Former ONDCP adviser Kevin Sabet is at it again.
I've warned readers before about the "kinder gentler drug war" ideas that Sabet has been peddling. Now with much fanfare and the bipartisan additions of conservative David Frum and liberal Patrick Kennedy, Sabet has launched Project SAM, known as "Smart Approaches to Marijuana."
This is Sabet's latest attempt to paint criticism of the war on drugs, which is gaining traction with the voters, as a "false choice" between "lock 'em up" and "legalize it." It is his Goldilocks-and-the-Three-Bears triangulation of the war on drugs as "too hard," the legalization of marijuana as "too soft," and the emphasis on treatment and prevention as "just right."
It is, as Ethan Nadelmann of Drug Policy Alliance remarked, "a strategic retreat" in order to maintain the prohibition of marijuana. The racial arrest disparities, the denial of medicine to the truly ill, and the devastating consequences of a marijuana possession arrest are battles that he cannot win any more, so he cedes that territory, calling for an end to "stop and frisk," restoration of civil rights for those who served marijuana sentences, and emergency approval of non-smoked marijuana medicines for the truly ill.
But Sabet's SAM never addresses the root cause that leads to all of the devastating consequences in the first place: the arrest of a marijuana smoker for possession or use. Indeed, in SAM's world, pot smokers would still be arrested, but the "kinder gentler drug war" would mandate rehab and supervised probation for those caught with weed. If you should choose not to go to rehab or you fail a pee test, well, then, the force of law still exists to throw you in a cage.
Sabet's only doing it for our own good, of course. SBIRT Colorado tweeted about Sabet's remarks at the launch of SAM as "looking at #marijuana use as a health issue = prevention. Not waiting til individuals need treatment." It's rehab for people who don't need rehab... yet! Might as well call it "prehab." (Can you imagine how full Alcoholics Anonymous meetings would be if the smell of beer on your breath was enough to get a search warrant, and if any beer is found, sentence you to rehab and AA?)
Even more ignored is the process by which simple marijuana possession occurs, namely cultivation, harvest, distribution, and sale of marijuana, all of which would remain misdemeanors or felonies in SAM's world, allowing violent cartels and criminals to continue to make a fortune and requiring continued expenditure and raids and potential law enforcement violence.
Indeed, there is a dichotomy at work in the war on drugs, but it is not a false one. The dichotomy is that either the force of the government should be used stop people from using marijuana, or it should not, absent no harm to others. Increasingly, the American people believe the latter.
I will continue to follow the progress of SAM, or as I like to call it, "SAM I Am" (Stealth Approaches for Marijuana-Incarcerating Americans), through a Twitter feed called @SmartApproaches and soon on the websites SmartApproaches.com, SmartApproaches2MJ.com, and SmartApproaches2Marijuana.com. For it seems that even after getting spoofed with VoteNoOnQuestion3.com, Sabet hasn't learned to snap up spoof Twitter accounts and web domains prior to launch.