5 Biggest Lies from Anti-Pot Propagandist Kevin Sabet
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Kevin Abraham Sabet-Sharghi, Ph.D., aka Kevin Sabet, has been a headline-grabbing right-winger ever since his U.C. Berkeley days—where he did not study science or medicine despite his current appointment as an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Florida. His most recent incarnation as a co-founder of Project SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana) follows a stint in the Obama White House on its drug policy staff from 2009-2011. His personal website claims he is the “quarterback” of a new anti-drug movement, boasting that he’s been “quoted in over 15,000 news stories.”
Project SAM’s anti-marijuana priorities include emphasizing the “lifelong stigma” of pot-related arrests, the prospect of “Big Marijuana” marketing it to children, the industry being taken over by Big Tobacco, and seeking federal research on pharmaceuticalized medical marijuana products.
Unlike Sabet, I have spent more than a decade training in the relevant disciplines he attempts to speak for. I’ve earned degrees in medicine and medical social scientific fields, not social policy like Sabet, and I feel the need to debunk his "moral entrepreneurship" that demonizes marijuana use and ignores scientific research that contradicts his drug warrior claims.
What follows are five claims from his list of talking points—fictions—followed by the facts.
Claim #1: There’s no need to smoke it.
"Since we don't smoke opium to get the effects of morphine, why should we smoke marijuana to receive its therapeutic effects?" (Published or aired on Reason.com, Christian Science Monitor, CNN’s Dr. Drew, Huffington Post, Project SAM website.)
However one medicinal agent is delivered into the body should have no bearing whatsoever on how another medicinal agent should or should not be given. To believe so shows a fundamental lack of understanding of the variation of medicines and modes of delivery in modern clinical practice. To allow medicinal use of cannabis-marijuana does not mean that one would only be presented with the option of smoking it to receive its therapeutic effects. Many other modes of delivery: oral, topical, sublingual, vaporized, etc. are available.
Moreover, the harms of cannabis smoking are nowhere near the harms of tobacco smoke. All large-scale, long-term epidemiological studies conducted to date have not shown any links to COPD or lung cancer. In fact, cancer-protective effects have been demonstrated in at least two studies. Opium is consumed orally in medicine today in the tincture form of paregoric, used across the United States in hospitals and clinics for refractory diarrhea.
Claim #2: The plant has dangerous unknown elements.
"The raw marijuana plant material -- itself containing hundreds of unknown components -- has not met FDA's standards of safety and efficacy." (CNN, Huffington Post, Project SAM website.)
Adequate and well-controlled studies proving the medical efficacy of cannabis exist, but are ignored by marijuana schedulers in the Department of Health and Human Services, under which the FDA resides. Large, multicenter, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies involving hundreds of patients in America and abroad that are in some cases a year in duration have been published in U.S. National Library of Medicine indexed journals showing that marijuana, orally administered in extract form, can treat intractable pain in cancer and improve mobility and symptom control in multiple sclerosis.
Cannabis-marijuana plant material is one of the best studied and characterized plant materials in science. As of 2008, there were over 15,000 articles alone on the chemistry and pharmacology of cannabis.
Claim #3: Marijuana use stunts intelligence.
"Recently completed research shows that pot can significantly decrease IQ." (USnews.com, CNN.com, CNN’s Piers Morgan, Reason, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Project SAM website.)