Policy Advocate Kevin Sabet Believes Big Marijuana Is The Next Big Tobacco

By John Lavitt 06/03/16

In an event at the Pasadena Recovery Center, Sabet spoke out against MJ legalization and addressed Big Pot's similarities to Big Tobacco and the alcohol industry.

Policy Advocate Kevin Sabet Believes Big Marijuana Is The Next Big Tobacco
Image courtesy of PRC photographer Marshall Richter

The momentum to legalize cannabis is in full swing. With every passing year, an increasing number of states have introduced new measures to decriminalize or legalize cannabis, whether it's for recreational or medical use. This November, voters in as many as 13 states could decide on important marijuana measures, according to Marijuana.com. Some reform advocates even wonder if the movement is doing too much, and is perhaps a little too confident that legalization is inevitable. 

Indeed, it would be a mistake to let their guard down. There are still active organizations dedicated to interrupting the momentum of the marijuana reform movement. Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) is one such organization, founded by known anti-marijuana advocate, Kevin Sabet, and former U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy.

On Wednesday, SAM hosted a conversation "Is Big Pot the Next Big Tobacco?" at the Pasadena Recovery Center, where Sabet highlighted the importance of battling the entrenched financial resources behind marijuana legalization. 

"The main point is to talk about the creation of a powerful new industry," Sabet told The Fix. "Do we really want to create the next Big Tobacco? Do we remember a time when we ever put public health before private profit? When it comes to government policies around addictive substances, the money always seems to come first." 

Speaking before a mixed group of treatment professionals and residents, Sabet said it's a major problem that so many people think marijuana is harmless, arguing that there has never before been such a large disconnect between science and reality. Sabet—who worked under the Clinton, Bush, and Obama administrations as a political appointee and in the Office of National Drug Control Policy—says marijuana is more harmful than it used to be. He wrote about this in his book Reefer Sanity: Seven Great Myths About Marijuana.

He says the most frightening thing about marijuana's growing popularity is the potential impact it will have on children. Big Marijuana is targeting kids and young people just like Big Tobacco and the alcohol industry, he argued. "Let’s be real. The marijuana gummy bear business is targeted directly at kids," he said. "I might enjoy eating gummy bears at the movies every now and then, but I am not the target. Big Marijuana know that drugs are the double-edged sword of brain development. The simple truth is that addiction starts young." 

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Growing up in Manhattan as a stutterer, John Lavitt discovered that writing was the best way to express himself when the words would not come. After graduating with honors from Brown University, he lived on the Greek island of Patmos, studying with his mentor, the late American poet Robert Lax. As a writer, John’s published work includes three articles in Chicken Soup For The Soul volumes and poems in multiple poetry journals and compilations. Active in recovery, John has been the Treatment Professional News Editor for The Fix. Since 2015, he has published over 500 articles on the addiction and recovery news website. Today, he lives in Los Angeles with his beautiful wife, trying his best to be happy and creative. Find John on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.