Pubdate: Tue, 11 Feb 2014
Source: New Haven Register (CT)
Copyright: 2014 New Haven Register
Author: Hugh McQuaid,
Note: This story has been modified from its original version. See the
original at


A national anti-marijuana organization announced Monday it would join
forces with a state group, and warned legalization efforts are poised
to create a public health crisis in the form of the "next Big Tobacco."

Smart Approaches to Marijuana, founded in January 2013 by former U.S.
Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy, D-R.I., and Kevin A. Sabet, a former White
House policy adviser, announced at a press conference it would work
with the Connecticut Association of Prevention Practitioners.

Sabet said the marijuana movement that has led to the drug's legal,
recreational use in Colorado and Washington state is being driven by
money and is not a "mom and pop" industry. It is "multimillion dollar,
multinational conglomerate," he said.

"This is not your old college roommate from the '70s with long hair in
a drum circle," he said. "They look a lot more like the hedge fund
managers an hour away from this state."

Sabet said his group is looking to "bridge the gap" between public
perception of the drug and what he said is the medical consensus. He
will also continue to stress the threat of a "big marijuana" industry
funding the movement to legalize, he said.

"It's not about the personal use of marijuana among adults. This
really is about creating the next tobacco industry," he said.

The new partnership and a panel discussion at the Capitol come as the
state is setting up its medical marijuana program, which was adopted
in 2012 and is considered one of the most tightly regulated programs
of its kind.

Last month, the Consumer Protection Department named the four
companies that have been approved to grow the substance at facilities
in West Haven, Portland, Simsbury and Watertown.

The department plans to announce five licenses for medical marijuana
dispensaries within a few months and expects them to have cannabis on
their shelves by this summer.

At the press conference, Sabet and Connecticut Association of
Prevention Practitioners Director John Daviau did not call for a
repeal of the program, but suggested the General Assembly consider
policies to enable police to test the level of the drug's active
chemical in the blood of drivers.

"In this state, the political reality is that medical marijuana is
here. Now the question is: Are we going to handle it responsibly or
irresponsibly?" Sabet said.

Sabet said his group was trying to stem efforts to allow the drug
beyond its medical use.

In January, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said he did not see Connecticut's
medical marijuana law, which he anticipates will be used as a model
for other states, as a step closer to legalizing the drug for
recreational use.

"We don't want to duplicate what we think are failures elsewhere and
we're not moving down the road to legalization," Malloy said. The
state decriminalized possession of small amounts of the drug "and now
we have medical marijuana and we're very proud of that fact," he said.

However, Rep. Vincent Candelora, R-North Branford, said the law is
having consequences in the way the drug is being perceived by youths.
He said he has heard his son and others talk about the substance as a
medicine rather than an illicit drug.

"We can already see that in the children. The fear is being
psychologically broken down and when the fear of certain drugs are
eliminated, use is going to increase," he said.  
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