Online Debate: NORML Versus Project SAM

personal_cultivationThe Asbury Park Press and other Gannett newspaper affiliates, including USA Today, published a fairly extensive online debate on Sunday between myself and Project SAM co-founder Kevin Sabet under the header “Should We Make Marijuana Legal?”

I respond to numerous alarmist claims throughout the interview, including allegations that regulating the adult use of cannabis send s mixed message to youth, leads to increased use by young people, that cannabis is a gateway drug, and even the notion that marijuana prohibitionists are out-funded by reform advocates (as if)!

Here’s an excerpt:

Gov. Christie, who has consistently opposed legalization of marijuana, contends pot is a so-called gateway drug, that people who use pot will eventually graduate to harder, more dangerous substances. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it hasn’t found a definitive answer on that question yet. What is your position and what are the most definitive studies you can cite to bolster it?

Armentano: It is time for politicians to put to rest the myth that cannabis is a gateway to the use of other controlled substances — a theory that is neither supported by modern science or empirical data.

More than 60 percent of American adults acknowledge having tried cannabis, but the overwhelming majority of these individuals never go on to try another illicit substance. And by the time these individuals reach age 30, most of them have significantly decreased their cannabis use or no longer indulge in the substance at all. Further, nothing in marijuana’s chemical composition alters the brain in a manner that makes users more susceptible to experimenting with other drugs. That’s why both the esteemed Institute of Medicine and the RAND Corporation’s Drug Policy Research Center conclude, “Marijuana has no causal influence over hard drug initiation.”

By contrast, a growing body of evidence now exists to support the counter notion that, for many people, cannabis serves as a path away from the use of more dangerous substances — including opioids, alcohol, prescription drugs, cocaine and tobacco.

You can read and comment on the entire online debate here.

If you are a New Jersey resident, you can also take action in support of marijuana law reform in the Garden State here.

32 thoughts

  1. Dealers selling cannabis out of one pocket and hard drugs out of the others are the so-called gatekeepers because cannabis is not regulated. So you prohibitionists leave the regulating up to the black market dealer.

    Caffeine is the ultimate gateway drug because many people use it in Coke, Pepsi, Mountain Dew, etc. as children. That appears relatively harmless, then they move on from there to tobacco and alcohol, things they have access to, and they turn out to be not as harmless as caffeine, hacking cough and a hangover. It’s all about access and supply side economics when it comes to illegal drugs, so you need to separate the soft drugs market from the hard drugs market, separate the cannabis market from the hard drugs market. You do that by legalizing cannabis so that people who want some weed are not offered heroin, crack, meth, whatever as well.

    SAM, you ought to change the S to me Stupid Approaches to Marijuana. Nobody is buying your dumbass logic. Piss off! Get out of the way of legalization.

    1. Here and in foreign countries I’ve seen a parent (and maybe a stroller) with a baby which has been supplied with a rubber-tip formula bottle containing– Coke, Mountain Dew etc. sugarpop where the hormonic bovine milk might have been. The Birth of Addiction. But at the time it was so convenient. Notice that the adult torch tobackgo $igarette mimics the color of a formula bottle with white milk formula visible inside and a rubber sucky tip the same color as the filter end of the $igarette.

  2. Paul is clearly the big winner in this debate (no surprise). Sabet is still stuck in the idiotic “Just Say No” Reagan days and can’t get past the lies of the past.

    I have been using cannabis since age 15 (very young) and yet I have led a very successful life. It did not lead to other drugs. In fact, using cannabis has helped me to control an alcoholic tendency!

    I admit that I did use other drugs when I was very young. I came to realize that our Govt was lying about cannabis and so it seemed logical they were lying about other drugs as well. My dealer was all to happy to sell me other drugs that I came to learn really were dangerous!

    Kevin Sabet and Chris Christie are just ignorant jerks – bottom line.


    Tried logging in to post at APP but I guess the comments were closed?

    Either way Paul I wouldnt sweat the trolls. And that includes Sabet. Still plowing through drugged driving propaganda hoping that Governor Scott of Vermont will veto legislative legalization, most likely. One of the smug little trolls in the comments section of APP, Howard P Vogel, accused another commentor of trolling. After defending false equivelent claims comparing marijuana drugged driving to alcohol of trolling? Then Vogel misspelled “Halluecinogetic?” (…thats “…genic.” …sigh).

    Its been years now since AAA and the NHSA reported that impairment of marijuana could not be determined through any reliable method of detecting cannabinoids in the blood and that a peer-reviewed controlled study did not provide evidence that marijuana is the cause of fatal accidents in study.

    Paul, as always you do an excellent job of citing well grounded peer reviewed research. Please balance your citations with counter attacks on the big lies…

    “…marijuana arrest rates have risen sharply, and the racial disparity in these arrests has increased.”

    What? In Virginia maybe, but Colorado? And “risen” implies since before legalization. Or since WHEN?! Sabet is floundering. You cant let him do that. Can you ask figurative questions like “We need to ask since when have rates risen?”

    And whats with the “Big Marijuana like Big Tobacco” mantra? Doesnt Sabet realize that the phrase “Big Pharma,” the biggest culprit of death and prohibition in question, is being summoned every time he used this pathetic, unfounded attempt at an argument?

    Just google “Big” and the words “tobacco,” “Pharma” and “marijuana.” By the time you get to the second letter in the second word, guess which one of the three pops up as “Big Margarita.” Yeah, nice catch phrase Sabet. (Loser).

    1. I also was frustrated that Paul did not reply directly to Sabet’s lies and distortions. It would be great if there were a single webpage or other resource that lists each of Sabet’s favorite stats and how he tortures the data to produce them (e.g. emergency room calls in CO, drugged driving (several of these), etc.). I know Russ Belville has explained some of them but it would really help if they were all in one place so that a debater could direct people there to see for themselves.

      I think though (maybe Paul can confirm this) that for this particular online debate, both participants were simply given the questions and did not see each other’s answers, so that explains Paul’s failure to do so here. Anyway, that’s the impression I got. Still, Sabet’s pretty predictable in his use of his favorite stats, so Paul might have debunked them anyway – once you see how Sabet works it’s hard to take anything he says seriously.

      In any case, w/r/t the “gateway” theory, I think one thing one should always do here is cite the DEA themselves, who noted (albeit obscurely – “the phenomenon was not observed” or something) that the numbers do not support it, back when they failed to reschedule, last year sometime.

      I’d also like to know what exactly Sabet’s deal is. I’ve seen speculation that he is in it for Big Pharma money, but sometimes it looks personal, like a hippie ran over his dog or something. Anyone know for sure?

      [Paul Armentano responds: I was not provided the opportunity to respond directly to Kevin Sabet’s responses. Both of us were provided the questions separately ahead of time.]

      1. Of COURSE Sabet is defending the indefensible for the money. He’s just starting to sound as bad as a Trump surrogate by pulling these so called “studies” out of his @$$ and making false comparisons that make no sense to anyone.
        Even the people who back SAM… like Representative Patrick Kennedy… they claim their personal loss is to blame on marijuana… even if the loved one died of syntetic opiates or alcohol… both to bleed unsuspecting doners who actually believe in their dirty sales pitch and to cover up their investments and laundering in the same Big Pharma responsible for the chaos in their own lives. Pretty dignified creatures aint they?
        We absolutely have to cite peer reviewed, controlled, double-blind longitudinal studies and share them with our reps. But when anyone comes back with “conflicting evidence” over the medical efficacy of marijuana we have to expose every weakness in these fake claims. And demand evidence in writing from our reps and other politicians. Its not easy during a debate, for sure, but if we dont expose the lies our evidence seems arbitrary to simple minds.

      2. “Big Marijuana like Big Tobacco and Big pHARMa?” Hey let’s thank poor Kevin for serving us up this one, and hit it outa the park.

        Everyone knows there already is a Big Marijuana, designed for ESBO Emotional Sudden Binge Overdose, several hot burning tokes in a few minutes:
        Joint usu. 333 mg or 500 mg PER LIGHTUP
        Blunt up to a gram, nicotine may be in wrapper
        Spliff up to a gram, in Europe often tobacco mixed in

        Someone could now go up to Kevin and suggest he try a 25-mg Single Toke of pre-sifted herb in a 1/4″, 6.0 mm or 7/32″=5.5 mm inner diameter screened-crater oneheater (easily made, see “Make-Pipes-From-Everyday-Objects”)
        with a long flexible drawtube attached to its butt end. LITTLE MARIJUANA.

        Once we cannabinoid users by the millions model this minidosage approach proficiently, nicotine $igarette addicts worldwide will wake and follow after (LITTLE TOBACCO) and the following HBO hot burning overdoses will be history:
        typical commercial $igarette, 700 mg
        slim brands for women, maybe 500 mg
        Kretek (Indonesia), similarly sized, cinnamon scented
        Beedi (India) 450 mg tobacco wrapped in a Tendu leaf

        Working together with Kevin and/or anyone we’ll lengthen millions of lives and NORML will win a Knowitwell Prize $1.5 million.

        By the way I’m looking forward to a toke of tendu leaf. Get Mark to draw a cartoon of Kevin serving Truckfump a 25 mg dwbble toke on a two-stemmed flexdrawtube oneheater.

        PS If Big pHARMa kills a million or two a year worldwide (it’s a casino, you can gamble on the wrong med, don’t blame the doc 100%), Big Alcohol 2.5 million (WHO 2011), the winner is… Big 2WackGo 6 million a year! Oops, look up Dr. Scott Olson who wrote “Sugarettes” and claims $ugar (refined, added etc.) kills 15 million a year worldwide!
        Cannabis with a swish of water can kill $ugar cravings for 129 quick minutes.

      3. @Paul,
        That makes sense. But at this point Sabet’s broken rhetoric is so predictable you can throw in rebuttals even when he cant be heard.

        Either way, you won this one.

    2. Warning until you know the effects of this medicine please do not drive or operate heavy machinery…. disclaimers for big pharma seem to work just fine for their pills.

      1. Of course, that would make too much sen$e, Bob. (Or is it cents?)

        There was a study conducted a few years ago by the American Journal of Public Health I recently sent to Governor Scott’s office who vetoed legislatively enacted mmj bill in Vermont:

        Marijuana legalization reduced opiate addiction thereby reducing fatal accidents. Hows that for a twist off the old pill bottle warning label?

  4. in 1970 my “gateway” drug was alcohol. if i continued on that path i would be dead now. having first hand experience i can say pot was / is far more manageable and less damaging than the intoxicants sanctioned by society and government.

    1. @ john,
      Ditto. And that is why I can’t be “marketed” into trading away my weed for something else. Corporate America wants me to drink booze, smoke cigarettes, and pop pills. But it’s my life the bastards are screwing around with, so fuck ’em.

  5. Lol… i cant let it go… WHO doesnt know that marijuana is less addictive than caffeine and tobacco (nicotine dispensers) are more addictive than heroin?! The next “Big Tobacco” was “Big Synthetic Opiates,” Sabet.

    This debate is rooted in the failure of the CDC or NIH to cite 25,000 peer reviewed studies on PubMed over the medical efficacy of marijuana. Theyre about as sold out to Big Pharma now as the FDA and the WHO.

    Hey Sabet! The evidence is literally in the palm of your hands! Its called a SMART phone! You know, like “Smart Approaches?” Try Approaching your SMART PHONE!… (stooge).

    Now the challenge is letting our legislators both state and federal know that WE know the links to the truth. Click on the Health tab on this webpage, copy a link to a peer reviewed study, then click on the ACT tab and add your favorite link to your letter to your Representative, Senator and Governor.

  6. I would like to offer information about what is called “The Dunning-Kruger” study, and how it relates to the legalization debate. (I recently read about this on DailyKos blog.)

    We in the marijuana legalization community have spent decades fighting ignorance. By the word “ignorance” I do not mean “stupidity” — I’m talking about willful ignorance, and the resulting debates about matters which are either obvious or settled. There is so much good that cannabis could be doing for the citizens of this country; instead we are still arguing about basic, settled or obvious facts.

    For our opponents who are political professionals, this is merely a delay tactic, and propaganda. But who buys the propaganda?

    The Dunning-Kruger principle may help explain this, as well as the unmovable 38% Trump supporters. The principle is roughly as follows: those least competent will most over-estimate their own competence with respect to the competence of others. And as correlary, those most competent will most under-estimate their own competence with respect to others.

    Fascinating! Google “Dunning-Kruger study.”

    1. To elaborate, here are a couple of examples.

      The original study was inspired by a brazen bank robber who wore no mask, and smiled into the bank security cameras. When he was caught, he was shocked! “But I wore the juice!” he said. Seems he believed, and was willing to bet his freedom on, the notion that coating himself in lemon juice would make him invisible to security cameras so long as he stayed away from heat sources. He figured this to be true because “invisible ink” can be made from lemon juice.

      Similarly, apparently, talent show contestants who are among the first cut from competition tend also to be the most shocked at the fact that they were cut at all.

    2. Whats the old axiom?
      “The man that knows something knows that he knows nothing at all.”

      1. @ Julian,

        Yes, I think that’s the general idea. That would be wisdom, or competence, that your expression suggests.

        But for rank and file Trump supporters, the unpersuadable 38%, it would the the opposite of competence and wisdom. The problem is, their lack of competence removes their own ability to self-assess.

        Trump supporters are technically a new social phenomen, but the marijuana legalization movement has been dealing with “alternative facts” for many decades now. The bullshit has a very familiar stench, by now.

      2. And his work was titled under the very desription and definition of marijuana “intoxication” when he meant “psychoactivity!”
        And I still respect his semi-flawed titles and studies!

      3. Agreed, Dr Pollan is onto something. Check biocoevolution essay at Wikiversity:Ethnobotany.
        1. Women dragged hemp stalks to the huthouse to reinforce thatched roofing installations.
        2. Seeds fell off and some of them landed in dungpiles (pre-agricultural portapotties).
        3. Plants grew up living on human dung fertilizer, decoded human endocannabinoids, evolved female flower hormone that sends humans a message.
        4. “In the sweat of thy brow thou shall eat bread…” Kids sat in Mom’s smoky kitchen breathing fumes from hempstalk cooking fires.
        5. The rest is pre-history.

  7. It’s a challenge to argue Kevin Sabet’s perception of his own imaginary world and the fake news he provides. He’s really an acting comedian and a self-proclaim expert for the prohibition cause. He is also the kind of person who preach believers to tear down historic statues in the South. You just have to see through him of what he really is.

  8. Sabet isn’t a Dr. – Doctors abide by the Hippocratic Oath to do no harm. By spreading mis-information and preventing people from gaining access to safe use of Cannabis, he IS HARMING PATIENTS!

    Sabet isn’t relevant because he’s obviously a hack that only cares about lining his pockets. Anyone who is knowledgeable on Cannabis knows legalization is coming everywhere. The issues are how to fairly tax it, and making sure healthcare pays for it just like any other medication.

    Sabet is a criminal and should be pooped on by birds. Keep up the good fight NORML!

  9. Thanks so much Paul for your sensible comments and advocacy.

    As usual the comments here have additional data and arguments, much appreciated.

    We are winning, friends.

  10. You know, give me the black market over a system regulated with “information” provided by hacks like Sabet. He fails to mention NORML when listing the big pro-legalization groups. But we are the oldest group, and the only one standing on the principle of liberty for the common person. Mention these other groups to the police – they have never heard of them. But mention NORML, and the guns come out.

  11. Crap! They’re still not allowing Washington state home grow! That really sucks. Pennsylvania doesn’t allow home growing for medical marijuana. No home growing in a state with legal recreational? Yeah, I’ll bet nobody’s paying any attention to that. You’re just wasting time not allowing personal cultivation. Prohibition has lost. Marijuana has been here for decades, and it is NEVER going away. Legalize!

  12. “…people who use pot will eventually graduate to harder, more dangerous substances. ”

    lol, Yep, smokin cannabis has led me to dangerous substances like distilled water, protein shakes, green tea, vegetables and fresh, healthy foods.

    1. Or growing a self-medicating herb garden… So much for the monoculture of patented molecules that tear away at the fabric of human coexistence with our living planet…

  13. typical of right-wing politicians that favor ideology over science, Sabet repeatedly mistakes correlation for cause. His logic that “99 percent of heroine addicts used marijuana” falsely attributes marijuana to being the cause of the graduation to heroine. I’ve worked with plenty of adults in the past few years during this nationwide pharmaceutical-induced heroine epidemic that had never used pot. They came of age in the 80’s where smoking pot was looked down upon by most young adults and so had been against drug use altogether.

    A typical story is that of a 40/50-something married degreed professional who has an injury, and gets prescribed Percocet or OxyContin or other opioids. Over time, they get addicted because they find the drug not only alleviates the pain but alleviates an underlying emotional problem like depression or anxiety. This is often subtle so not easily noticed until after plenty of time for physiological addiction to set in, which does not take long. Or over time, they simply find that, despite the injury being healed, they now start having physical withdrawal symptoms if they go too long without it. An addict will tell you they’ll do anything to avoid the agony of withdrawal, and addiction hijacks the brain and eclipses judgment, logic, ability to reflect. And there you have hard drug addiction on an epidemic level, having NOTHING to do with marijuana use and EVERYTHING to do with our government subsidized pharmaceutical companies.

    1. Quite true. The biggest studies that have come out that people like Sabet are desperate to debate as “arbitrary” are the NHSA study that proved marijuana impairment could not be detected or determined to increase traffick fatalities when isolated from pills and alcohol…
      And the Journal of the American Medical Association which shows a %25 reduction in opiate addiction in states that have legalized medical marijuana. These are the studies that make Big Pharma, crooked cops and Sabet $#!+ their pants.

  14. Paul, a debate sans the endocannabinoid system seems incomplete. I’d be curious to know your thoughts on this, and why you didn’t present any material or links on the ECS in your debate with Kevin Sabet.

    Sabet’s career is based on NOT acknowledging the ECS and I was hoping you’d school him.

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