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As state, county mull marijuana laws, Project SAM seeks smart approaches

John Redman, Kevin Sabet, Patrick Kennedy and Councilwoman Valerie Poindexter listen during an informational meeting about marijuana. (Photo by Karin Stanton | Hawaii 24/7)

Karin Stanton | Hawaii 24/7 Editor

It’s an issue not likely to be resolved soon.

Whether to decriminalize and/or legalize marijuana has been on the agendas of federal, state and local law-making bodies across the country, and the opinions are myriad.

In Hawaii, a bill to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana was shot down in early April by the state House. The state Senate previously passed the measure.

On the Big Island, the county council was set to vote March 28 on a resolution in support of the state bill. However, Councilmember Margaret Wille withdrew the resolution before the six freshman councilmembers had a chance to cast their first vote on a marijuana issue.

Following the March 28 meeting, Puna Councilman Greggor Ilagan said he was approaching the issue with an open mind and was interested to hear from the people who testified.

“We heard from people in recovery, police officers and youth,” he said. “I can see how it splits between legalization versus decriminalization versus medical use.”

Ilagan said he expects the issue to pop up before the council again.
Meanwhile, organizers at Project SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana) say Hawaii is one of a handful of states targeted for legalization by marijuana advocates.

Project SAM is led by former U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy, of Rhode Island, and Kevin Sabet, who also is director of the University of Florida’s Drug Policy Institute. During a recent visit to the Big Island, Kennedy and Sabet said the group is forming a Hawaii chapter in an effort to provide “fresh approaches to marijuana policies, ones that use science, public health and public safety principles as a guide.”

Project SAM bills itself as “a group of experts and knowledgeable professionals advocating for a fresh approach that neither legalizes, nor demonizes, marijuana.”

It strives to inform public policy with science, have discussions about reducing the unintended consequences of current marijuana policies while promoting research on marijuana’s medical properties.

Sabet said lawmakers should be seeking sensible legislation that would allow patients to benefit from marijuana’s medical qualities without negatively impacting public health or creating a new drug industry.

For example, he said, “opium has medical value. It’s called morphine, but we don’t smoke opium to get morphine. So why smoke crude, raw marijuana to get its medical value?”

While a marijuana plant can contain 400 chemicals, he said, only 50 to 60 components help ailing people. In addition, he said there are at least two pills and a spray that contain the helpful ingredients, but don’t require smoking.

Kennedy warned against across-the-board legalization, noting the social costs would outweigh the potential tax income.

“For every dollar the government brings in from taxation of alcohol and tobacco, it spends $10 on social costs,” Kennedy said. “The costs we know we will see include more emergency room visits, treatment admissions and car crashes, as well as an increased incidence of mental illness and learning problems. And, these costs will only increase as marijuana becomes more available, is easily obtainable and heavily promoted in a permissive environment.”

He pointed out that tobacco companies have admitted they need to keep expanding their customer base to keep making money. People who are 18 or 21 years old typically already have decided whether they will smoke or drink alcohol, so the target market is younger teens.

“If it’s perceived as harmless, that correlates to higher use. It’s attitudes and access,” he said. “What message are we sending our kids?”

Sabet said marijuana doesn’t have a measurable dosage like alcohol or prescription medication. In addition, the marijuana available now five times more powerful than in the 1980s and 10 times more powerful than in the 1960s.

“Hawaii kids think marijuana is no big deal at higher levels (than teens in other states),” he said. “It’s use here is at higher levels than other states, but you have prescription drug, cocaine and heroin at lower rates than the rest of the country.”

An increase in marijuana use also would have negative consequences for Hawaii’s businesses, the tourism industry and the military, they said.

Hamakua Councilmember Valerie Poindexter, who attended the Project SAM informational meeting, said the costs are too high for Hawaii. Poindexter said she knows those costs first-hand as she lost a son to substance abuse.

“The impacts (of legalized or decriminalized marijuana) on pubic health and safety would be disastrous,” she said. “We need to be mindful of what we’re doing.”

When asked how Hawaii should be moving forward on the issue, Kennedy and Sabet said to watch what has happened in California. For example, Los Angeles County now has more marijuana dispensaries (966) than Starbucks (840).

John Redman, executive director of Californians for Drug Free Youth Inc., accompanied the Project SAM group on its Hawaii visit. He focused on how attitudes drive behavior.

“There are two very important truths in prevention, which are not rocket science,” he said. “One is that if you increase the availability of a drug, you increase its use. The second is if you lower the risk and perception of harm of that drug, you increase its use.”

Legalizing marijuana does both, he said. “How can kids say ‘no’ when the adults around them are saying ‘yes’?”

He listed the top three substances teens tend to use and abuse as alcohol, tobacco and prescription drugs. Marijuana is a distant fourth.

“That’s what our youth is using. Those top three are all legal, taxed, promoted and readily available,” he said. “Is Hawaii really going to set up a culture where kids are saying ‘no’ when adults are saying ‘yes’?”

Hoku Pagan, 15, of Waimea, and a member of The Friday Night Crew anti-drug teen group, told of her experience in California. She called a visit to Venice Beach “disturbing and scary” because pot shops employees, wearing white lab coats, accosted teenagers as they strolled the boardwalk. They touted marijuana as a remedy for stress and anxiety.

She said she was uncomfortable about how easy it was for businesses to sell and promote marijuana.

“It was pretty intense,” she said.

Pagan said she worries that if marijuana were legal and adults were saying it’s OK, her peers might not be as open to prevention messages.

“And,” she said, “I don’t want that to happen in Hawaii.”

— Find out more:
www.learnaboutsam.com

19 Responses to “As state, county mull marijuana laws, Project SAM seeks smart approaches”

  1. “…For example, he said, “opium has medical value. It’s called morphine, but we don’t smoke opium to get morphine. So why smoke crude, raw marijuana to get its medical value?”While a marijuana plant can contain 400 chemicals, he said, only 50 to 60 components help ailing people. In addition, he said there are at least two pills and a spray that contain the helpful ingredients, but don’t require smoking…”

    In no shape or form marijuana can be compared to opium in it’s availability to it’s medical qualities. Just heating up the raw material (not necessarily smoked) releases the entire range of beneficial cannabinoids; the same can not be said with opium. Marijuana you do NOT have to transform or turn in to pill form to get all the benefits from the cannabinoids, with opium you do to get morphine. Secondly, the only current marijuana “pill” you mention only has T.H.C. which is only one of the cannabinoids released by the marijuana plant. The most beneficial of these cannabinoids is C.B.D which is known to help with pain management, nerve related diseases, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, among others; this cannabinoid is NOT present in any of the pills available in the market now, you can only obtain it through the entirety of the marijuana plant.

    “…He listed the top three substances teens tend to use and abuse as alcohol, tobacco and prescription drugs. Marijuana is a distant fourth…”

    FALSE. Recent studies made by the C.D.C found that more teens are currently using more marijuana than cigarettes (from 1999- 2011). You can find the study at the C.D.C website. A regulated market (by us) will always be a better market than a black market which we don’t control. If we really wanted to protect the kids we would be trying to get a grip on the marijuana market; because even if we would like to live in a world where we don’t have a marijuana market we have to face the reality of the matter and that is that we do have this market and it will NEVER go away, so either let it flourish underground and pretend it doesn’t exist OR grow a pair and try and to have a strong grip on it so we can control it better and give proper access to it.

    What project SAM is doing is irresponsible and blatantly naive to the point of insult. Either they truly are this ignorant or they think we all are to buy into their B.S. Please don’t let yourself be fooled by them; they have hidden agendas and they don’t care one bit about the welfare of the citizens of Hawaii or any part of america for that matter. Full legalization is the only path to a better drug policy in this nation, the sooner we come to terms with this reality the better. We have been ignoring it for over 40 years and we have gotten NOWHERE, it’s time for a new approach.

  2. not.patrick.kennedy says:

    SAM wants their ‘treatment option’ to be backed by mandatory drug testing and the threat of jail time if marijuana users don’t comply. This is the same approach used in drug courts currenty. SAM does not offer a new approach.

    The emergency room statistics have been manupulated. When marijuana is mentioned alone, it accounts for less than 0.02% of all Emergency Department episodes.

    ” For example, Los Angeles County now has more marijuana dispensaries (966) than Starbucks (840).”

    Good…caffeine is more habit-forming than marijuana. Caffeine has killed people, marijuana has not.

    SAM = Liars.

  3. Jillian Galloway says:

    “…For example, he said, “opium has medical value. It’s called morphine, but we don’t smoke opium to get morphine. So why smoke crude, raw marijuana to get its medical value?” Well, why eat oranges to get vitamin-C? After all, aren’t they also “crude and raw”?

    These people are either very stupid or very invested in the marijuana prohibition industry. Either way, they have no problem seeing your child arrested for the safe of their beloved prohibition. Marijuana is significantly milder, safer and less addictive than alcohol, and we could prevent a lot of the harm that alcohol causes by giving people the right to choose marijuana instead of alcohol.

    Legalizing alcohol made society far safer, and legalizing marijuana will do exactly the same. We need to put the safety of our children FIRST and legalize marijuana like beer and wine!

    • RadicalRuss says:

      Jillian, I’m stealing that oranges / vitamin C reference!

    • Occupy Command says:

      They are very invested. Kevin Sabet is Director, Drug Policy Institute and Assistant Professor, University of Florida College of Medicine, Division of Addiction Medicine, Department of Psychiatry

      President, Policy Solutions Group, Inc.

      Kevin Sabet, who served in the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy in three administrations, has become one of the country’s most outspoken advocates against legalization. Last month, he joined with former Democratic congressman Patrick Kennedy to form Smart Approaches to Marijuana, which advocates a new “commonsense, third-way approach to marijuana policy.”

      But reform advocates have criticized Sabet and SAM as little more than a new face for the old regime. Rolling Stone called Sabet the No. 1 enemy of legalization, warning that SAM “uses clever language to disguise what essentially remains a prohibitionist argument.”

      “Kevin is just the latest in a long line of individuals dead set on maintaining marijuana prohibition,” said Mason Tvert of the Marijuana Policy Project. “Kevin and his organization have crafted a clever approach in which they condemn the harms of prohibition while simultaneously advocating for maintaining them.”

      “What makes Kevin dangerous,” the Huffington Post’s Ryan Grim, who wrote a book about drugs, said recently, “is that he’s effective in delivering the anti-legalization argument, which is extremely unusual among the drug warrior set.”

      In addition to Kennedy, SAM has the backing of former Bush speechwriter and current Daily Beast columnist David Frum, who joined its board along with a number of public health officials. It also seems to have the hefty financial resources necessary to wage any effective public policy campaign, though those details won’t be known until the group releases its 990 tax forms.

  4. Miles Monroe says:

    Thanks to the Pew Institute poll released last week, we know that the only demographic still agreeing with Project SHAM’s talking points is a dwindling minority, becoming less relevant with every election cycle.

    This Reefer Madness, 2013 edition, has the stink of desperation all over it; with the end of prohibition, these parasites might have to get a real job …

  5. The most entertaining part of this propaganda~filled, rant of a “news article”, is the very funny part about:

    “So why smoke crude, raw marijuana to get its medical value?” Lmao!

    That was very funny. Thanks for the good laugh.

    To all you marijuana prohibitionists out there. Listen up! You are now the MINORITY! It’s all over. It’s time to pack it in. You’ve lost.

    As more and more of you prohibitionist dinosaurs die from old age, more and more (the MAJORITY) of Americans see through your generations’ lies and deceptions about marijuana. Your tired old rhetoric no longer holds any validity.
    Each and every prohibitionist argument has been proven false both socially and scientifically.

    With your credibility shattered, and your not~so hidden agendas visible to a much wiser public, whats left for a marijuana prohibitionist to do?

    Well let’s see. Hum. Oh, I know. If I were a prohibitionist, I’d definitely want to find another source of income/career before losing my livelihood or being voted out of office.

    Other than that, I suppose it would greatly relieve the tension and stress of a marijuana prohibitionist if they could just come to terms with this one simple fact of life below. Lol…

    Marijuana Legalization Nationwide is an inevitable reality that’s approaching MUCH SOONER than prohibitionists think and there is NOTHING they can do to stop it!

    Legalize Nationwide and Support Each and Every Marijuana Legalization Effort!

    • freshstart222 says:

      Your remarks are totally ridiculous and you are delusional.. Marijuana policy is made and enforced by relatively young people, not old dinosaurs as you say. Most of us old dinosaurs aren’t the prohibitionists. Many of us used and may still use marijuana. So keep your misguided prejudices to yourself.

  6. revraygreen says:

    hey drug Ape Sabet, the discussion is marijuana….

  7. rsteeb says:

    “Smart”? To keep Cannabis illegal while tobacco and alcohol are sold at the corner store would be *MURDEROUSLY STUPID*.

  8. esotericknowledge says:

    “Project SAM bills itself as “a group of experts and knowledgeable professionals advocating for a fresh approach that neither legalizes, nor demonizes, marijuana.””

    Yeah right, more like a bunch of lying, mindless, control freak, frightened oppressors and discriminators. What’s wrong with you twit humans: You don’t own every species on earth. Its plants, grow up, you don’t own me, you don’t own the planet, grow up…that’s what people are afraid of: growing up into a balanced human being… and not running around freaking out about this difference and that difference–that’s a coward’s game. When we are done with the witch hunts, the destruction of people’s lives who are different then you, humanity is going to realize the real scum are the prejudice people who persecute others and deny others their lives in one way or another. These SAM filth should just stay at home, suck their thumb, shake in their boots, and pull out their hair at the terror of a world and a population they do not control like a God.

  9. Occupy Command says:

    The Opinions are a Myriad? Really? How about the reports are the myriad, they seem to be full of opinions by POS reporters more often thn actual honorable folks with facts. Fact of the matter is, it’s not bad for anybody but the evil syndicates profiteering off of cancer, fuel/oil and many other industries lol… it’s a nice dominoe effect. Resign while you can suckers. You chose your destiny. Play with it! How about that opinion B****?

    • Occupy Command says:

      Kevin Sabet, who served in the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy in three administrations, has become one of the country’s most outspoken advocates against legalization. Last month, he joined with former Democratic congressman Patrick Kennedy to form Smart Approaches to Marijuana, which advocates a new “commonsense, third-way approach to marijuana policy.”

      But reform advocates have criticized Sabet and SAM as little more than a new face for the old regime. Rolling Stone called Sabet the No. 1 enemy of legalization, warning that SAM “uses clever language to disguise what essentially remains a prohibitionist argument.”

      “Kevin is just the latest in a long line of individuals dead set on maintaining marijuana prohibition,” said Mason Tvert of the Marijuana Policy Project. “Kevin and his organization have crafted a clever approach in which they condemn the harms of prohibition while simultaneously advocating for maintaining them.”

      “What makes Kevin dangerous,” the Huffington Post’s Ryan Grim, who wrote a book about drugs, said recently, “is that he’s effective in delivering the anti-legalization argument, which is extremely unusual among the drug warrior set.”

      In addition to Kennedy, SAM has the backing of former Bush speechwriter and current Daily Beast columnist David Frum, who joined its board along with a number of public health officials. It also seems to have the hefty financial resources necessary to wage any effective public policy campaign, though those details won’t be known until the group releases its 990 tax forms.

    • Fred Givens says:

      POS is right, look at this slice of yellow journalism

      Project SAM bills itself as “a group of experts and knowledgeable professionals advocating for a fresh approach that neither legalizes, nor demonizes, marijuana.”

      It strives to inform public policy with science, have discussions about reducing the unintended consequences of current marijuana policies while promoting research on marijuana’s medical properties.

      that second paragraph is the reporter sucking at his/her job, we need to boycott this “news” outlet

  10. Glad these guys spoke to our law makers. We need this fresh approach.

    • Fred Givens says:

      you mean a fresh set of pharmaceutical industry designed reefer madness lies? you’re obviously not very intelligent, please educate yourself.

  11. Fred Givens says:

    The only people on the anti medicinal plant side of the argument are people who make money from failed prohibition. Are we really so stupid that we can’t follow the money and realize that we are being lied to by greedy scumbags who care more about their personal financial gains than the lives of the people around them? Anyone who actually takes the time to look at the research, rather than listen to lies from self declared “experts”, will find that the positive effects far outnumber and outweigh the few negative effects of cannabis, only occaisional or first time smokers are impaired while driving in studies yet these snakes claim otherwise. We need to make laws to throw greedy lying filth like these people in jail instead of people who use a plant that has been used for at least a few tens of thousands of years, they are the ones causing harm to society. Why do we even listen when “law enforcement” (corrupt) tells us that they want to continue to get massive amounts of funding to wage a failed war on the people around them?

    one of these lying scumbags said :“Hawaii kids think marijuana is no big deal at higher levels (than teens in other states),” he said. “It’s use here is at higher levels than other states, but you have prescription drug, cocaine and heroin at lower rates than the rest of the country.”

    so we’re supposed to want our kids using less marijuana and more cocaine heroin and perscription drugs? this group is literally advocating substance abuse of toxic rather than non-toxic drugs and our “representitives” who actually represent the people making millions off of unconstitutional prohibition, are setting up meetings to listen to their lies? Poindexter clearly needs to be voted out of office as she is a moron, and SAM should never be allowed back on our island with their mainland fake science reefer madness bull****. We are smarter than that.

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