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Sabet slays science with propagandists’ sabre

cross posted at mLaw

In an opinion piece posted recently on the CNN International news website, a former White House Drug Policy Advisor named Kevin Sabet denounced the nascent but growing movement to end the prohibition of cannabis in the US in a 763 word ‘comment’ that does not include a single statistic about the subject substance : Cannabis. That the writer spends 377 words of the piece presenting alarming statistics about the horrible and horribly addicting drugs heroin, cocaine and tobacco should cause readers to question the motivations of this law enforcement scientist and his use of the misrepresentational mechanism of false equivalency and scare tactics may lead readers to question the honesty of CNN International for presenting this piece of propaganda (even couched as it is as opinion) to its readers.
While reading Sabet’s piece we grew more and more furious with every paragraph and with each incidence of an intellectually dishonest apple to oranges example that Sabet presents, we were moved to find out more about this lying flack for the disgusting alliance who seek the continuation of the harmful ‘war on drugs’ that we all know is addicted to cannabis prohibition; drug criminals, militarized law enforcement, pharmaceutical companies and private prison builders. As readers of mLaw are aware, we have zero tolerance for vested players who lie and frighten uninformed or ill-informed citizens to support their goal of perpetuating the insane, discriminatory, harmful, anti-science prohibition of cannabis through lies, distortions and reiterations of discredited scientific studies as well as other more disturbing forms of propaganda including those that rely upon promoting stereotypes and bigotry.

It turns out that this scientist (and Sabet is indeed a scientist – well, he’s not a medical professional, but rather holds a doctorate in the field of “social policy”) was actually an unabashed drug warrior from the wee age of 15, when he stood up to the Orange County school board who chose not to accept federal matching funds for an after school anti-drug program. That action brought Sabet at that young age to national prominence amongst drug warriors, which eventually led to the youth (and when I say youth- I’m talking about a teenager) to work with the National Institute of Drug Abuse in its public relations department. We wonder why Bill Clinton’s (dry doper) NIDA would hire a 19 year old, not yet graduated from college, non-scientist to work on public relations projects?

This serial prohibitionist’s past history of being utilized by the propaganda spreading federal boosters of the notion that criminal enforcement action is the only effective response to drug use in the US includes Sabet’s work for all of the ‘dry doper’ presidents who have occupied the White House over the past 20 years, all of whom (embarrassed or ashamed of their own cannabis use and how it threatened their narcissistic march to be ‘the most powerful man on the planet’) have been proud, swamp-science supporting, let patients live in pain, swarthy American jailing drug war enthusiasts – countering compassion, reason and scientific study with their aggressive pro-prohibition actions.

Throughout the past 20 years, the same time that Sabet has been a paid functionary in the ‘war on drugs’, the medical establishment and popular consciousness have made a dramatic shifts in their perceptions of the natural and curative substance cannabis. While at the same time, federal and state prosecutors have arrested hundreds of thousands of American citizens for cannabis related crimes every year (over 700,000 last year alone), the largest percentage of these arrests being for simple possession of cannabis for personal use.

An awareness of how this anti-drug ex-teenage-zealot has been used for his entire post-adolescent life by propagandists to uphold the drug war and proselytize dross of the type that fills the easily debunked CNN piece can inform us of the tactics used by those who conspire to continue cannabis prohibition. It is also instructive to observe the statements of propagandists like Sabet to identify some of their most often employed tactics. The pro-prohibitionists in DC, including the choomer in chief Barack Obama, know full well that cannabis is curative and minimally harmlful, and they also know they need the support of both soccer-moms and hippy busting cops; and therefore, they must lie. And, when the goal is to counter good sense, compassion, known science and objective reality as it is perceived by the tens of millions of adult Americans based upon their own experiences, propagandists must make appeals to unreasoned fear.

Sabet says legalization of cannabis will increase addiction. But, as a scientist I am sure he must be aware that that statement is not supported by science. A review of the science by the Institute of Medicine reveals;

“Because it is an illegal substance, some people consider any use of marijuana as substance abuse. However, this report uses the medical definition; that is, substance abuse is a maladaptive pattern of repeated substance use manifested by recurrent and significant adverse consequences. Substance abuse and dependence are both diagnoses of pathological substance use. Dependence is the more serious diagnosis and implies compulsive drug use that is difficult to stop despite significant substance related problems,

and further;

In summary, although few marijuana users develop dependence, some do. But they appear to be less likely to do so than users of other drugs (including alcohol and nicotine), and marijuana dependence appears to be less severe than dependence on other drugs.”

We can see here one of the propagandists’ tricks; taking care to use the frightening term ‘addiction’ in an article about cannabis as if the addictive properties of all substances is the same or produces the same behaviors when science itself carefully distinguishes between levels of dependence and addiction between different substances, including legal drugs, is misleading at best and misrepresentional on its face.

Another intentional wrong turn made by Sabet that reveals his real purpose is contained in the following passage:

“According to internal documents that the government forced Big Tobacco to release during its historic court settlement, those companies are ready to pounce on the golden opportunity of drug legalization.

It is no wonder that the parent company of Phillip Morris, Altria, recently bought the domain names “” and “”. If this sounds frightening, it should be.”

We can see here that Sabet considers accepting the small-d democracy movement to end cannabis prohibition (you know, one of the constitutional process by which we make law in our great land) to be allowing a “golden opportunity” for the death dealing tobacco industry that is all “frightening” as “it should be.” (More false equivalency and more scare tactics). And perhaps unwittingly, as he just ain’t that good a propagandist, Sabet reveals the master tactic of all liars – scare the shit out of the intended audience. The science shows that tobacco is both more harmful and more addictive than cannabis.

Tobacco causes 440,000 deaths each year according to the Centers for Disease Control. The CDC stated in 2010 that there were no deaths attributable to cannabis in the United States, following a 237 year trend.

In 2006, Robert Gable reported in Scientific American Magazine;

“Of the people who sample a particular substance, what portion will become physiologically or psychologically dependent on the drug for some period of time? Heroin and methamphetamine are the most addictive by this measure. Cocaine, pentobarbital (a fast-acting sedative), nicotine and alcohol are next, followed by marijuana and possibly caffeine. Some hallucinogens—notably LSD, mescaline and psilocybin—have little or no potential for creating dependence.”

And way back in 1994, about the time Sabet was getting into the pro-prohibition racket, Dr. Jack Henningfield, chief of clinical pharmacology at the Addiction Research Center of the Government’s National Institute on Drug Abuse found that tobacco has the same addictive qualities as heroin.

Sabet goes on through the rest of the article spinning off of the false equivalencies and frightening scenarios he sets up by talking about the great efforts that we have made over the past decade in our financial support of the Columbian Military that has reduced the amount of cocaine that enters the US (off point) and Sabet veers off to mention the frightening scourge of pharmaceutical medication addiction (false equivalency, scare tactic) concluding that “legality means commercialization, normalization and wider access”.

For Sabet, the only solution to the mythical problem he has identified by dishonestly conflating the effects of vastly different drugs is; drug courts, offender re-entry and probation reform, indicating quite clearly that he can only view American cannabis users the way he has been trained by the pro-prohibition establishment: as criminals. We wonder if Sabet has considered what the results of this way of thinking would have been if it had been applied to the young heavy cannabis using Barack Obama (dry doper), the latest boss who appointed Sabet to his most recent propaganda spewing position in the federal government. By the way, the Obama ‘pivot’ on drug policy is predicated upon the same conflation, exaggeration and misrepresentation that Sabet trades in, but it is official US policy.

Sabet closes by saying that cannabis legalization will “sweep the causes of drug use under the rug (untested hypothetical conveyed as a known outcome, scare tactic), it would open the flood gates to more addiction, suffering and costs than we could ever bargain for (false equivalency, scare tactic, unsupported hypothetical).

A very interesting thing about the propagandist Sabet’s conclusion is that we here at mLaw want to end prohibition and put an end to the lives lost and ruined by its lies, bigotry, violence, fakery and anti-science biases so that cannabis use can be understood and normalized (countering 80 years of propaganda and bigotry) and commercialized (ending the current requirement that American cannabis users must associate with criminals and themselves be criminals) and so that Americans can enjoy wider access to this useful substance without fear of prosecution or stigmatization by misrepresenting self-justifying self-appointed cultural custodian hucksters like Sabet.

Sabet, as a well trained and well compensated mouthpiece for the prohibitionists knows very well that the only hope to extend the drug war that enriches both drug kingpins and university social scientists is to lie, lie big and lie long because they know well, as the moral philosopher Mohandas Gandhi once said, “the truth never damages a just cause.”

Photo from Wheel Cosmic licensed under Creative Commons

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