.  This is a brilliant strategy on SAM I Am’s part, because it mirrors what we did with medical marijuana.  You have some people who hate pot, some who love pot, and a big middle who are the ones who must be convinced.  For a long time, the fight was “pot or not” and the big middle sided with the “hate pot” side.  Then we introduced medical pot to the debate and peeled away enough of the big middle from the “hate pot” side by giving them a pot consumer they couldn’t hate.

So SAM I Am, in these concessions and a few others, has realized that the debate has now become “drug war or not” and the big middle is increasingly siding with the “hate drug war” side.  So to peel away some of the big middle, SAM I Am introduces “kinder gentler drug war” to the debate, so liberals astonished at the racism of stop and frisk or the injustice of mandatory minimums can consider joining the “love drug war” side.

Nowhere is this strategy more apparent than SAM I Am’s treatment of the marijuana issue they’ve been demolished on, medical marijuana:

Project SAM calls for the following regarding cannabis-based medicines:

The rapid expansion of research into the components of the marijuana plant for delivery via non-smoked forms.

The establishment of an emergency or research FDA IND program that allows seriously ill patients to obtain non-smoked components of marijuana before final FDA approval.

The end of “cannabis clubs” and so-called “dispensaries” that are fronts for marijuana stores and do not follow appropriate standards of medical care.

Some constituents of marijuana, including THC, are available today in pill form (dronabinol, or Marinol® is man-made THC); some synthetic mimics of those constituents are also available (nabilone, or Cesamet®).

In some countries, marijuana-based medicines — meaning medications that aren’t smoked — have been approved to treat neuropathic pain related to cancer and spasticity related to Multiple Sclerosis (MS). These products include nabiximols (Sativex®),  which contains THC and another cannabinoid called cannabidiol (CBD).

They’ve given up trying to say marijuana isn’t medical.  Now the problem is that it is crude plant form that hasn’t been approved by the FDA, that esteemed organization that approved Vioxx as safe for human use.  The same FDA that isn’t stopping vitamin supplements, alleged penis enlarging pills, herbal supplements, or any number of questionably safe products peddled with a label that reads “This statement has not been evaluated by the FDA. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease“?

SAM I Am continues by claiming “Current medical marijuana programs are a joke — but no laughing matter” which once again raise the shibboleth of “very few [medical marijuana patients] had cancer, HIV/AIDS, glaucoma or multiple sclerosis”.  They have no shame twisting marijuana registry statistics to say things like “[t]he vast majority (94 percent) reported “severe pain.”” without ever noting that patients can register with multiple conditions and “severe pain” is one of the first symptoms of just about every condition on the medical marijuana registries.

SAM I Am also shamelessly tries to convince you that the federal gov’t is doing serious research into cannabinoid medicine.  $14 million from 2007 to 2011!  Of course, it takes about $100 million to bring a single drug through the FDA approval process, and almost all of the $14 million was spent on research to show how bad marijuana is, so I’m not sure how that helps patients any.

SAM I Am goes full circle and resurrects the hippie myth about Big Tobacco taking over the marijuana industry.  The URL of the page literally reads “marijuana-is-like-tobacco”.  The scare is that the big tobacco companies, which lied about the addictiveness and danger of tobacco while knowingly marketing to kids, will do the same with marijuana.  This is a strange argument to make when, thanks to every non-arrest approach we’ve taken, fewer kids are smoking tobacco than ever recorded.  When’s the last time you heard from Joe Camel?

It’s stranger still when you consider lying about the addictiveness and danger of marijuana is what we have been doing for decades now – what lie would Big Tobacco tell to top Ronald Reagan’s  “smoking even one marijuana cigarette is equal in brain damage to being on Bikini Island during an H-bomb blast.”  I guess the lies would be in the opposite direction, something like “marijuana will enhance the growth of that certain part of the male anatomy” or something else that a non-FDA-approved supplement can get away with.

So there’s SAM I Am, but let’s not end without tackling the Curly to Sabet’s Moe and Kennedy’s Larry, former George H.W. Bush speechwriter David Frum.  With Frum and Kennedy on board  Sabet can pretend that this organization is bi-partisan.  Let’s see what Frum had to say about SAM I Am recently on CNN Opinion:

The new group rejects the “war on drugs” model. It agrees that we don’t want to lock people up for casual marijuana use — or even stigmatize them with an arrest record. But what we do want to do is send a clear message: Marijuana use is a bad choice.

Yet as a parent of three, two exiting adolescence and one entering, I’ve found that the argument that makes the biggest impression is: “Marijuana is illegal. Stay away.” I think many other parents have found the same thing.

When we write social rules, we always need to consider: Who are we writing rules for? Some people can cope with complexity. Others need clarity. Some people will snap back from an early mistake. Others will never recover.

“Just say no” is an easy rule to follow. “It depends on individual risk factors, many of them unknowable in advance” — that rule is not so easy.

It is amazing to me that someone can write “rejects the war on drugs model” and then support “Just Say No” in the same piece without his head exploding like the guy in “Scanners” from severe cognitive dissonance.  (I guess you’d need that skill writing for Poppy Bush.)  “Just Say No,” but if we say “yes”?  Mandatory rehab.  And if we don’t go?  Jail and fines.  So how is this rejecting the war on drugs?

There’s a trade-off, yes, and it takes the form of denying less vulnerable people easy access to a pleasure they believe they can safely use. But they are likely deluding themselves about how well they are managing their drug use. And even if they are not deluded — if they really are so capable and effective — then surely they can see that society has already been massively re-engineered for their benefit already. Surely, enough is enough?

Fuck you, David Frum.  Go manage your martini.  The “trade-off” you dismiss so patronizingly is treating a certain segment of the population as second-class citizens.  (That, too, I guess would be a skill needed for a H.W. Bush speechwriter.)  How about this smart approach – learn the lesson we were taught in blood and treasure from 1920-1933 regarding the right public policy for popular mind-altering substances?  Treat marijuana like alcohol.  For Suess’ sake, SAM I Am, if we can accept trusting adults with tequila to not drive and seek help if they’re dependent, why can’t you see that as the solution with something far less harmful than tequila?

Correction: references to speechwriting for Reagan have been edited to H. W. Bush, whom Frum actually wrote for.  He only volunteered to work for Reagan, no speechwriting.

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1 Comment for this entry

  • Kozmikidd says:

    I think the people of Denver should ALL bring an old RX bottle with white tic-tacs(they resemble Ambien) and when Patrick Kennedy gets up to speak tommorrow THE PEOPLE should shake,rattle and ROLL with the bottles.Imagine the sound of thousands driving the hypocrites and publicity seeker to abandon their lies.In fact,I think thiis strategy should become a national movement of protest wherever Drug Warriors spew their 50 year old lies.the rattle is there reminding the people of their choice-poison oxycontin or the Best natural,GOD given medicine.

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