My pals over at Smart Approaches to Marijuana dropped a hell of a PR bomb last week. They released a report (more of a brochure, really) calling on the federal government to rethink the current policy on medical marijuana research.
While on the surface it appears that SAM might be coming around to a modern understanding of cannabis with this report, I’m skeptical. I cannot disregard the long history that Patrick Kennedy and Kevin Sabet (lead brains at SAM) have against cannabis and their strong opposition to legalization.
If this was really what SAM was about from the beginning, why did the organization only crop up right when legalization started to look like a reality? To me, Kevin Sabet is simply an opportunistic politician seeking to further his own ambition. Mark my words, if SAM ends up being successful, Sabet will attempt to parlay that success into a greater role. Or, at the least, he has avaricious aims to be on the winning side of any potential cannabis-derived pharmaceuticals.
Sabet cites his own article as a reference for this “report.” The article, from 2013, is a detailed explanation of why Sabet believes cannabis should not be rescheduled based on the grounds that the plant in its whole state doesn’t have accepted medical value. He then suggests that certain compounds and products found within cannabis might have medical value and should, therefore, not be listed under Schedule 1.
What Sabet conveniently leaves out is what I suspect his real reason is for cannabis to be kept on Schedule I — you can’t patent a plant and have sole ownership of any derived medications.
The SAM report says all the right stuff to seem reasonable and full of integrity. He claims that he wants the federal government to open the doors for research. I can hear him now, “Hey man, we want to help sick people, but we don’t want cannabis to be legal because it’ll just create another DC lobby like Big Tobacco.” That is his rationale for fighting legalization. In reality, he wants to turn cannabis into a pharmaceutical so people can patent and sell it.
I think most of us on the side of the angels (legalization, for our purposes) want unfettered scientific access to cannabis, but across-the-board legalization remains the fastest and surest route to that end. If the feds would nationally legalize cannabis, there would be no fences between scientists and exploration. And I just don’t buy claims that SAM is only concerned with public safety. They haven’t asked for alcohol to be prohibited or for tobacco to be scheduled higher on the narcotic chart.
Maybe I’m wrong and SAM really is trying to do the right thing here, but why not push for full legalization with smarter laws rather than trying to find a balance between prohibition and legalization? That balance can’t be found and you will never be successful trying to keep cannabis used for purely medical purposes. Sabet’s plan will invariably lead to a resurgence in black market cannabis trade. People are going to get their weed. That has been the case for generations. This genie will not go back into it’s bong, just get behind legalization and rake in the tax revenues.