Experts: Marijuana Industry Following In Big Tobacco’s Footsteps

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Casey Harper Contributor
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Experts at a Heritage Foundation panel Tuesday compared the marijuana industry to big tobacco companies in the last century, saying there is a concerted effort to distort the science and target children.

“I don’t know why we would want to repeat that nightmare,” said Kevin Sabet, co-founder and president of Project SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana).

Sabet, who co-hosted the event, said marijuana advocates have funded much of their own research and tried to hide negative effects of smoking pot.

Sabet cited pot candy, such as gummy bears, as evidence of targeting kids the way tobacco companies did with candy cigarettes. (Candy cigarettes do not contain nicotine, however.)

He pointed out that most major medical associations are worried about young people using marijuana. Most speakers said that the evidence of smoking marijuana’s health benefits is dubious.

The fact that the general public accepts notions such as that marijuana is not addictive and is medically beneficial, Sabet claims, is evidence of the marijuana industry’s influence over the science and marketing. Sabet compared this to how big tobacco stalled reports of the addictiveness and negative health effects of smoking.

Many people think about marijuana based on their experience from smoking when they were younger, but the potency of marijuana has increased as much as twenty-fold, making it more addictive, according to Sabet.

“That is a totally different marijuana from the sort of giggle level from 40 years ago,” Sabet said. “This is not your parents’ marijuana.”

Stuart Gitlow, president of the American Society of Addiction Medicine, explained that while majority of people do not have serious problems because of marijuana, about 10-15 percent do which leaves society with deciding if it is worth it.

“Do we want to go down the same path we’ve gone down with alcohol, the same path we’ve gone down with tobacco again?” he said.

Several experts said the research showing benefits of smoking marijuana is lacking. Along with other experts, Kevin Gray of the American Academy of Adolescent and Child Psychiatry said that likely the health benefits of marijuana can be extracted and taken orally without smoking, which is harmful to the lungs.

Hecklers interrupted the speakers several times, demonstrating how this topic has garnered strong national interest.

Seventeen states have decriminalized marijuana, four states have legalized it, and 23 states have passed medical marijuana laws according to Heritage. Public support for legalization has increased from 12 percent in the 1970s to 51 percent today.

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