Dear Friends,

We’re off to a great start in 2016, and there are a few things I wanted to alert you on this week. I’ll send these emails out from time to time to keep you updated on developments not served well by our press releases or reports.

First, we have a new flyer on edibles that we hope is useful in your work.

Second, I’m thrilled with the momentum we have been able to generate in Vermont – a state where just a few weeks ago we were counted out by the political elite. Because of the hard work of our SAM Vermont affiliate, we went from what some were calling a fait accompli to a pitched battle over legalization in the state legislature. Watch for SAM Action to generate some ads there soon. Things are about to heat up!

Third, there has been a lot of confusion over some studies purporting no IQ drop among marijuana users. Once again, this is media spin at its worst. I reached out to my friend Madeline Meier who summed up her thoughts on the matter here. I hope it’s helpful to you. Related to this, today the American Psychological Association (APA) corrected a 2015 study that previously found no connection between teen marijuana use and psychotic symptoms.  Turns out that after re-analyzing their own data, the researchers found that this link does in fact exist.  (See the editor’s note for the correction.)  The APA’s comment comes a day after SAM’s own press release on the issue.

Fourth, speaking of spin, the International Business Times’ Joel Warner published an insightful article about the very issue of media bias and marijuana.  An excerpt below the text of this email is below.

There’s a lot more, but I’ll stop for now. Next week I’ll share some exciting news about a new report on Colorado as well as some steps we’re taking related to the Presidential race. I hope everyone is well.




Marijuana Has Become A Media Darling, But Are Journalists Too Soft On Pot?


On the evening of Thursday, Dec. 17, Kevin Sabet was working on what he believed would be a bombshell. Sabet, founder of the anti-marijuana legalization organization Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM), had received a tip from someone associated with the Obama administration: State marijuana-use estimates for 2013 and 2014, which had just been released by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), found that Colorado, which launched the country’s first legalized marijuana program in 2014, now led the nation in monthly marijuana use among those 12 to 17 years old. The development was due in part to decreases in marijuana use in other states, although youth marijuana use in Colorado had also increased slightly. The District of Columbia, Oregon and Washington, all of which have also legalized marijuana, came in at fourth, fifth and sixth places in the rankings, respectively.

“What went through our heads was, ‘This is big news,'” says Sabet. “We felt this would absolutely reach a wide audience.” After all, the day before, the National Institutes of Health’s 2015 Monitoring the Future survey, which found that nationwide teen marijuana use had fallen slightly overall, had received widespread coverage. Wouldn’t this report generate major headlines, too?

Sabet rushed out a press release. Then he waited for the onslaught of calls he expected from reporters. Instead, all he heard was crickets.

The lack of media response to the survey numbers leads to the question: After decades of critical reporting on marijuana issues, if they bothered to cover the subject at all, have the media as a whole moved too far in the opposite direction? Are reporters and editors now so high on the topic of cannabis that they’re going too soft on the subject?

A Google News analysis of how the media covered two youth marijuana-use surveys in December indicates SAM may have a reason to feel snubbed. Between Dec. 15 and Jan. 15, there were at least 156 news reports on the Monitoring the Future report, which many have interpreted as being supportive of the marijuana movement (as the Washington Post noted of its data,”The case for marijuana legalization just got stronger”). During the same period, Google News recorded just 17 stories on the SAMHSA report, which, according to Sabet, raises questions about legalization.

The SAMHSA figures weren’t necessarily less newsworthy. As drug-policy expert Keith Humphreys, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Stanford University School of Medicine, notes: “Any state considering whether or how to legalize marijuana needs to pay close attention to this new data on teenagers in Colorado and Washington. It could be nothing, but I don’t think it should be dismissed.”

This informal analysis is far from a perfect comparison, as even SAM staffers suggest. “In fairness, there could be media fatigue on this,” says Jeffrey Zinsmeister, the organization’s executive vice president. “You have two stories on marijuana-use surveys, and the first story gets all the coverage and then people move on to the next thing.” Still, Zinsmeister finds striking the extent of the imbalance, with the survey results bolstering legalization efforts generating nearly 10 times as many headlines as the more unflattering data. “I was surprised to see such a large swing on this,” he says.

Even longtime marijuana advocates say media coverage has shifted. “Back in the ’90s, I would be the only person on the TV show on the issue in favor of reform, and there would be a cop, a prosecutor and a drug specialist, along with the host, who would also be anti-marijuana,” says Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). “Now, today, Kevin [Sabet] is the one who has to scramble because the host of the show is neutral or supportive of reform, and I am joined by someone from the marijuana-business community and a member of [the pro-legalization group] Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.”

Read the rest here…