SAM Expands Presence on Capitol Hill to Oppose Passage of Marijuana Legislation During Vaping Epidemic

Today, in its largest expansion of federal policy efforts yet, Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM), the largest national, nonpartisan marijuana policy group opposed to marijuana commercialization announced a partnership with Tripp and Jenn Baird of Off Hill Strategies and Luke Albee, former Chief of Staff to Senators Mark Warner (D-VA) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT). SAM was founded in 2013 by former Congressman Patrick Kennedy and former three-time White House drug policy advisor Dr. Kevin Sabet.

“Historically, efforts to reduce drug use have always bridged the gap in partisan politics; our lobbying efforts continue this tradition,” said Dr. Kevin Sabet, president of SAM and former drug policy advisor to the Clinton, Bush, and Obama Administrations. “We believe these experienced government relations professionals, in conjunction with former Congressman Patrick Kennedy and former Clinton Drug Czar Barry McCaffery, will round out our federal outreach and further the goals of SAM.”

Luke Albee, described by Politico as “the Dean of Senate Chiefs of Staff,” served as Chief of Staff to Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy from 1993 to 2004 and Chief of Staff to Virginia Senator Mark Warner from 2009 to 2015. He will assist SAM in outreach to Democratic members of the Senate, focusing on opposing the SAFE Banking Act.

The SAFE Banking Act, labeled by public health groups as the VAPE Banking Act, would grant the marijuana industry access to banks and open the doors for billions of dollars in institutional investment. Roughly 80 percent of the cases in this national outbreak of severe respiratory illness are linked with the use of marijuana vaping devices according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This marijuana-vaping related illness is responsible for at least 25 deaths, and passing such legislation as the SAFE Banking Act would reward this industry for their malfeasance.

“This is an urgent public health issue that requires us to check our partisan hats at the door and fully understand what we as a society are unleashing upon the brains of our children and grandchildren,” said Luke Albee. “We need to slow down the rush and embrace science and facts before we decide to turbocharge the marijuana industry with billions in institutional investment and further legitimacy. SAM is fully committed to a science-based, health-first approach and I am happy to be on their team.”

Tripp and Jennifer Baird of Off Hill Strategies have over twenty years of experience both on and off the Hill. Tripp has worked for three U.S. senators, including former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, and has extensive ties to conservatives through his two stints at The Heritage Foundation and Heritage Action. Jennifer has worked in both the House and Senate with experience on the Energy & Commerce and Senate Judiciary Committee.

“Opening up our financial system to an industry furthering the use and production of a Schedule I drug is a disaster in the making,” said Tripp Baird. “With the opioid epidemic raging, and now a marijuana vaping crisis shaking the nation, this is no time to reward the marijuana industry.”