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News Roundup

February 2020
Here is a brief rundown of marijuana news as well as an update on what we have been up to over the last month.  

New Study: Marijuana Impaired Traffic Deaths Doubled in Washington State Following Legalization
A  new study released by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety  found the percentage of drivers in Washington State involved in fatal car crashes testing positive for marijuana has doubled since the state “legalized” marijuana for recreational use in 2012.

According to the study, Washington drivers involved in fatal car crashes who tested positive for marijuana increased from 9 percent in the five-year period prior to legalization to around 18 percent in the five-year period after legalization. What’s more, the study found that about one in five drivers involved in fatal car crashes in 2017 tested positive for marijuana.
“Marijuana-impaired driving is rising across all states that have ‘legalized’ marijuana and this study is further confirmation of an alarming trend,” said Dr. Kevin Sabet, president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM)

New DEA Report: Marijuana Legalization Benefits Criminal Drug Traffickers
A  comprehensive report  released by the United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) finds that the illicit marijuana market is increasing in states that have “legalized” the substance; growing operations-that often occur on public lands-present a significant draw on resources and a dramatic threat to local environments; and criminal organizations are using revenue from marijuana production to fund further criminal activity in the country.
In its conclusion, the report states that “domestic production and trafficking of marijuana will likely increase as more states adopt or change current marijuana laws to establish medical or recreational marijuana markets, allowing criminals to exploit state legality.”
“While the proponents of marijuana legalization claim in every state capitol that marijuana commercialization will eradicate the underground market, wresting the profits from the drug out of the hands of criminals and into state coffers, reality has proven this to be categorically false,” said Dr. Kevin Sabet. “As this report shows, not only has legalization failed to do away with the underground market, it has only served to make it stronger and more profitable for criminal organizations.”

Policy Groups Send Coalition Letter Thanking Senator Mike Crapo for Slowing Marijuana Banking Legislation
CDC DATA: Over 130 Cases of Vaping Illness Victims Purchased Products Exclusively From “Commercial Sources”
A broad coalition of national and state policy groups  sent a letter to United States Senator Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) expressing their concerns with the SAFE Banking Act and thanking Senator Crapo for slowing down what seemed at first to be a rushed process to grant the marijuana industry access to the federal banking system.
“In light of the  Surgeon General’s Advisory (on marijuana)  and the  marijuana vaping crisis , it would be irresponsible to change the law in ways that encourage increased investment in the marijuana industry without any guardrails for public health, particularly when no other legislation regulating the public health impact of marijuana is likely to pass” said the letter, signed by groups such as SAM Action, Concerned Women for America Legislative Action Committee, Heritage Action, Family Policy Alliance, and the Drug Free America Foundation.
“We want to thank Senator Crapo for slowing down the rush on this bill,” said Dr. Kevin Sabet. “We know millions of dollars are being spent in an attempt to ram this bill through Congress and given the massive potentials for harm, the risks are too great.”
I n a massive release of data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), it has been confirmed that out of 809 patients reporting data on the source of the marijuana products use prior to becoming sick, 131 reported purchasing products exclusively from commercial sources.
What’s more, 627 reported products from “informal sources” such as friends, family, in-person, or online dealers. Given that it is a common issue for “legal” products to be purchased at dispensaries and redirected to the illicit market, the number of illnesses linked to ‘legal’ products could be much higher.
“The data are clear on two fronts: ‘legal,’ licensed products cannot be conclusively stated as safe – as Big Marijuana’s lobbyists have so desperately tried to do – and legalization has only served to make the underground market more dangerous,” said Dr. Kevin Sabet. “The significance of this data release cannot be understated.”

New Study: Youth Marijuana Addiction Rates 25 Percent Higher in “Legalized States”
A study published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry found that rates of marijuana addiction among teens (12-17) in states that have “legalized” marijuana were 25 percent higher than in states that have not legalized the substance. Among adults (26 or older), past-month use rates were 26 percent higher. What’s more, past-month frequent use and past-year problematic use among this age group increased by 23 percent and 37 percent respectively.
“Legalization has allowed Big Tobacco and Big Marijuana to relentlessly market and normalize highly potent marijuana. While much of the data on marijuana is still out, we do know that increased availability leads to increased use, which leads to increased rates of addiction,” said Dr. Kevin Sabet. “Legalization efforts are sending the message that marijuana use is safe and state sanctioned. No amount of marijuana use is safe for young people and more must be done to halt its normalization.”

Marijuana Industry Supporters Use House Hearing on Marijuana Research to Call for Federal Legalization
SAM New York Responds to Governor Cuomo’s State of the State Address

A subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee held a hearing entitled “Cannabis Policies for the New Decade.” Witnesses included government officials skeptical of the widespread normalization of marijuana. By contrast, marijuana industry supporters in Congress are using the hearing as a springboard for industry-backed legislation that would bypass the research process entirely by legalizing the drug at the federal level.
Dr. Kevin Sabet  submitted  written testimony   to the committee and released a statement in response to the hearing:
Congress should listen hard to the serious concerns about marijuana that our government’s top scientists will entail. The move to legalize marijuana has gone far ahead of the science surrounding the drug. This is evident by the ongoing marijuana vaping crisis and should be cause for concern for lawmakers at both the state and federal level.
Of course, we should also favor expanded research to further the scientific knowledge of marijuana, especially since today’s highly potent products have not been adequately studied. Given what we already know about low potency marijuana, it’s time to hit pause on advancing the commercialization and use of this drug. “
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo presented his annual State of the State Address in Albany.
In his address, the governor repeated his call from last year to pass a bill legalizing the commercial sale of marijuana. The legislature failed to pass a bill accomplishing this last year due to the efforts of Smart Approaches to Marijuana New York (SAM New York).
” At a time when Governor Cuomo is calling for bans to hold the vaping industry responsible, he must abandon a push to expand the industry responsible for more than 80% of the vaping illnesses and deaths. Marijuana legalization only serves to enrich Big Tobacco, Big Alcohol, and the pharmaceutical industry at the expense of the health and safety of New Yorkers. We call on the governor to listen to public health and safety associations across the state, including the Medical Society and county health officials who, for the last year, have denounced the push for legalization
“As a result of hard work and coalition building, we were able to defeat this effort in the last session, and we will continue to work to prevent further harms and halt any effort to legalize, commercialize, and promote the use of marijuana. The risks are too great.”

Three States + Three Press Conferences = One Big Day for SAM

SAM affiliates held press conferences around the country recently, denoucing pushes to legalize marijuana.
In New Mexico, a coalition of public health and safety groups, business groups, and representatives of New Mexico state law enforcement gathered in the Capitol Rotunda to announce their united opposition to legalization and urge lawmakers to once again defeat an effort to legalize marijuana.
In New York, a  group of concerned New Yorkers gathered in front of NYS Senator Pete Harckham’s District Office to host a press conference urging Senator Harckham to join the majority of public health and safety organizations in NYS and oppose the passage of any bill creating a commercial marijuana industry in New York.
SAM affiliates also convened in Virginia, where state legislators are beginning to consider language for recreational marijuana legalization. There, SAM Community Outreach and Communications Associate, Will Jones, presented the social justice case against  legalization.

State-Based Drug Use Survey Finds Marijuana Use Skyrocketing in “Legal” States
Benchmark Youth Drug Use Survey Finds Marijuana Vaping Has Doubled, Daily Use Significantly Increased
State-level data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the most authoritative study on drug use conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA), finds that marijuana use in “legal” states among youth, young adults, and the general population continued its multi-year upward trend in several categories.
Additionally, use rates in “legal” states continue to drastically outstrip the use in states that have not legalized the drug.
” This data show the marijuana industry is achieving its goal of hooking our kids on today’s highly potent marijuana,” said Dr. Kevin Sabet. “As we learned just this week from the Monitoring the Future survey, the number of young people who perceive marijuana as being harmful is at a historic low. Given the recent data linking high potency marijuana with serious mental health issues, addiction, and future substance abuse, this is extremely concerning.
“We call on Congress and the President now to stop helping the pot industry and commence a science based information campaign about the dangers of today’s marijuana products.”
Daily marijuana use and marijuana vaping has significantly increased in the last year according to new data from the largest, most comprehensive drug use survey of students in the United States. The  2019 Monitoring the Future survey , compiled by researchers at the University of Michigan and funded by the National Institutes of Health, is the benchmark for student drug use in the country.
According to the survey, marijuana vaping among 8th, 10th, and 12th graders has more than doubled since 2017 and daily marijuana use among 8th and 10th graders has seen a significant increase since 2018. More than one fifth of 12th and 10th graders reported using marijuana in the past year and the doubling of past month use in high school seniors constitutes the second largest one-year increase in drug use recorded by the Monitoring the Future survey.
“This survey is an astonishing reflection of the failure of marijuana normalization and commercialization to keep our kids safe,” said Dr. Kevin Sabet, president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) and a former three-time White House Drug Policy Advisor. “These are some of the largest increases ever recorded, and it is clear marijuana promotion driven by today’s for profit pot industry is to blame.”

Billboards and Other Large Advertisements
Interested in really making a splash on the marijuana issue ?  Use our artwork on a billboard, bus ad, building-sized poster, or other installation that is sure to draw public attention, and maybe even media coverage! We have successfully used billboards such as the one above to drive media and policymakers’ attention to the harms of marijuana legalization and you can, too!
Contact us at  [email protected]  to jump-start your marijuana awareness work.

Registration is now open for the  The 2020 SAM Summit  taking place in Nashville, TN alongside the Rx Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit.  This is the perfect option for interested and concerned parties to learn more about what the current research says about the negative effects of marijuana normalization on public health and safety.


Big Marijuana is borrowing the playbook of Big Tobacco in search of the same deep profits at the expense of addicted users. It is time to combat their game with the facts! To help you do so, Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) has partnered with Communities for Alcohol and Drug Free Youth (CADY) to offer a comprehensive media campaign prevention toolkit.

As always, thank you for being a SAM supporter. If you can, please chip-in with a small donation by clicking here.

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