Marijuana: Project SAM, anti-legalization group, launches Colorado chapter, Mason Tvert attacks

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"Legalization is not going to help public health," Doyle told us after the lengthy news conference ended. "The first stage is, let's talk about marijuana use.... Legalization is not the right answer."

When we asked if his group would explicitly be opposing legalization that is now law in Colorado or if he and supporters will be pushing for some kind of reversal, he said those questions would be formally addressed when the group has a more official launch in coming weeks.

Smart Colorado would be a partner to Project SAM, he explained.

Reporters during the news conference asked speakers for their take on Colorado, where debates about legalization are essentially over, given that the voters passed the measure.

At one point, Sabet said, "We're not talking about reversing things in Colorado," but noted that it remains to be seen how the federal government will act and if it will enforce the law that maintains pot is illegal.

More importantly, he and others emphasized, they are looking to slow down possible legalization efforts in other states and change the debate to include public health experts; they had two local professionals on hand to discuss the risks legalization poses, especially for youth.

"'Lock them up or let them use...' This is not where we want this debate to devolve to," Kennedy said. "We need a more enlightened, thorough and thoughtful discussion and policy debate."

Christian Thurstone, who is both the addiction expert on the governor's implementation task force effort and also a partner with Project SAM -- a conflict, which Tvert described as "troubling" -- gave a speech about the harms of marijuana for adolescents.

"We see teenagers who are rising sports stars and very bright people who are dropping out of life because they're addicted," he said.

Sabet said that he was concerned with the "300-miles-per-hour freight train to legalization" and that experts need to work to ensure that the marijuana industry doesn't repeat problems the tobacco and alcohol industries created, mainly related to targeting youth usage.

He said the group is also interested in addressing unfair criminalization of marijuana use and the disproportionate impacts that arrests can have on minorities. But legalization, he said, is not the best solution.

Paula Riggs, a professor with the University of Colorado School of Medicine, said that "Legalization further gives the impression of social sanctioning.... Use goes up and the availability to our kids goes up."

Some speakers lamented that the debate in Colorado around A64 did not include science -- and they argued that the media didn't help, either.

Tvert, of course, had a very different take -- arguing the research shows clearly that marijuana is a substantially safer alternative to alcohol. This kind of attack on legalization, he said, only further pushes people to a more harmful substance and demonizes adults who simply prefer pot.

Continue for details from the counter-press conference led by Mason Tvert.

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Sam Levin
Contact: Sam Levin