With more than half of Americans supporting marijuana legalization, and seventeen states plus the District of Columbia eliminating jail time for possession, and medical marijuana okay in nearly half the states, it’s hard to find leaders of anti-marijuana campaigns, says the Washington Post. “Interestingly, whenever we have a debate on TV, we hear the producer asking, 'Who can we get to debate against marijuana?'?” says Tony Newman of the reformist Drug Policy Alliance. “It's unbelievable what's happened,” says Robert DuPont, a psychiatrist who was the first director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse in the 1970s. “You can't find anybody to speak on the other side. . . . The leaders in both parties have completely abandoned the issue.”
DuPont and other experts point to research showing that nine percent of marjuana users become addicted, a figure that rises to 16 percent when use begins in teen years. In various studies, weed is linked to lower academic performance, and mental illness and other health problems. The pro-marijuana movement bats back such findings by citing the devastating results of alcohol and tobacco dependency and abuse and the palliative effects of marijuana as medicine. Backed by deep-pocketed funders, the legalizers deploy lobbyists, spokesmen and researchers from well-staffed organizations like the Marijuana Policy Project, the Drug Policy Alliance, Americans for Safe Access and the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). Says DuPont, 78, “They have a bench 1,000 people deep. . . . We've got Kevin Sabet.” Sabet, 35, testified before the Senate against drug legalization when he was 17 and now runs an anti-pot-legalization group called Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM). Based in Cambridge, Ma., Sabet says he commits “100-plus hours a week” to raising the alarm.