Press Release: Major Organizations Press DOJ on New Marijuana Guidelines

As New National Survey Reveals Skyrocketing Marijuana Use, Major Prevention, Treatment, Recovery, and Criminal Justice Reform Organizations Press Department of Justice on New Marijuana Guidelines

On the day that the National Survey on Drug Use and Health revealed a 50% increase in daily marijuana use, an unprecedented group of organizations write to the Department of Justice to ask what benchmarks will be needed to trigger federal intervention; Groups will act as a “watchdog” overseeing how legalization impacts the priorities listed in the Cole Memo.

September 4, 2013 – An unprecedented group of organizations, spanning prevention, treatment, medicine, criminal justice reform, and researchers, have sent a letter to the Department of Justice expressing that the recent decision to defer enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act was a “mistake” that will result in serious negative consequences, both economic and social, and will create several major obstacles to reducing drug use and its impacts in the United States.

The letter was sent the same day the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services annual drug survey revealed that marijuana use is skyrocketing in the U.S. compared to just six years ago. Although 12-to-17 year old marijuana use for boys and girls combined was relatively unchanged since 2011, the survey revealed a 20% increase in marijuana smoking among girls aged 12-17 since 2007, a 50% increase in the number of daily marijuana smokers among those aged 12 and up, a 12% increase in marijuana use among 18-25 year olds since 2007, and a 25% increase in marijuana use among the general population. The perceived risk of smoking marijuana once a month has fallen almost 30% since 2007.  Though the survey reveals much about marijuana use in the United States, there is a pressing need for a more a comprehensive report including data such as changes in marijuana use in Colorado and Washington, the status of mental health issues in states that have legalized recreational and/or medical marijuana, and the economic and social impacts of for-profit marijuana enterprises in such states.

The letter, coordinated by Project SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana), calls for further clarity in the eight law-enforcement priorities listed by the Deputy Attorney General, pointing to its limitations and raising serious questions about the capacity for current U.S. data systems to monitor consequences. SAM has requested a written response from the DOJ on how it intends to monitor and address the consequences of its decision, and asks them to specify what precise triggers will result in federal enforcement actions to close operations down.

The letter may be viewed on SAM’s website here.  It was led by former Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy, and its signatories include Kevin A. Sabet, Director, Project SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana), Peter Bensinger, Former Administrator, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Ben Cort, CeDAR (Center for education Dependency Addiction and Rehabilitation), University of Colorado Hospital, Dr. Robert L. DuPont, MD, Founding Director, National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), President, Institute for Behavior and Health, Calvina Fay, Executive Director, Drug Free America Foundation (DFAF), Stuart Gitlow, MD, President, American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), West Huddleston, President, National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP), Sharon Levy, MD, MPH, Asst. Professor of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School, Director, Adolescent Substance Abuse Program, Children’s Hospital Boston, Robert J. Lindsey, President, National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD). Howard Meitiner. CEO, Phoenix House, Stephen J. Pasierb
President, the Partnership at, John Redman Executive Director, Community Alliances for Drug Free Youth (CADFY), Pamela F. Rodriguez, President, Treatment Alternatives for Safer Communities (TASC), Sue Rusche, President & CEO, National Families in Action (NFIA), Howard Samuels, CEO, The Hills Treatment Center & CNN Contributor, Betty Sembler, Founder and Chair, Save Our Society from Drugs, Inc., Cynthia Moreno Touhy. Executive Director, National Association for Addiction Professionals (NAADAC) and Leslie R. Walker-Harding, MD, Former President, Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine.


Project SAM is a bipartisan alliance of lawmakers, scientists, and other concerned citizens who want to move beyond simplistic dichotomies of “incarceration versus legalization” and instead focus on practical changes in marijuana policy that neither demonizes users nor legalize drugs. SAM was co-founded by former Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy. Former George W. Bush Speechwriter, Newsweek/Daily Beast columnist David Frum, Harvard Professor Sharon Levy, Denver Health’s Chris Thurstone, University of Kansas tobacco cessation specialist Kimber Richter, and former Obama and Bush advisor Kevin Sabet also serve on the board of SAM. SAM focuses on a “third way” approach to marijuana, and works with state partners to reach the local level.