USA: Smart Approaches to Marijuana – NEWS ROUNDUP November 2019

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News Roundup
November 2019
Here is a brief rundown of marijuana news as well as an update on what we have been up to over the last month.  


Marijuana Vaping Outbreak Update
As you are well aware, the marijuana vaping epidemic that first hit the headlines in the summer continues to rage. As it stands, more than 1,800 cases of the debilitating lung illness have been reported and at least 33 people have lost their lives.
According to the CDC, 86% of cases of the illness and deaths are tied to the use of marijuana vaping products. Moreover, at least three deaths and cases of illness in Delaware, Maryland, Ohio, and Tennessee have been linked to products purchased in “legal” stores.
Some things to remember:
  • At a time when we are investigating the causes of this rash of deaths and illnesses connected to marijuana oils and vapes, all marijuana legalization efforts and THC vaping oil sales should pause.
  • This is not a black-market issue, it is the result of allowing Big Marijuana – an addiction- for-profit drug industry backed by Big Tobacco and companies like Juul – to mass produce these oils and vapes, along with candies, gummies, and other dangerously potent forms of the drug.
  • Big Tobacco, E-Cigarette and vaping companies and the marijuana industry share many of the same investors. The industries are connected by billions in investments.

Be sure to download the latest fact-sheet and one-pager we have on this issue by clicking the button below:

Chicago City Council Black Caucus Raises the Alarm on Social Justice Concerns
SAM Science Advisory Board Pens Letter to Congress on Vaping Crisis
In an unsurprising turn of events, members of the Chicago City Council’s Black Caucus are threatening to slow walk the implementation of marijuana sales in the city due to the fact that no businesses slated to sell the substance once it is legal in January are owned by people of color.
“We hate to say, ‘I told you so’, but once again we see legalization as being about one thing: profits. It is not about social justice,” said Dr. Kevin Sabet. “Upon passage of the bill, promoters of legalization declared Illinois would set the industry standard for social equity in the marijuana industry. Those remarks are only sad, empty promises now.
“In state after state that has chosen to expand upon this reckless experiment, grand promises of social justice and equity were made. And in state after state, we have seen these promises fail to materialize. In the end, the wealthy, white men such as Governor JB Pritzker and his family who are heavily invested in marijuana, will profit, while disadvantage communities foot the bill. Marijuana legalization is not social justice-it is social injustice.”

SAM’s award-winning Science Advisory Board , comprised of researchers from institutions such as Johns Hopkins , Harvard , and Yale , sent a comprehensive letter to Congressional leadership outlining the fact that cases of severe respiratory illness and subsequent deaths from vaping are decisively tied to marijuana products and linked to purchases made in state “legal” stores. Additionally, the letter outlines several recommended courses of action to address the crisis.

“We have a marijuana vape epidemic in the US, and we urge Congress and the Administration to act now. Across the country, this outbreak is proving fatal and health officials are struggling to identify the single element or contaminant responsible for these illnesses and deaths,” said Dr. Kevin Sabet. “Two deaths in Oregon and a number of cases tied to products purchased from marijuana dispensaries tell us this is more than just a nicotine or underground market issue.”

SAM Expands Presence on Capitol Hill to Oppose Passage of Marijuana Banking Legislation During Vaping Epidemic
In its largest expansion of federal policy efforts yet, SAM announced a partnership with Tripp and Jenn Baird of Off Hill Strategies and Luke Albee, former Chief of Staff to Senators Mark Warner (D-VA) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT).
Luke Albee has many years experience serving as top staff to Democratic senators and will assist SAM in outreach to Democratic members of the Senate.  Tripp and Jennifer Baird of Off Hill Strategies have over twenty years of experience both on and off the Hill with

extensive ties to conservatives and will work to assist SAM with outreach to Republican members.

“Historically, efforts to reduce drug use have always bridged the gap in partisan politics; our lobbying efforts continue this tradition,” said Dr. Kevin Sabet, president of SAM and former drug policy advisor to the Clinton, Bush, and Obama Administrations. “We believe these experienced government relations professionals, in conjunction with former Congressman Patrick Kennedy and former Clinton Drug Czar Barry McCaffery, will round out our federal outreach and further the goals of SAM.”

New Study: Marijuana Industry Social Media Presence Encourages Youth Use of The Drug
USDA Guidance on Hemp is a Good Start; More is Still Needed
study set to be published in the November issue of Drug and Alcohol Dependence found that roughly one in three youth (aged 15-19) engaged with marijuana advertisements on social media. Those who engaged with said promotions were five times more likely to have reported past-year marijuana use.
The study, authored by researchers including Dr. Pamela Trangenstein – a presenter at the 2019 Smart Approaches to Marijuana Summit – examined how marijuana brands’ social media presence and advertising affected youth use of the drug in states that have “legalized” the substance.
“Studies such as this indicate the commercialization of marijuana, and its subsequent normalization, are indeed contributing to more use of the drug among our youth,” said Dr. Kevin Sabet. “Given the preponderance of data we have on the health hazards of marijuana use on young brains, and the ongoing marijuana vaping crisis, this is extremely disturbing.”
“Each day it becomes clearer that Big Marijuana is hurting public health and safety,” continued Dr. Sabet. “Any attempt to expand this industry and continue to grant it legitimacy is severely misguided and setting us up for decades of harmful consequences. It’s time for federal agencies to step up and address this problem before it is too late.”
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) released draft guidelines on the cultivation and production of hemp. While SAM believes the guidelines to be a good start, there are a few areas of concern.
“We are thankful USDA is trying to take a careful approach in issuing guidance to farmers interested in growing hemp after it was fully legalized (de-scheduled) in the 2018 Farm Bill. However, we are concerned that the rule is missing some key areas:
  • It does not provide guidance to federal and state law enforcement as to how they can tell the difference between legally grown hemp and illicit marijuana,
  • It does not address the byproducts of extraction, processing, or products that are made from hemp that may contain appreciable amounts of THC,
  • USDA should work with the FDA to place a moratorium on ‘smokable hemp’ until the health effects can be fully understood,
  •  USDA or the FDA should immediately make clear that cannabinoids are not approved for use in animal feed because they may accumulate and be passed on to humans who consume those animal products.

60 Minutes: How Black Market Weed Deflates California’s “Legal” Marijuana Industry
Dr. Kevin Sabet Discusses New York Vaping Death on Fox & Friends
CBS’s “60 Minutes” recently presented a segment on how the marijuana black market in California is “burning up profits” of the state’s “legal” marijuana industry.
As you know, the promoters of legalization routinely claim that creating a “legal” marijuana market will completely eliminate the black market trade and be a windfall for tax revenues. This segment completely obliterates that talking point.
A seventeen-year old became the first individual in New York to pass away from the marijuana vaping epidemic earlier this month.
Fox & Friends brought on SAM President Dr. Kevin Sabet to discuss the unfortunate development and to talk about the vaping crisis overall.

SAM Op-Ed Corner
“The rush to profit from legal marijuana is leaving black neighborhoods in the dust. Chicago’s Black Caucus and others should keep pushing…”
“Public health, not profit, should dictate Pennsylvania decision on legal marijuana…”
New Jersey State Sen. Ron Rice: “Legalizing pot won’t stop social injustice in the black and brown community…” 

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.
If you can’t chip-in, then at the very least,  and help grow the SAM community.
All the best,
Colton Grace
Communications Associate
Smart Approaches to Marijuana

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