International Cannabis Business Conference

Kevin Sabet: 'I'm Extremely Misunderstood'

To many in marijuana legalization circles, he’s the devil incarnate. Kevin Sabet begs to differ.

Poor Kevin Sabet, no one understands him. While the anti-marijuana zealot sayss marijuana is "10 to 30 times more potent than it was 30 years ago," he insists his current barnstorm of Oregon is not the "Reefer Madness tour."

Along with Patrick Kennedy, Sabet runs Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM). His visit to Oregon has been criticized for its timing (to oppose passage of Measure 91, which could legalize pot in the Beaver State in November) and possible use of federal funds to pay for expenses.

Asked by The Oregonian who's funding the three-day swing, which began Oct. 1, Sabet explained: "Various private sources, including law enforcement associations, medical associations, Rotary clubs and other private civic associations." He's scheduled to make stops today in Corvallis (8 am), Eugene (10 am), Roseburg (4 pm) and Grants Pass (7:30 pm),

Questioned about stirring up "modern-day Reefer Madness" and how his message is portrayed, Sabet told reporter Noelle Crombie:

'I think I am extremely misunderstood and also purposely mischaracterized. It would be a lot better for legalization advocates if I was a modern-day prohibitionist from the '20s, saying that everybody should go to prison if they smoke a joint and this is a gateway drug.

'That would make their lives easier. They could say, This guy is crazy. I didn’t say any of that. I go out of my way to say a couple things. One, I go out of my way to say most people who use marijuana won’t become addicted. Two, most people who use marijuana will not go on to use heroin. And three, that this is not the devil’s weed.

'But what I do talk about is what every single medical association talks about, which is the drug is more harmful than it used to be, that we underappreciate its harms because its harms aren’t as immediately apparent as other drugs, that we desperately need to understand the connection between mental illness and learning and if we are supposed to create a race to the top for education and a workforce that can compete on the global marketplace, we should think twice before allowing ourselves to be duped by another industry, just like the industry we are beginning to put in its place, which is tobacco.'

Sabet worked in the White House from 2009 to 2011 in the Office of National Drug Control Policy under then Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske. He's been called the "quarterback" of the new anti-drug movement.

Steve Bloom

Steve Bloom

Publisher of CelebStoner.com, editor-in-chief of Freedom Leaf, co-author of Pot Culture and Reefer Movie Madness, and the former editor of High Times.