The legalization of marijuana can engender an image of the drug’s laid back disciples who will tend their little plots around daily smokes circles, while lamenting the loss of the counterculture. Then waiting to exhale just after 4:20 p.m. every day, plenty of time shall be left to bag their haul to a local retailer who’s eager to dispense peace and contentment, while both remember to stick it to the man for old time’s sake. That is just one of the marijuana myths author Kevin Sabet was trying to dispel for students, staff and law enforcement this Thursday at Fox Lane High School as the nation seems poised to enact a retail sale legalization of marijuana.
“We are in the midst of creating the tobacco industry 2.0,” said the author of Reefer Sanity: Seven Great Myths about Marijuana.
This has Wall Street and large corporations providing the financial resources to achieve their goals. “Right now in Ohio the ten richest people in the state are spending about $20 million to write a ballot initiative to control, supply and distribute marijuana,” said the former Senior Advisor for the Obama Administration at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.
Thus a Wall Street profit motive will mass produce the model that any seller of addictive substances use. “Ten percent of all alcohol users drink daily and contribute to 75% of the sales,” said Sabet. “Without them, you wouldn’t have an alcohol industry.”
The power of Madison Avenue marketing certainly won’t be left behind either. “One company has already paid the widow of Bob Marley $50 million to use his name and image on their product,” said Sabet.
But the best way to create the ideal addictive client is by drawing from the young, which has its basis clearly stamped in science. Whether it’s the high of seeing a good friend or the artificial enhancements many people succumb to, the pleasure center of the brain is activated and our memory will implore us to continually seek that out. With the brain undeveloped up to the age of 30, he says, “The natural process of growth suffers when drugs are introduced, and one sixth of the people who become addicted to marijuana first began smoking at any early age.”
The writing is already on the wall. “When you walk into a Colorado marijuana shop, it looks like a candy store,” he said. “They have gummy bear pot, colorfully flavored drinks and advertising that is specifically targeted at young people.”
Even so, corporate greed receives an ally in attitudes that are established in the older generation. Boomers and beyond reason that many more people don’t succumb to addiction and fond recollections of smoking pot in their youth creates a deadly disconnect. “We’ve become better farmers, and THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) levels are so much higher now,” said Sabet who is the Director of the Drug Policy Institute and Assistant Professor at the University of Florida College of Medicine, Division of Addiction Medicine.
He likens today’s marijuana to the souped-up versions of tobacco. “The tobacco industry took their product, restructured the DNA and added numerous addictive properties,” he said.
In turn, marijuana actually comes in a form where the product is 98% THC. Sabet displayed ads and billboards in legal states where dealers are giving the pure product away for free. Thus, the chances of becoming addicted are significantly increased, according to Sabet.
Another aspect borrowed from tobacco is the promise of medicinal properties, and the opportunity for mass approval. Acknowledging the real possibility of medical use for marijuana, Sabet still provided slides from the late 1800s where tobacco was hailed as an elixir for various ailments. “That led to wider acceptance,” he said, “and then greater use – even though the claims were baseless.”
So the Wall Street movement is trying to discard the image of the 30-year-old stoner living in his mom’s basement. “He’s not the guy the politicians want to stand up for,” said Sabet.
They’ve replaced him with the 85-year-old terminal cancer patient who is in dire need of pain medication. But while medical usage is not a ruse, it’s the application that he finds troubling. This has people going to the retailer rather than a doctor. “We need to harness the medical properties by putting it behind the counter,” he says.