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:
- forced rehab and re-education for adult marijuana smokers,
- continued arrest and imprisonment of adult marijuana growers and sellers,
- continued raiding and shuttering of medical marijuana facilities,
- fast-tracking pharmacuetical versions of medical marijuana
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!