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Kevin Sabet Claims 39% Of Washington Students Used Dispensary Pot. Truth = 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 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 90.6% 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.


About Author

Executive Director: Russ Belville has been active in Oregon marijuana reform since 2005, when he was elected second-in-command of the state affiliate, Oregon NORML. After four years with Oregon NORML, Russ was hired by National NORML in 2009, working as Outreach Coordinator and hosting the NORML Daily Audio Stash podcast until 2012. Since then, Russ launched the 420RADIO marijuana legalization network and is the host of The Russ Belville Show, a live daily marijuana news talk radio program. Russ is also a prolific writer, with over 300 articles posted online and in print in HIGH TIMES, Huffington Post, Alternet, The Weed Blog, Marijuana Politics, and more.


  1. This is good news. I mean, it’s good news in the sense that Kevin was doing something else in the 7th grade besides math! This is like finding out the enemy general can’t read maps or thinks rifles are held the other way around.

    I’m very amused by this story within the context of the ever-vanishing stereotype of the dim-witted, burn-out stoner. Looks as though we might be in for a dramatic paradigm shift. This new reality? Prohibitionists are the ones with mental deficiencies.

    A think a fun exercise would be for the prohibitionists to find the smartest person among their ranks and have him/her play a game of chess against the smartest person among our ranks. It would be an arbitrary, anecdotal, and unscientific exercise — which is probably why prohibitionists would think it means something when their champion LOSES.

  2. Seems to me…. so does Kevin Sabet! Don’t feel bad… HE’S supposed to be one of the SMARTEST men in the room too?

  3. It’s AMAZING how these prohibitionists continue to INFLATE statistics and outright LIE about what the survey says. It’s like are you gonna believe me or your lyin fuckin eyes?

  4. firetheliberals on

    Only the prohibitionists care. A more relevent study would be whether the grades and graduation rates are improving by use of weed

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