Pot Propagandists ‘Smart Approaches to Marijuana’ are Trying to Spin Legalization as Anti-Black
SAM’s opposition to Cory Booker’s Marijuana Justice Act insultingly claims prohibition is better for African-Americans than legalization.
Published on August 22, 2017

It’s been less than a week since we highlighted the misleading propaganda spread by Kevin Sabet and the nonprofit he heads, Smart Approaches to Marijuana, about Seattle’s Hempfest celebration, and while the Washington festival went off without a hitch, Sabet and his crew have been quick to pick up a new anti-pot cause, and this time it’s just downright insulting.

Day 1 of our ad campaign pushing back against marijuana legalization begins...
— Kevin Sabet (@KevinSabet) August 21, 2017

According to, SAM’s new target is Cory Booker’s Marijuana Justice Act, the federal legislation that, if passed, would end marijuana prohibition once and for all and focus on mending the immense injustices caused by decades of racist policies and policing. The bill has little chance of passing the legislature, but that hasn’t stopped Sabet and SAM from spinning Booker’s narrative to fit their anti-cannabis goals.

"We want to highlight the false promise that legalization of marijuana will serve social justice," Sabet said, citing minority youth cannabis use numbers in Colorado and car crash statistics, both of which have already been largely refuted.

The idea that trashing Booker’s legalization bill would be in some way better for America’s minority populations than the legislation passing is more than just absurd, it’s downright wrong. 

While marijuana arrests are still racially biased, even in places with legalization, a huge drop in total arrests for pot across all legal weed states has kept a significant amount of black and brown people from ending up behind bars. In Colorado, possession arrests dropped over 75% between 2010 and the first post-legalization year of 2014, from 8,736 people in handcuffs to 1,922.

Still, Sabet and SAM are continuing on their crusade to turn legalization into a made-up assault on our country’s underprivileged neighborhoods, as if legal cannabis and progressive social initiatives are not two sides of the same coin.

Legal pot won't end racial discrimination - but it did bring more pot shops to minority neighborhoods #BrokenPromises
— SAM (@learnaboutsam) August 21, 2017

"I would love to be able to talk to the residents of Newark and Camden," Sabet said. "I bet they would rather have libraries and schools than pot shops. Folks in Morristown have the political power to be able to push back. Folks in Camden are less likely to have this power."

What Sabet conveniently omitted, though, are the millions of dollars in tax revenue that legal weed has brought to underserved communities across the country, including but not limited to, brand new school buildings and free college education.

If Sabet is worried about white-owned pot shops coming into black neighborhoods, he should probably start supporting groups like the Minority Cannabis Business Association, and not laws that continue to lock up our nation’s black and brown citizens.

Still, Sabet continues to claim that his goal is not to continue the racist policing of marijuana use, but to stop big business from making weed mainstream. 

"We do not want to see this corporate marijuana industry grow," Sabet said. "This is the big tobacco of our time. We do agree on removing criminal penalties, expunging records, treatment over incarceration, but this move is a cover to allow commercialization." 

But as the head of a group that has never proposed any path towards those ideals, has fought tooth and nail at every turn to block any semblance of cannabis-related progress, and continues to support and propagandize wholly unproductive and demeaning causes like workplace drug-testing, there is nothing to make us believe an ounce of Sabet’s social justice claims.

Sabet and the group he runs have always been willing to stretch the truth to make legal weed look bad, but to suggest that Booker’s Marijuana Justice Act would continue to persecute and endanger the lives of black and brown Americans is more than a reach, it’s simply wrong.

Zach Harris
Zach Harris is a writer based in Philadelphia whose work has appeared on Noisey, First We Feast, and Jenkem Magazine. You can find him on Twitter @10000youtubes complaining about NBA referees.
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