Or how I sacked the quarterback of the anti-legalization movement
The candy was just laying there, in two bags, at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute on Columbia Point in Boston. Dr. Kevin Sabet, a self-styled “drug expert,” avid prohibitionist, and assistant professor of psychiatry and director of the Drug Policy Institute at the University of Florida, had waved the treats around during a September 21 forum on cannabis legalization hosted by WGBH News. Sabet claimed one of the bags contained THC-laced candies that posed a danger to children, but then stepped away from the alleged edibles to engage in conversation. After he abandoned his “dangerous” substance for a couple minutes—plenty long enough for a child to get into the bags and eat a handful—I decided to secure those candies, and to bring them for THC testing in a Massachusetts lab. Those results came in this week, but before addressing the purity of Sabet’s stash there are some important things to consider …
Marijuana prohibition is built on lies, from lies about the substance, to misconceptions about its effects on people, to fabrications regarding who users are and their motivations for use. So it should come as little surprise that Dr. Sabet, a notorious fabulist on the anti-cannabis circuit, is gallivanting around with bags of sweets that he apparently bought at an airport candy chain store, and lying to Massachusetts voters as they get ready to vote on the question of legalizing and regulating our state’s existing cannabis market in November.
As a long-time reform advocate, five-term past president of MassCann, and current NORML board member, I do not want to see responsible adults treated as criminals for possessing cannabis. We are able to keep children from mistaking vodka for water, prescription pills for candy, and Ex-Lax for chocolate bars, but the prohibitionists want you to believe that your kids will be in special danger from a $5-per-piece edible that cannot cause a lethal reaction, and that you don’t want them to eat.
This is the 20th anniversary of the re-integration of legal cannabis in America—California legalized medicinal marijuana in 1996, and Sabet is rapidly morphing into a modern James R. Blake, the historical punchline who tried to bully Rosa Parks out of her seat on that bus in Alabama. That whooshing sound is society passing Sabet. Even if otherwise respectable outlets like WGBH continue to give him a platform to rail against increased access to cannabis candies while having to pretend to possess the proof of looming dangers.
Sabet doesn’t even take prohibition seriously himself. For years he advocated in support of sending marijuana users and others to jail, and only recently shifted to mandatory rehab for pot possession. Yet there he was, claiming to be using a counterfeit substance for his own political and personal gains.
I never believed Sabet should face criminal charges, or the rehab he flanks, for that far-off-chance that he actually scored several ounces of edibles. After seeing the results of the tests on his stash, however, I do think he should be prosecuted for proffering a counterfeit substance, which is both a state and federal offense. I think he should be prosecuted for lying with criminal intent for claiming to be in possession of more than an ounce of THC. His words:
- “I brought some props, if that’s okay.” [Pulls out a sandwich baggie filled with round candies and a second baggie filled with gummy bears.]
- “I think parents should ask themselves whether they can tell which bag of candy here is marijuana and which one isn’t.”
- “… If you can tell, if you can’t tell, which you probably can’t, I bet you your kid can’t tell either. When these things are lying around—the reason the emergency admissions in Colorado for kids under five … has gone up significantly, uh, doubled, is because these kinds of things are lying around that are marketed—of course they’re marketed to young people, and young people are ingesting them.”
- “They are essentially—again, one of them is real and one of them isn’t—they are the real candy here [motioning with gummy bear bag] that are simply sprayed with THC. And there’s no way to tell the difference.”
In case you haven’t figured it out yet, the lab test results showed that Sabet’s candy contained no detectable amount of cannabinoids. In other words, he was lying. I wonder if Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, who is actively campaigning against Question 4, will prosecute Sabet for his apparent criminal activity, or if she sees it all as an inconsequential game, as long as he is sharing in her opposition. Similar to how the Walpole chief of police was left alone by authorities despite his seemingly transporting edibles from Colorado to Massachusetts to use in a similar demonstration, prohibition laws apparently do not apply to Sabet.
The funniest part? Sabet called on local TV reporters to check the video, claiming, “Someone stole the edibles.” Turning this into something bigger than a joke among myself and a small circle of reform activists.
Dr. Keith Saunders is The Most Dangerous Stoner in America, on Twitter @TheMDSiA. He is also a board member of @NORML and loves cheeses.