Continuing the review of Tony Dokoupil’s excellent NBC News piece, “Treatment or Jail: Patrick Kennedy Wages Fierce Anti-Pot Crusade,” we shift our focus away from Former Rep. Patrick Kennedy to the real brains behind the misnamed Smart Approaches to Marijuana, or Project SAM: Kevin Sabet.
I’ve been following Kevin Sabet since I debated him at the Baker Institute in March 2012. The glaring flaw in their “treatment or jail” approach to marijuana, aside from presuming any marijuana smoker caught by the police is an “addict” in need of forced rehab, is the lack of any policies to deal with the black market. Lately, Sabet has unveiled a new talking point to deal with that flaw: the black market just doesn’t matter.
“I think Madison Avenue has proven that it can get around more rules and be more ruthless than any Mexican drug cartel,” says Sabet, who explains that the black market is, “Better than having Joe Pot, heir to Joe Camel, on a bus-stop where I’m going to be hanging out with my kids before school.”
I’m almost speechless. Can any of you recall a single advertising agency in America that has ever tortured people with drills and bleach, beheaded them, and then dumped their heads and bodies on the freeway during morning rush hour? I know the guys on Mad Men make some hefty salaries, but I don’t ever recall Don Draper dunking rival ad execs in vats of acid, bribing police and government officials, and decorating his bachelor pad with gold-plated AK-47 rifles, M-60 machine guns, and a rare white tiger cage.
Ah, but those are just dead Mexicans, you see. As Dokoupil writes: “[Sabet and Kennedy] say [the black market in marijuana is] mostly nonviolent on the American side, and will create fewer public health problems than allowing advertisers to flog for Big Marijuana.”
Oh, so as long as we’re forced to import marijuana from Mexico, costing the lives of tens of thousands across the border and risking destabilization of an entire country; grow marijuana in closets and attics and basements, risking home invasions and imprisonment; sell marijuana at inflated prices that provide no benefit to the tax base, risking violent encounters with police and imprisonment; and use marijuana in private, risking tickets, fines, mandatory rehabs, pee tests and potentially imprisonment if we’re caught; that would all be better than a bus stop ad for a legal marijuana product sold in an adults-only store that checks ID.
And by the way, the last time anybody ever saw a bus stop ad for Joe Camel, President Clinton was defending himself from impeachment over a hummer and people hadn’t yet started worrying about the Y2K bug.