A group opposing marijuana legalization, called Project SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana), is launching Thursday, according to the Associated Press. Former U.S. Representative Patrick Kennedy, who has struggled with alcohol and drug addiction, chairs the organization.
Board members include former White House drug policy adviser Kevin Sabet and David Frum, a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush, the article notes. “Our country is about to go down the wrong road, in the opposite direction of sound mental health policy,” Kennedy told the AP. “It’s just shocking as a public health issue that we seem to be looking the other way as this legalization of marijuana becomes really glamorous.”
The group argues the country can tackle issues such as the racial disparities in arrest rates, and the lifelong stigma that can result from a marijuana conviction, without legalizing the drug. It hopes to raise money to oppose legalization efforts around the country, shape the new marijuana laws in Washington and Colorado, promote alternatives to jail time for marijuana users, and encourage scientific research on the effects of the drug.
Kennedy says low-level marijuana offenders should pay a fine instead of going to jail. He adds that if marijuana is more accessible, more people will experiment with it, including young people whose brains are still developing, and seem to be most susceptible to addiction. If a large marijuana industry is created, it could target teens in the same way tobacco companies have, Kennedy stated.