Broad Coalition of Health Organizations Urges Democratic National Committee to Reject Marijuana Legalization

For Immediate Release
July 6, 2016
Contact: Jeffrey Zinsmeister
(703) 665-1410

Broad Coalition of Health Organizations Urges Democratic National Committee to Reject Marijuana Legalization

(Alexandria, VA) – A broad coalition of organizations working to prevent and treat substance abuse sent a letter today to the Democratic National Committee (DNC) ahead of their decision on their party platform, including marijuana policy. These groups, which include Faces and Voices of Recovery (FAVOR), the National Alliance of Alcohol and Drug Counselors (NAADAC), Treatment Alternatives for Safer Communities (TASC) , and Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) specifically urge the DNC “not to view legalization and commercialization of marijuana as a solution” to any current issues related to marijuana policy. The letter was also signed by Patrick Kennedy, Honorary Chair of SAM, who once chaired the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

“The DNC should resist any calls to legalize drugs,” said Kevin Sabet, a former advisor to the Obama Administration and current President of SAM, a bipartisan organization dedicated to implementing science-based marijuana-policies. “The legalization of marijuana is about one thing: the creation of the next Big Tobacco. Marketers cleverly package pot candies to make them attractive to kids, and pot shops do nothing to improve neighborhoods and communities. Moreover, there are other, more effective ways to address questions of racial justice and incarceration. So does the DNC want to be known for fostering the next tobacco industry, or will it stand with the scientific community, parents, and public health?”
Indeed, the letter also details how legalization has resulted in huge spikes in arrests of Colorado youth from communities of color-up 29 percent among Hispanics from 2012 (pre-legalization) to 2014 (post-legalization), and up 58 percent among Black youth in the same timeframe-while arrests of White children fell. Additionally, there has been a doubling of the percentage of marijuana-related traffic fatalities in Washington in just one year after legalization (2013 to 2014). Emergency poison control calls related to marijuana from 2013 to 2014 in both Colorado and Washington rose, by 72 percent and 56 percent, respectively, and there has been a 15 percent average annual increase in drug and narcotics crime in Denver since 2014, when retail sales of marijuana began.

“The pot lobby has successfully fought off Colorado’s attempts to regulate advertising targeting children, rules restricting the use of pesticides, and rules to limit marijuana potency. This same lobby is now exporting these tactics to other states in November,” said Jeffrey Zinsmeister, Executive Vice President of SAM. “This assault on health and safety regulations is no less than a repeat of Big Tobacco’s tactics from the 1960s and 1970s. Our broad coalition urges the DNC to resist these calls.”

For more information about marijuana policy, please visit

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Misrepresenting Colorado Marijuana

Misrepresenting Colorado Marijuana
David W. Murray
There is no Colorado “survey;” and no capacity to “represent” Colorado youth.
• The sample represents no more than the kids who participated.
• Media reported youth use “flat,” but steep increases were nonetheless widespread.
• Colorado youth marijuana use cannot be “below the national average.” They have the highest rate of marijuana use in the nation.
• The survey response rate, only 46 percent, was inadequate; crucially, below the threshold set by the Centers for Disease Control.
• The only “lesson” about legalization is a warning sign.

What is wrong with the marijuana legalization debate, and who is responsible for its sorry state? No better example of misdirection can be offered than the results of a recent Colorado poll. Because of the public health stakes for the nation’s youth, getting this right is essential.
The 2015 version of the Healthy Kids Colorado (HKCS) school survey, which polled both middle school and high school students, garnered a tremendous amount of news. Since it is the first state level estimate to be taken after marijuana legalization (accelerated with retail sales in January 2014), there was reporting concerning possible impact, compared to the previous HKCS taken in 2013.
While not without flaws, the study is an interesting snap-shot of youth health concerns, and legitimately alerts us to some genuine problem areas for marijuana use. But the media reporting was appalling, and theHKCS did little to prevent misunderstanding.
Media Advocacy
Uniformly, media described good news for marijuana legalization advocates. Most coverage (in the Washington Post, Denver Post, Fox News) reported that, compared to two years prior, marijuana use was “flat,” because not “statistically significant.”
Yet even a flat outcome is surprising, not least because other national surveys in Colorado have disclosed alarming increases in use for adults and young adults, rates rising in ten years some 99 percent (7.5 percent to 14.93 percent).
Moreover, in the regional breakdown there were major increases since 2013 in past month use for some students who were juniors and seniors, the increase in some regional breakdowns rising between 50 and 90 percent.
But the survey combined those results with younger grades to produce an overall mean (an ill-advised methodology without weightings), so officials were reported to declare no statistically significant change in marijuana prevalence.
Predictably, the results were treated as a report card on legalization, and media seized on the purported lesson — no rising rates, hence, no worries.
There was even more confusion (or worse) by some media. Both Timemagazine and the Scientific American ran articles claiming that the survey had indeed found change, after all. But remarkably, they reported that the new results showed marijuana use had “dipped” from 2013. Of course, in the absence of significance, this claim would be simply wrong. If the non-significant outcome cannot be up, it certainly cannot be down.
There is worse in store. Media thought that calling the changes “not significant” meant that changes were not sufficiently large. But as we shall see, what happened is that the survey did not, methodologically, produce an outcome capable of being statistically significant, as a true weighted probability survey would be. That is a very different matter.
What they seem to have produced is a (partial) census of students, for whom marijuana is variously steeply up or on occasion down, depending on grade and geography. But this survey does not fulfill the necessary criteria for a probability sample.
What National Average?
A further question is, to what are the results being compared? Both theHKCS report itself, and the media, compared the outcome of HKCS 2015 not only to HKCS 2013, but to what they termed the “national average” of youth marijuana use.
According to the reports, 21.2% of Colorado teens were past month marijuana users in 2015. The “national rate” of pot use by youth was reported as higher, at 21.7%.
What is the possible source for deriving that “national average”? There is one genuinely national sample of youth drug use, that from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) that covers all states. But this cannot be the basis for the claim. In their latest 2014 estimates, NSDUHreported that 7.2 percent of adolescents aged 12 to 17 across the nation used marijuana in the past month – that figure, not 21.7 percent, would be the youth “national average.”
Moreover, the NSDUH specifically declared that Colorado had the nation’s highest rates. Adolescent marijuana use ranged from 4.98 percent in Alabama to 12.56 percent in Colorado.
Worse, the NSDUH showed for youth that from 2009, when medical marijuana took off in Colorado, there has been a stunning rise of 27 percent through 2014 (from 9.91 percent to 12.56 percent). So Colorado youth use rates in the NSDUH are not only higher than the national average, but, after freer access to marijuana, have been steeply climbing.
There is also Monitoring the Future (MTF), a school survey (8th, 10th, an 12th grades) produced by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. In 2014 MTF showed 21.2 percent of students reporting past month marijuana use. But that rate applied only to seniors in their survey, while the HKCS results were supposed to represent all grades. (Rates for 8th graders in the MTF stood at only 6.5 percent.)
Apparently worried about such data contradictions, the Washington Postsought to mitigate concern by pointing out that the HKCS had a very large in-state sample, of 17,000 kids. Says the Post, “That much larger sample could produce a more accurate estimate than the smaller numbers in the federal drug survey.”
But the Post‘s maneuver only magnifies the problems. HKCS is modeled on the Youth Risk Behavioral Survey (YRBS) conducted every two years by the Centers for Disease Control, and the YRBS (which covers most but not every state), also has a sample that estimates a national average.
Critically, however, the YRBS has nowhere near 17,000 youth in each state as their national sample. Their national estimate is based on a total 13,600 responses, for the entire nation; that would average just a few hundred kids per state if evenly distributed. Moreover, the YRBSsurveys youth in 9th through 12th grade. Hence, the YRBS is not really comparable to what happened in Colorado.
for complete article go to Misrepresenting Colorado Marijuana

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World Drug Day 2016

This #WorldDrugDay, 26 June, let’s all ensure that we #ListenFirst and help children and youth grow healthy and safe. Find out more about evidence-based prevention at

Did you know that the earlier children start to experiment with drugs, the more likely they are to develop drug dependence later in life?
With 26 June marking #WorldDrugDay, let’s all #ListenFirst to take the first step in helping children and youth grow happy and resilient. Learn more at:

For every amount we spend today on evidence-based drug prevention programmes, we can save up to 30 times as much in future health and social care cost?
On #WorldDrugDay 2016, #ListenFirst and support evidence-based prevention! Learn more at:

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Do we really want Portugal’s drug laws?

Do we really want Portugal’s drug laws?
Ross Clark

‘The war on drugs has failed,’ asserted Shirley Cramer, chief executive of the Royal Society for Public health in the latest propaganda coup for the pro-drug lobby. Her society, along with the Faculty of Public Health, have parroted the familiar call among metropolitan liberals for drugs to be decriminalised. Their argument is that we should drop our punitive approach to drugs and be more like Portugal, which decriminalised drugs in 2001 and now, it claims, has fewer deaths from drug use that.

There are a couple of problems with this. Firstly, drug decriminalisation in Portugal is only a success if you cherry-pick your statistics carefully. If you want to make the opposite argument you can pick a few which work in the other direction – such as pointing out that there has been 40 per cent increase in homicides related to drugs, and that HIV infection related to intravenous drug use were by 2005 the third highest in Europe.

Get hooked on opiates, and the British state will even fix you up with methadone for free. There are now 140,000 state-sponsored methadone users, each of them costing taxpayers £3,000 a year. Is that really a ‘punitive’ policy?

For complete article go to Do we really want Portugal\'s Drug Laws?

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Colorado Youth Marijuana Use on the Rise Since Legalization

For Immediate Release
June 20, 2016
Contact: Sabrina E. Williams
(703) 828-5793

New Data Shows Colorado Youth Marijuana Use on the Rise Since Legalization

(Alexandria, VA) - A new state-funded report out of Colorado today found that marijuana use among high school students is on the rise in Colorado since legalization, while youth cigarette use has declined.  This rise is a result of particularly pronounced increases among juniors and seniors, whose last-month pot use rose from 22.1 to 26.3 percent (juniors) and from 24.3 to 27.8 percent (seniors).
The Healthy Kids Colorado Survey (HKCS)  found that though marijuana use rose among high school students, cigarette use fell. Since 2013, monthly cigarette consumption among that demographic fell just over two percentage points, from 10.7 to 8.6 percent, while monthly pot use rose almost as many percentage points in the same timeframe — from 19.7 to 21.2 percent — reversing a four-year decline that ended after Colorado legalized the drug in late 2012.
While the HKCS also found Colorado high school youth rates were on par with national rates from the CDC’s Youth Risk Behavioral Study (YRBS), a more comprehensive National Survey on Drug Use and Health shows that Colorado ranks first in the nation for marijuana use by 12-17 year-olds, well above the national average:
“A powerful marijuana industry lobby has emerged that sued Colorado to stop restrictions on advertising to protect children, and is now pushing back against municipal regulations to keep pot stores away from schools and day care facilities in other states,”   said Kevin Sabet, president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM). “Now that Colorado has legalized and widely commercialized marijuana, unfortunately their children use marijuana more than children in any other state.”
Jo McGuire, co-chair of SAM’s Colorado affiliate and president & CEO of 5 Minutes of Courage, a Colorado advocacy group for drug-free communities, workplaces, and youth, also commented, “It’s not surprising that youth use has increased in our state since legalization.  We have made pot use more socially acceptable for kids without setting up any serious, organized educational campaign on the harms of getting high.  This will really hurt our state in the long run.”
For more information about marijuana policy, please visit
About SAM
Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) is a nonpartisan, non-profit alliance of physicians, policy makers, prevention workers, treatment and recovery professionals, scientists, and other concerned citizens who oppose marijuana legalization and want health and scientific evidence to guide marijuana policies. Learn more at


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Cannabis and Neuropsychiatry: Benefits and Risks

  • Relative to placebo, cannabinoids are associated with only modest benefits for chemotherapy-related nausea and vomiting, small and inconsistent benefits for pain and spasticity, and inconclusive benefits for other indications.
  • In randomized controlled trials, cannabinoids increase the risk of total adverse events, serious adverse events, and dropout due to adverse events. Cannabinoids also increase the risk of a large number of specific adverse events.
  • Cannabis use is associated with a range of short- and long-term adverse consequences, including impaired cognition, traffic accidents, dependence, respiratory conditions, psychosis, and possibly cancer. Use in adolescence may have adverse implications for psychosocial adjustment and vocational success.
  • Current strains of street cannabis may have higher potency and may hence carry higher risks than strains evaluated in former research.

Cannabis and Neuropsychiatry, Benefits and Risks

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Monday23 May 2016


Scientists from The University of Western Australia have identified how using cannabis can alter a person’s DNA structure, causing mutations which can expose them to serious illnesses, and be passed on to their children and several future generations.

Although the association between cannabis use and severe illnesses such as cancer has previously been documented, providing an understanding how this occurs and implications for future generations was not previously understood.

Associate Professor Stuart Reece and Professor Gary Hulse from UWA’s School of Psychiatry and Clinical Sciences completed an extensive analysis of literary and research material to understand the likely causal mechanisms and uncovered alarming information.

Associate Professor Reece said that “through our research we found that cancers and illnesses were likely caused by cell mutations resulting from cannabis properties having a chemical interaction with a person’s DNA,”. “With cannabis use increasing globally in recent years, this has a concerning impact for the population.”

Although a person may appear to be healthy and lead a normal life, the unseen damage to their DNA could also be passed on to their children and cause illnesses for several generations to come.

“Even if a mother has never used cannabis in her life, the mutations passed on by a father’s sperm can cause serious and fatal illnesses in their children,” he said..

“The parents may not realise that they are carrying these mutations, which can lie dormant and may only affect generations down the track, which is the most alarming aspect.”

Associate Professor Reece said that when the chemicals in cannabis changed a person’s DNA structure it could lead to slow cell growth and have serious implications in the foetal development of babies that may cause limbs or vital organs not develop properly or cause cancers.

“The worst cancers are reported in the first few years of life in children exposed in utero to cannabis effects,” he said.

Associate Professor Stuart Reece said that the finding was of major importance with cannabis use increasing in many nations around the world, and many countries legalising its use.

“Some people may say that previous data collected doesn’t show there are serious effects from using cannabis, but many authorities acknowledge that there is now a much larger consumption of cannabis use compared to previous years.

The study carries implications for researchers, medical health professionals and governments in regulating drug use and protecting vulnerable populations.

The research has been published in Mutation Research – Fundamental and Molecular Mechanisms of Mutagenesis


David Stacey (UWA Media and Public Relations Manager)                    (+61 8) 6488 3229 / (+61 4) 32 637 716

Associate Professor Dr Stuart Reece (UWA’s School of Psychiatry and Clinical Services)         (+61 7) 3844 4000

Further Commentary by Papers Authors

Whilst drug addiction is well known to be commonly associated with mysterious and confusing behaviour the features observed amongst addicted patients clinically have long posed many mysteries for their treating doctors.  With regard to cannabis some of these mysteries include the following important questions:  How can cannabis use be associated with cancers in so many different tissues – mouth and throat, lung, testes, leukaemia, cervix, brain and prostate?   Why are they so aggressive?  And why do they occur so much younger?  Why are some cancers apparently inherited so that they occur much more commonly in young children (< five years) and infants (< one year) ?  This relates to cancers of nerve cells, leukaemia and muscle.  Cancer occurring in children is due to inherited genetic damage – so how is it be passed on to the next generation?  How many generations would be affected?

The reproductive effects of cannabis were also very confusing.  Many papers have described that the rates of major heart malformations (of at least five different types), large gaping holes at the top and bottom of the spinal cord (called by doctors encephalocoele and spina bifida respectively), absent and shrunken ears and eyes, major bowel abnormalities including babies born with the bowels hanging out, could all occur at greatly increased rates, from 3 to 30 times usual, in the offspring of cannabis exposed mothers?  And what of the various limb deformities which have been described – fingers joined together, extra fingers, and greatly shrunken arms or absent arms, which seemed to be reminiscent of thalidomide babies?  How could all of these possibly be related?

Whilst it is true that cannabis smoke contains most of the tars which have been found in tobacco smoke, and whilst carcinogenic effects have previously been described with certain cannabis extracts (called cannabinoids) when tested in the lab, still this diverse and varied toxicological profile appeared to be very confusing.  What could possibly be going wrong to cause the varied effects in many different tissues?    It seemed like an enigma wrapped in a puzzle inside a mystery….

Then in 2015 one of the foremost genetics laboratories in the world published their findings from New York relating to how and why chromosomal shattering occurred.  Through careful studies of gene sequences scientists had become aware in the last few years that chromosomes, which carry the genetic material of our DNA, could become cut up, and might then become re-joined in apparently strange and haphazard ways.  But how this occurred was quite unclear.

It was known at the time that when cells divide the chromosomes separate along “train tracks” by travelling along “rails” formed of microtubules.  Anything that causes the chromosomes to lose their attachments to these microtubules would make them become “de-railed”, and effectively escape from the normal mitotic process.  When cells divide two new nuclei are formed.  But a chromosome which became detached from this system would end up isolated in a nucleus all by itself.  This tiny nucleus containing one or a few chromosomes was called a micronucleus.  The great insight by the New Yorkers was to show that in these micronuclei, the DNA did not have enough enzymes and proteins around it to look after it properly.  So when the DNA was cut, as happens normally when DNA is copied to form either new DNA or to transcribe RNA and then proteins, it could not be handled properly, and it was effectively shattered into pieces.  These tiny pieces could then be re-joined haphazardly effectively creating genetic chaos.

This was the molecular equivalent of a “bomb going off” in the genome.

Mostly micronucleus formation caused cell death due to excessive genomic damage.  But it was also known that in occasional surviving cells this process could lead to major abnormalities in newborn babies, to cancer, and indeed to heritable cancers in several subsequent generations.

Cannabis, THC and some of its other extracts were known to interfere with the operation of the microtubule “train tracks”, to cause micronucleus formation, and to damage eggs and sperm, the careful and meticulous wrapping and packaging of DNA inside sperm, the proteins around which DNA is wrapped inside the nucleus, and the “software” code which genes carry which determines when they will be switched on and off – called the epigenetic code.

Worryingly, many of the genetic tests showed a threshold effect which had to be crossed for these effects to become obvious.

Suddenly a train of causation became obvious.  By interfering with cell growth in utero abnormalities would be appear in organs growing at that time.  Cancer formation was now expected.  Moreover as cannabis consumption rises these effects will become increasingly common.

Hence these findings, which now imply causality, have major implications for doctors, pharmaceutical companies, and the public health burden of disease globally.  They are of particular concern to parents.


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University of WA scientists found cannabis alters a person’s DNA structure

Cancer risk to kids from cannabis use: University of Western Australia found that cannabis alters a person’s DNA, potentially exposing future generations to serious illnesses such as cancer. “In my 20 years of research on human cells, I have never found any other drug, including heroin, which comes close to the DNA damage caused by marijuana” – Dr Akira Miroshima.

WA researchers have warned that cannabis use causes genetic mutations that can be passed on to children and grandchildren.

Chromothripsis and epigenomics complete causality criteria for cannabis- and addiction-connected carcinogenicity, congenital toxicity and heritable genotoxicity

University of WA scientists found cannabis alters a person’s DNA structure, potentially exposing future generations to serious illnesses and diseases such as cancer. They said the implications for future generations had not been understood and were alarming.


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More Colorado Youth Arrested AFTER Legalisation of Weed!

More Black and Hispanic youth arrested for marijuana after Colorado legalization

Pot-related arrests of Black youth jump 58%; arrests of Hispanic kids rise 29%

May 20, 2016
Contact: Jeffrey Zinsmeister
+1 (415) 680-3993

[WASHINGTON, DC] – A recent report from the Colorado Department of Public Safety reveals that marijuana-related arrests of Black and Hispanic youth increased sharply in the two years following legalization, belying claims by legalization advocates that such policies would promote racial justice.

Overall arrests of minors for marijuana jumped 5 percent from 2012 to 2014. Unfortunately, youth of color shouldered the entire burden of this increase.
While arrests of underage Whites dropped 8 percent in this timeframe, arrests of Hispanics rose 29 percent, and arrests of Black youth shot up 58 percent.

“The data is in, and it shows that once again legalization advocates are only paying lip service to racial justice questions to advance the agenda of the marijuana industry,” said Dr. Kevin Sabet, President of SAM. “They sold legalization to the voters as a solution to racial injustice, but more youth of color are now being arrested for pot, not fewer.”

Jo McGuire, co-chair of SAM’s Colorado affiliate and president & CEO of 5 Minutes of Courage, a Colorado advocacy group for drug-free communities, workplaces, and youth, said, “It’s time for Colorado leadership to recognize that the promise of tax revenue is not worth the cost to our most vulnerable communities. Our top priority should be public health and safety, not addiction for profit.”

William Jones III, leader of Two Is Enough – DC, a movement of diverse Washington, DC, residents concerned about the scourge of a third legal recreational drug, added, “This information comes just months after a Denver Post exposé revealing how pot businesses have concentrated themselves in low-income communities of color. At the end of the day, the pot industry just wants to make money. And if the history of the tobacco industry teaches us anything, they will focus on the disadvantaged and underprivileged to boost their bottom line.”

For more information about marijuana policy, please visit


About SAM
Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) is a nonpartisan, non-profit alliance of physicians, policy makers, prevention workers, treatment and recovery professionals, scientists, and other concerned citizens opposed to marijuana legalization who want health and scientific evidence to guide marijuana policies. SAM has affiliates in 31 states.

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