Former White House advisor airs concerns over Ontario's retail pot plan

by Leo Almazora27 Aug 2018

A former drug control policy advisor to the White House in the US is calling the newly elected Ontario government’s move from a public monopoly on marijuana sales to a mixed public-private “a really bad move.”

“[T]hat’s going to open the door to all the marketing and promotion and normalization that already is a huge problem for our already legal drugs,” said Kevin Sabet, president and CEO of public health organization Smart Approaches to Marijuana, in an interview with CBC News. Sabet’s organization opposes marijuana legalization and commercialization in the US.

Citing massive public health issues from the private businesses of opiates, tobacco, and alcohol, Sabet said that a private program for cannabis “puts private profit over public health.” He also remarked that the private market in Canada is “salivating” and waiting to selling the next “addiction-for-profit substance.”

“Today's marijuana is not your Woodstock weed,” Sabet continued. In a 2017 report investigating levels of THC — the high-inducing component of marijuana — the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation found that the concentration of THC in pot has tripled from 4% in 1994 to 12% in 2014. According to Sabet, some states have even more potent forms of commercially available marijuana and no rules to cap THC concentrations.

“It's up to 99 per cent THC and there are no limits on THC,” he said. “I'm really concerned especially how today's high potent marijuana is going to contribute to mental illness.”

While he asserted that high-THC marijuana products can induce aggressive violence among users, Sabet said he’s not pushing for a ban on simple pot possession or small-scale growers at home.

“The issue is when you make this a legal market and advertise it and throw it to the forces who are in the business of promotion,” he said. “I worry that Canada is following the example of the United States in terms of this new industry which promotes, recklessly advertises, makes wild claims, ignores all harms and absolutely focuses on advertising to kids.”


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