THE BLOG
05/24/2013 02:03 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

# Project SAM's Kevin Sabet Claims 39% Washington Teens Use Dispensary Pot, Reality is 9.4%

You know Kevin Sabet, the head of Project SAM, the think-tank dedicated to maintaining arrests of marijuana users for the purpose of forcing them into rehab with urine tests backed by the threat of incarceration. Imagine my surprise when I get this tweet from @KevinSabet:

Wow!  Two out of five high school students statewide are getting their pot from dispensaries?  That's shocking!  So shocking I had to look it up for myself...

That's odd.  Instead of "39% of HS students in Washington state report getting their marijuana from a "medical" marijuana dispensary," it seems like within the past month, 1.4% of students in Seattle "usually" got their marijuana from a dispensary.  Gosh, Kevin wouldn't just try to turn 1.4% into 39% to scare us?  There must be some other data point to justify this 39% figure...

OK, now we've got a number showing that 14.9% of high school seniors in Seattle used some pot that came from a dispensary within the past month.  I imagine that if any kid has about a 1.5% chance of "usually" getting their pot from a dispensary and that kid may have a circle of ten pot smoking friends with the same chance, maybe that gets the figure to almost 15%.  But still, where does this 39% figure come from?  He didn't just add the percentages from 9th through 12th grade, did he?

3.8 + 8.5 + 12.0 + 14.9 = 39.2.  He did just add percentages.

If statistics isn't your strong suit, let me explain with a simple analogy.  You have a pie and you eat 25% of it.  Kevin has a pie and he eats 25% of it.  I have a pie and I eat 50% of it.  That doesn't mean 100% of all pies have been eaten (25% + 25% + 50%), it means 33% of all pies have been eaten (25% + 25% + 50% = 100% / 3 pies = 33%).

After being embarrassed by MPP's Dan Riffle over the obvious error, Sabet offered this tweet:

Ah, yes, when you're caught exaggerating a marijuana stat by a factor of over 400%, go back to the classic "they're faking it to get medical marijuana" canard.  But Kevin, I doubt these kids are actual medical recommendation holders.  They're getting that weed by diversion from someone who is a patient.  That's not a good thing, obviously, but is it a worse thing than the status quo?  What I see in that statistic is a reduction from 100% to 91.6% of teenagers using marijuana that came from an unsafe, untested vendor whose profits support an illegal black market.

He continues to dig...

Hmm, so as Washington State made legal the possession of 24 ounces of usable marijuana and 15 plants and quasi-legal dispensaries popped up all over Seattle, marijuana use remained steady.  In other words, high school seniors kept using marijuana at the same rate, but 17% of the market was shifted from completely illegal to quasi-legal.  I'm trying to find the scary part of this fact, but it eludes me.

And now, he's doubling down: I'm looking forward to it, Kevin. I'm a big fan of raw data.  I can't wait to see how a report that posits "Total: 9.4% with 7.5% - 11.6% range in a 95% confidence interval and N = 1,608" becomes 39% of those 1,608 students surveyed.