'Extremely Misunderstood' Pot Prohibitionist Likens Cannabis Consumers to Drunk Drivers


Senate Judiciary Committee

Last week anti-pot activist Kevin Sabet, in the midst of a seven-city "marijuana education" tour of Oregon, complained that he is "extremely misunderstood." In an interview with The Oregonian, Sabet, a former drug policy adviser in the Obama administration, emphasized that he is not one of those crazy pot prohibitionists who say marijuana is an inevitably addictive "devil's weed" that leads to heroin. Instead he is one of those slippery pot prohibitionists who likens cannabis consumption to drunk driving:

I am not here on a "reefer madness" tour. I am here to talk about the truth, which is most people who try marijuana will not become addicted—just like most drunk drivers won't get into a fatal car crash and most people who don't wear helmets won't get into a bicycle crash.

If Sabet really wanted to put the addictive potential of marijuana into perspective, he would compare the percentage of pot smokers who become heavy users to the percentage of drinkers who become alcoholics. But since the latter percentage is higher, such a comparison would have raised uncomfortable questions about why booze is legal but pot is not. Likewise, if Sabet wanted to talk about the danger of stoned driving in an honest way, he would have compared it to the danger of drunk driving. But since alcohol impairs driving ability more dramatically than marijuana does, that comparison also would have cast doubt on the fairness and rationality of the policy Sabet favors. So instead Sabet compared cannabis consumption to drunk driving, thereby insinuating that all marijuana use, no matter the dose or context, puts other people at risk. 

A little more subtly, Sabet worries that "there has been a lot of misinformation about marijuana, mainly because people tend to focus on their own experiences or the experiences of others they know." Who are you going to believe, Kevin Sabet or your lying eyes? Sabet says the truth about marijuana can be found not in the actual experiences of typical consumers but in the opinions of "the American Medical Association or the American Society of Addiction Medicine or the National Alliance on Mental Illness." Yet all these groups specialize in detecting, describing, and dealing with marijuana abuse. Like cops and prosecutors, physicians, psychiatrists, social workers, and addiction treatment specialists do not see a representative sample of cannabis consumers in the course of their work. They see a sample that is strongly skewed toward excessive use and antisocial behavior, which may help explain why Sabet so casually compares pot smoking to driving while intoxicated.  

Sabet's tour, which concluded less than two weeks before Oregon voters will start receiving ballots that include Measure 91, a marijuana legalization initiative, originally was supposed to include 13 stops. It was scaled back after critics complained that money from federal anti-drug grants was being improperly used for what looked like part of the No on 91 campaign. Sabet insisted "these are educational events, not political events." The Oregon Health Authority's Addictions and Mental Health Division disagreed, deciding not to participate in the events to avoid running afoul of a state law barring public servants from politicking on the taxpayer's dime.

NEXT: Student Loan Debt Skyrockets—and So Do Delinquencies

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Why are there so many idiots who are not content with merely being an idiot, but need to go around in public proudly proclaiming said idiocy?

    1. Because you can make bank publicly proclaiming idiocy?

      I mean, who would doubt that this soulless fuck would switch sides for an extra nickel an hour?

      1. Yeah, I can just see the minute it’s legalized in OR, he’s one of the first cronies to set up a state run pot shop.

  2. less than two weeks before Oregon voters will start receiving ballots that include Measure 91, a marijuana legalization initiative

    So, will the Portlandians vote in favor this time? I haven’t heard much about this, didn’t even know they are voting again.

  3. I believe Kevin Sabet when he says he’s misunderstood. Most people probably think he’s an idiot, when in reality he’s just an enormous asshole.

  4. Who are you going to believe, Kevin Sabet or your lying eyes?

    Experts! They’re experts! I mean, they say the stuff is bad and they’ve got college degrees and they depend on the government for their paychecks, so they’ve got to be right!

  5. He’s just a soul whose intentions are good.

    1. If I seem edgy I want you to know
      That I never mean to take it out on you
      Life has it’s problems and I get my share
      And that’s one thing I never meant to do
      Because I love you

      1. Which raises an important question –

        Nina Simone? or Eric Burdon?

        1. Nina, always.

  6. If Sabet really wanted to put the addictive potential of marijuana into perspective-

    Stop right there.

  7. If marijuana consumption is like drunk driving, then cocaine consumption is like shooting school children with a machine gun.

    Heroin consumption is like flying two planes into the World Trade Center.

    1. All of those things are true. You now qualify for a top position with the DEA.

  8. And feminists say it’s myth that women are attracted to assholes: Sabet’s wife.

    1. In fairness to feminists does anybody take anything they say seriously. I mean they constantly bicker among themselves about ideological purity.

    2. That’s just sound science.

  9. most drunk drivers won’t get into a fatal car crash and most people who don’t wear helmets won’t get into a bicycle crash.

    But we should lock them in cages, anyway; just to be safe.

    1. Bike helmets is a weird analogy. Helmets make you more likely to crash (reduced visibility and increased risk tolerance) but much more likely to avoid a bad head injury once you do.

      1. Speaking of bike helmets, Bicycling had an interesting article about how government even manages to fubar that.

  10. alcohol impairs driving ability more dramatically than marijuana does

    Marijuana use leads to heroin addiction. Therefor, we must assume anybody driving a car while high on marijuana has also been mainlining heroin. See?

    BAN IT!

  11. I am no Harry Anslinger


    But is he a hairy ass-licker?

  12. Kevin Sabet

    That is a funny way to spell ‘idiot’.

  13. Years ago I was doing social work for the state DHS. A group of us were sent for training about drugs and addiction. In one of the sessions an “expert” told us that anyone who is underage and drinks has a problem. When asked why, we were told “because it is illegal and anyone that does something illegal has a problem.” Someone gave a hypothetical, “suppose a 20-year-old from France who has one glass of wine with every dinner moves to the US. Since they’re under 21 do they suddenly have a problem?” After a few seconds thinking about it, the answer was “yes.” Everyone in the group ignored the rest of that training session.

    Sabet sounds like a variation on that theme.

    1. Would’ve been a good time for: Do you ever exceed the speed limit? Do you ever fail to pay use taxes on out-of-state internet purchases? Sounds like you have a speeding and/or tax fraud problem.

      1. Is it just me?

        I report my “use taxes” on my state tax returns… They can know.

        I remember a waiter in a restaurant I worked in 1981. He was only claiming his “paid wages” ($2.05/hr at the time)- while he was also earning $20k-$30K/yr in tips.

        But, he was a single (gay) man also deducting his interest on his mortgage debt. And his credit card debt.

        The IRS informed him of his error.

  14. … most people who try marijuana will not become addicted?just like most priets won’t have anal sex with young boys and most people who don’t wear clean underwear won’t find themselves in a hospital emergency room.

    See? I’m being moderate and reasonable. Not like one of those crazy reefer madness loons.

  15. Anyone who wants to see the impact of legalizing pot on driving safety can simply look to Colorado and its roads that are 5 % safer than last year. If trend continues, this could set record for safest year this century in Colorado.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.