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SAM Tried To Make Us Go To Rehab. We Said No, No, No.

S.A.M. Mobile

For best effect, visit http://learnaboutsam.com first, then visit http://smartapproaches.com

This morning at 6am I launched SmartApproaches.com. It is a page-for-page satire of the website LearnAboutSAM.com, which was recently mentioned in various news media as the front page for Project SAM. It uses actual policy positions and rhetorical claims from Project SAM and peppers them with copious amounts of snark, studies, sarcasm, and science. And fake evil-Spock goatees.

SAM stands for “Smart Approaches to Marijuana” and it represents a radical shift in tactics by those who seek to maintain marijuana prohibition. (I like to call it “Project SAMUEL” – Smart Approaches to Marijuana Use… Except Legalization.) SAM was seemingly formed by former Rep. Patrick Kennedy, who was shocked in the wake of successful marijuana legalization measures in Washington and Colorado. However, as a long-time observer of its architect, Dr. Kevin Sabet, I believe this project is simply Sabet’s long-term re-framing plan for continuing to punish responsible adult marijuana smokers like me.

The goals of Project SAMUEL include:

Now, Sabet’s no idiot. These goals aren’t spelled out so plainly. Instead, they are dressed up in the language of concern and compassion, of treatment and rehabilitation, and of ending the worst elements of the drug war, such as mandatory minimum sentencing, “stop-and-frisk”, and arrests for personal marijuana possession — those elements of the drug war even Republicans have trouble defending. Language that should soothe some of the voices outside the drug reform community (unions, NAACP, Rev. Pat Robertson) criticizing the drug war that only 7% of Americans think we’re winning.

Sabet’s genius in this re-framing of marijuana prohibition is something I call his Goldilocks Solution. Clearly, Americans overwhelmingly believe the drug war is “too hard” with its overcrowded prisons, obvious racism, and disdain for sick people using medical marijuana. So Sabet triangulates by painting the growing popularity of regulating marijuana like alcohol for adults as “too soft” with its ability to make teens go crazy, make teens stupider, and state gambling lotteries. (No, that’s not satire; that’s his own non-sequitur.) Then he floats this Project SAMUEL as the “just right” solution, the “third way” that strategicially retreats from the worst aspects of drug war without ending it.

So I subjected that language to the time-honored tradition of satire. SmartApproaches.com is what I imagined if Stephen Colbert and the writers from The Onion tackled LearnAboutSAM.com. (Apologies to them all – they are all better comedy writers than I am.) I never imagined how difficult some drug war mentality would be to satirize. How do you make “Creating model state and federal laws that funnel marijuana users to interventions or treatment” any more Orwellian than it already sounds? How do you ridicule someone explaining they reject “the “war on drugs” model” and “”Just say no” is an easy rule to follow” in the same article? How do you lampoon a liquor-dynasty scion with four damaged yachts and two wrecked cars from an oxycontin habit telling pot smokers they need forced rehab?

By now you may have pegged me as having a personal axe to grind. Indeed, I am one of the 2-3 million daily adult marijuana smokers in America that Project SAMUEL would consider to be “an addict”. I am one of the 26 million annual adult marijuana smokers in America that Project SAMUEL would subject to at least tickets, fines, mandatory rehab, re-education, and probationary pee tests for choosing to relax with a substance far safer than alcohol, if not arrest, handcuffs, detainment, booking, fingerprinting, mug shot (Google searchable!), trial, fine, prison, parole, and probation if I have too much marijuana or even one little plant. So, yeah, it’s a little personal.

However, I also host a daily marijuana talk radio show on http://420radio.org and every day, I have to read the headlines in our news segment. As much as SmartApproaches.com delights me as a satirical work, it is really for Rachel Hoffman, Richard Flor, Jonathan Magbie, Kathryn Johnston, most of these dogs and many more people who are dead because adults must be punished for trying to grow and use a relaxing non-toxic medicinal herb with a low risk of abuse, dependence, and side effects. It is for the nine-out-of-ten people with real substance abuse problems who want to voluntarily enter rehab but can’t find a bed who’ll be displaced for functional, responsible marijuana users involuntarily sentenced to rehab. It is for the mothers in Mexico who weep for their slaughtered sons because we keep letting violent cartels run our marijuana markets. It is for patients in 32 states who have no hope of legally using medical marijuana and providers in 18 states who are sentenced by federal courts to prison and can’t say they were following state law. It is for the kids who, year after year, tell us marijuana’s much easier to buy than alcohol because their high school weed dealer doesn’t check ID and there is no high school tequila dealer.

Finally, it is for Jack Herer… because this is the loudest, best way I know how to shout THE EMPEROR WEARS NO CLOTHES!


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. They also assure us the drug czar and NIDA have not been blocking research into any benefits. Somebody’s lying then. Either way they do not want unrestricted research on cannabis; might disrupt things like those cancer studies getting out.

  2. Bingo, we have a winner. I think they honestly think we are all blind to what they are trying to do, and that is to have a captive audience that has to go to their treatment centers because court system says so. They make me sick.

  3. and on their board they have a bunch of treatment specialist just looking for new business. ;) Of course they denied it when I confronted them on it.

  4. SAM recommends for small marijuana possession civil fines that lead to mandatory treatment. The problem is that a civil fine still generates a “drug record” on a person, which creates a lifetime of stigma and adversely impacts housing opportunity, student loans, job opportunity, professional licensing, social standing, and personal finances. A civil fine often carries the same terrible life consequences that a misdemeanor carries, sans jail – all for an activity that most Americans agree is acceptable.

    That is not true legal reform and must be rejected as merely a facade of reform.

  5. hey man great job. keep doing what your doing man but i just wanna say i really wish you would expand this into the larger drug discussion as opposed to strictly marijuana. im a heroin lover but i certainly consider alot of leaf lovers colleagues. you do great work and i think the greater anti prohibition audience is missing out. but maybe im over-stepping and you only agree with weed legalization, in that case, my apologies for over stepping.

  6. I have been on their facebook page engaging them but they have nothing. I used my page at Kentucky Veterans For Medical Marijuana but they don’t like to talking to me from there. I have invited them several times to a debate over their stand on legalization but so far it has been crickets.

  7. Patrick Kennedy – LOL. How can anyone take this movement or its speaker seriously. Money is what it is all about and nothing else. Create another hugely wealthy and protected monopoly for the prohibitionist elites.

  8. Wow, scary stuff. Not surprising that Patrick Kennedy would be duped, he never seemed like the sharpest guy. And being a real drug addict himself, it’s easy for him to fall for this nonsense, as he views the world through that lens.

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