Former R.I. Congressman Patrick Kennedy of Project Sam

One of the few truly organized anti-marijuana legalization group is Project SAM. One positive thing I will say about them is that they are also one of the only anti-legalization groups actually trying to articulate a defense of prohibition instead of just opposing it because “pot is bad.” Although, it may be the reason they are one of the only groups which tries to create a real defense of prohibition is because their arguments come across as so cynical and illogical.

Tony Dokoupil at NBC did his best to try to nail down their argument. From NBC News:

SAM’s opponents argue that legalizing weed would raise tax revenue, allow law enforcement to chase more serious crime, and undercut Mexico’s violent drug cartels. Kennedy and Sabet sharply dispute all this—and so much more—but they’re particularly unapologetic about championing the continued existence of a black market. They say it’s mostly nonviolent on the American side, and will create fewer public health problems than allowing advertisers to flog for Big Marijuana.

“There is no way to minimize the greed and profit motive in promoting a dangerous substance,” says Kennedy. When it comes to pushing a product, adds Sabet, “I think Madison Avenue has proven that it can get around more rules and be more ruthless than any Mexican drug cartel.” He calls the black market, “better than having Joe Pot, heir to Joe Camel, on a bus-stop where I’m going to be hanging out with my kids before school.”

So much to unpack in just a few lines.

First, there is a display of the misguided sentiment that American lives are the only ones that should really matter by pointing out the violence caused by the black market is mostly outside of the United States. I personally think we should still take responsibility for problems we cause even if they technically happen across an international border.

Their main defense is that on net, legal regulated companies in their lust for greed will do more public damage than a system which greatly increases revenue for murderous international criminal organizations. Once again I don’t understand how anyone can honestly look at history and decide Coors has on net been worse for the country than Al Capone.

Finally they try to stoke fear of a “Big Marijuana” by pretending “Big Tobacco” is some unstoppable force. This completely ignores the last three decades of policy making. Tobacco companies have seen their user base drop rapidly and they have increasingly lost most of the big regulatory and tax battles over the last twenty years. Cigarette taxes have soared while places you can legally smoke have reduced dramatically. A theoretical “Big Marijuana” would be an even smaller industry and have much less political clout.

They bring up fear of a “Joe Pot” even though Joe Camel was killed over twenty years ago. If you want to prevent advertising to children you can just regulate advertising. You don’t need to create an entire black market to possibly address a few specific issues.