[Washington, DC] – Today, Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) officials, including a former Congressman and the nation’s first African-American magistrate judge, joined members of the New Jersey Legislative Black Caucus, faith-based leaders, researchers from the National Institutes of Health, and other public health and safety experts at a press conference warning about the dangers of marijuana and the explosion of high potency THC.
“We’re sounding the alarm today – during the unofficial ‘marijuana holiday’ – about pot edibles, candies, waxes, and other items used to hook kids on THC,” said Former Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy, Honorary Chair of SAM. “This is the public health crisis we cannot afford to ignore.”
Judge Arthur Burnett Sr., the first African-American United States Magistrate and retired National Executive Director of the National African American Drug Policy Coalition, said, “For years, minority communities have been preyed upon by the alcohol and tobacco industries. There is a liquor store on every block in some of our neighborhoods. With the marijuana industry becoming more like the next Big Tobacco, do you expect me to believe that they would act any different?”
Dr. Kevin Sabet, who served in the Obama Administration as a senior advisor, and now is the President and CEO of SAM, said, “During the opiate crisis, the prevalence and intensity of marijuana has exploded across the United States. We have an addiction crisis in this country, and marijuana is a foundation for it.”
Former Congressman Patrick Kennedy, Honorary Chair of SAM, continued:
“Too often I hear that marijuana is a harmless drug and legalization can serve as a cure for all of our nation’s ills. Today, I am surrounded by experts from every walk of life that would beg to differ,” said Representative Kennedy. “Our nation is in the midst of the deadliest drug epidemic in history, the last thing we need to do is legalize a substance that could lead more people to use opiates.”
New Jersey State Senator Ron Rice and Senior Pastor of Paradise Baptist Church, Bishop Jethro James, echoed Judge Burnett’s sentiments:
“In our state, the governor promised to legalize marijuana within the first ninety days of his administration, calling it a priority for social justice, but that could not be further from the truth,” said Senator Rice. “The marijuana industry regularly targets minority communities in order to push its wares. One only needs to look at Colorado where pot dispensaries are disproportionally located in communities of color and marijuana arrest rates for minority kids are on the rise.”
“Make no mistake, legalizing recreational marijuana and expanding marijuana use is not social justice – it’s social injustice,” said Bishop James. “What we need is criminal justice reform, as well as advanced education in training of law enforcement to address the disproportionate arrests of minorities.”
“The gradual normalization and commercialization of marijuana in Colorado and other states means people become accustomed to the rise in THC-impaired driving fatalities or to witnessing psychosis induced by marijuana,” said Dr. Christine Miller, former instructor and research associate at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. “Policy makers must take heed of the lessons shown to us by states that have legalized marijuana and not buy the spin pushed by the industry,” continued Dr. Miller.