Fear-Mongering Anti-Weed Group SAM Has Its Sights Set on Seattle’s Hempfest

Fear-Mongering Anti-Weed Group SAM Has Its Sights Set on Seattle’s Hempfest

by Zach Harris | NEWS |

Smart Approaches to Marijuana, the nation’s most vocal anti-legalization group, is using “big tobacco” comparisons to try and scare Emerald City stoners.

Kevin Sabet and Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) are back, using fear-mongering tactics and misinformation to try and sway public opinion against state-approved, regulated weed. The nonprofit group has spent most of the year taking credit for killing a legalization proposal in New Hampshire, fighting the same cause in Rhode Island and starting a group called “Are We Sure?” to pressure Maine and Massachusetts to rethink their already successful, voter-approved move to end prohibition. Now, the same group is focusing on a celebratory event in a state where legal weed is already bringing in millions in tax dollars and keeping people out of jail, Seattle’s upcoming annual Hempfest.

To try and dissuade activists, patients and stoners from participating in this year’s event, SAM and the group’s president and CEO Kevin Sabet have been spewing ill-conceived and easily disproven comparisons between Washington’s cannabis industry and the death merchants of “big tobacco.”

"Well you know, Hempfest is thought of as the old festival of people who just like to smoke pot and use hemp, and 'what's the big deal?'" Sabet told local Washington outlet KOMO News. "In reality, if you look at the sponsors, they've been taken over by corporate pot.”

Putting aside the fact that tobacco is responsible for almost half a million deaths every year and marijuana has been responsible for absolutely zero, Sabet couldn’t name one corporate cannabis partner, mainly because Washington law currently outlaws them. Sure there are partners like the ride-sharing app Lyft and dispensary finder WeedMaps, but all of the cannabis consumed and sold at Hempfest will come from local growers, a far cry from RJ Reynolds. 

As Komo News clearly informed Sabet and SAM, “Initiative 502, which legalized recreational use of marijuana in Washington, doesn't allow for large companies outside of the state to sell products in this state. The law is clear that marijuana must be produced and packaged here in order to be sold here.”

Still, Sabet tried his best to come off as the good guy, claiming SAM is just doing their part to stop the spread of corporate cannabis. “While we don't want people thrown in prison for marijuana or criminalized, we also think that the marijuana industry should not grow to be another tobacco industry," Sabet said. 

If that was the case, though, the group wouldn’t spend all of their time and money on a 2017 plan focused on “stopping marijuana legalization and commercialization, educating policy-makers and the public on marijuana issues, and fundraising,” seeing as “stopping marijuana legalization” is quite literally a direct path to the jailing of more innocent people.

Fear not, though, no matter how much Sabet and SAM try to equate Seattle’s annual celebration to Philip Morris, Hempfest officials are more flattered than offended by the “big marijuana” fallacies. 

"We've been targeted by SAM? I'm so honored, I think we hit the big-time," Vivian McPeak, founder of Seattle Hempfest, said. "We appreciate the free publicity, but they're just off-target with everything they do and say."


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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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