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On April 9, 2015, Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) held its second annual marijuana education summit at The Westin Peachtree Plaza in Atlanta, GA, where hundreds of marijuana opponents gathered to raise awareness and discuss ways to inform the general public on the chicanery of the industry. As a part-time social media intern for SAM, I was granted an opportunity to join the exclusive conference and listen to some of the biggest names in the field explain the status of marijuana in the United States. We can assume thirty percent of Americans passionately fight for marijuana and thirty percent against, and this adamant sixty percent will never change their minds. We must approach the remaining forty percent of unbiased individuals who do not have a clear perspective on the wildly debated issue to alert them with science, instead of fraudulent ideology and marketing schemes, of the immense permanent mistake the country nears making.

SAM Summit

Some of the best in the field.

One intriguing point from the summit, unsurprisingly dismissed by the media, relates to the ubiquitous comparison of the dangers of marijuana to those of alcohol, tobacco, and other illicit drugs. I never argued against the assertion that alcohol and tobacco cause greater damage to adults with fully developed brains and society, though I always thought this notion to be irrelevant; defending a harmful substance because another can be more detrimental is no different from arguing one should break his or her nose because breaking legs hurts more. However, through this all-day meeting, I found the claim “marijuana is less harmful than other legal drugs” to be simply false. Proponents only “believe” this because a person cannot easily overdose on marijuana, while he or she can on alcohol or pharmaceutical drugs. (Bear in mind one cannot overdose on tobacco either, so this argument does not say much.) Nevertheless, as Stuart Gitlow of the Annenberg Physician Training Program in Addictive Diseases noted, if used as instructed rather than abused, alcohol can be beneficial to one’s health. On the contrary, any amount of marijuana impairs the body, whether or not used as recommended. Marijuana only becomes one of the safer drugs when compared in lethal doses to other substances.

Ben Cort of the Center for Addiction Recovery and Rehabilitation (CeDAR) based in Colorado shared his firsthand experience of the negative impact of the state’s legalizing both medical and recreational marijuana. I could sense his overwhelming emotions of desire to halt the immoral liars from ruining his children. Nobody can repudiate that the marijuana industry is replicating Big Tobacco in denying harms, targeting children and minorities, and making profits off addiction. Years ago, marijuana entrepreneurs flat-out stated their plan to market pot as medicine to give the drug a “good name” and become Big Tobacco 2.0, although supporters continue to reject these very words that came out of their side’s mouths; “We are trying to get marijuana reclassified medically. If we do that … for chemotherapy patients, we’ll be using the issue as a red herring to give marijuana a good name. That’s our way of getting to them indirectly, just like the paraphernalia laws are getting their way at getting to us,” shamelessly expressed Keith Stroup, founder of National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), in an interview with the Emory Wheel in 1979. This shows why schools need to emphasize the significance of and teach history. When citizens are unaware of their own history that occurred only in the last century, educated scammers take advantage, which clarifies how in the world America is verging on resurrecting an irreversible industry in tobacco that lied about the science of nicotine relating to lung cancer, dependence, and health benefits for almost a hundred years and took fifty years to be eradicated, only in an altered form.

SAM Summit (2)

Kevin Sabet, President of SAM.

Towards the end of the summit, the attendees divided into groups by regions and conversed about problems with the marijuana industry and how to prevent the States from adding another potentially fatal drug to the market. I made several cases: Only fifty-one percent of Americans, according to the Gallup Poll, support marijuana, and yet we can hardly spot a negative comment on the drug on social media anymore. Many Internet users thus believe most Americans are for marijuana and are indirectly dragged into the popular belief. We must find a way to shift this unjust momentum towards our side by being more vocal and commenting as frequently as possible, as proponents’ wave of uninformed comments overshadows science and facts. In what parallel universe do businessmen with no medical background know more about the science behind marijuana than scientists who specifically research the drug for decades? We also must clear up the difference between legalization and decriminalization. The first implies commercialize and sell in stores, and the second means reduction in penalties. Proponents strategically use the two terms synonymously so voters can think they are voting for the end of jail time (of the user who is not even incarcerated) when they are really voting for marijuana candies, chocolates, cookies, ice cream, sodas, and whatever else to which children may become attracted and addicted. Lastly, we need to provide a platform for recovering addicts to share their stories.

Kevin Sabet of SAM jokingly said, “We have Nora Volkow. They have Tommy Chong.” As funny as this sounds, I cannot come up with a more accurate statement. Adversaries have credible science institutions specializing in marijuana on their side, while advocates rely on unethical money-craving politicians and celebrities lying that regulating marijuana would eliminate the black market, empty prisons (notwithstanding that hardly anyone is imprisoned for simple possession or use of the drug), and fund for education and addiction. By the way, how are these promises working out in Colorado?

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