Pubdate: Wed, 10 Jun 2015
Source: Helena Independent Record (MT)
Copyright: 2015 Helena Independent Record
Author: Jordon Niedermeier, Billings Gazette


BILLINGS -- A leading opponent of marijuana legalization delivered a 
three-hour talk on what he says are myths surrounding the drug in 
Billings on Tuesday.

Kevin Sabet, who directs the Drug Policy Institute at the University 
of Florida and is co-founder of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, 
addressed about a dozen educators, prosecutors and law enforcement 
professionals, mostly from small towns in Eastern Montana. SAM seeks 
a middle road between incarceration and legalization, according to 
the group's website.

The event was organized by the Eastern Montana Drug Prosecution 
Coordination Program, a publicly funded law enforcement education program.

Sabet served in drug policy jobs during the Clinton, Bush and Obama 
administrations. He described marijuana's growing popularity and the 
negative effects caused by the more potent weed that's now available.

"The Cheech and Chong pot from 20 years ago is nothing compared to 
what we have today," he said.

Sabet opposes legalization but he also maintains marijuana users 
should not be prosecuted and jailed.

The legalization movement, to him, is driven more by people 
interested in getting rich than stoners looking to get high legally.

"Legalization is about one thing, and that's money." Sabet said. 
"It's about profit."

Sabet's presentations and his book "Reefer Sanity: Seven Great Myths 
about Marijuana" address the most common arguments for legalization.

Among the "myths" cited by Sabet are that marijuana is harmless and 
nonaddictive; eaten or smoked marijuana has medicinal value and that 
countless people are behind bars for smoking marijuana.

Sabet made several references to "Reefer Madness," a 1937 propaganda 
film. He said he wasn't trying to scare his audience but described 
one boy who died after eating a marijuana edible product in Colorado. 
He said the boy died after he consumed the drug and fell from a deck.

He said the incident was just one of four deaths attributed to panic 
attacks caused by marijuana in Colorado.

Sabet said he has never smoked marijuana, but his lack of firsthand 
experience doesn't change the relevance of his positions.

"People think they can talk because they've done marijuana, but 
that's kind of like saying you can only talk about suicide if you've 
committed suicide," he said.

Not everyone in the small crowd agreed with Sabet.

Jace Killsback, tribal health coordinator for the Northern Cheyenne 
Tribal Board of Health, said he was part of one of the first medical 
marijuana cooperatives in California while he attended UC Berkeley in 
the late 1990s. He smoked marijuana until Montana tightened 
restrictions on medicinal use.

Killsback is now researching the merits of legalization after the 
U.S. Justice Department announced federal marijuana laws would no 
longer be enforced on reservations. He has attended several 
informational meetings and had open discussions on the medical use of 
marijuana since then.

Killsback said he attended the presentation because he thought Sabet 
would provide a balanced look at marijuana, but instead found a lot 
statistics presented without context.

"I think it's propaganda because he's using data but not looking at 
other circumstances like community or economic issues that contribute 
to things like low educational obtainment," he said.

Killsback said he hoped the other lecture attendees would think 
critically about the presentation instead of taking everything Sabet 
said "as gospel."

Smart Approaches to Marijuana, co-founded by former U.S. Congressman 
Patrick Kennedy, recently unveiled proposals for the U.S. government 
to ease restrictions on scientific research into marijuana's 
potential as medicine, a first step for an organization of its kind.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom