NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Even as a marijuana legalization gains traction around the U.S. and the world, the anti-pot contingent soldiers on to promote its own agenda. These advocates are on a mission to keep marijuana illegal where it is, make it illegal where it is not and to inform the public of the dangers of marijuana legalization as they see it.
So who are these anti-marijuana legalization crusaders?
They come from different backgrounds. Some come from the business world. Two are former White House cabinet members. Another is an academic. Two are former ambassadors. One is the scion of a famous political family. Many are psychiatrists or psychologists. Others are former addicts. Still others are in the field of communications. Oh - one is a Pope.
They have different motivations. Some act because of the people they met who suffered from drug abuse. Others are staunch in their positions for moral reasons and concern for the nation’s future; still others for medical and scientific reasons.
Here is a list of the most significant:
1. Calvina Fay
Drug Free America Foundation, Inc. and Save Our Society From Drugs (SOS). She is also the founder and director of the International Scientific and Medical Forum on Drug Abuse.
She was a drug policy advisor to President George W. Bush and former Tennessee Governor Lamar Alexander. She has been a U.S. delegate and lecturer at international conferences.
President Bush acknowledged her efforts in drug prevention in 2008, and in 2009 she received the President’s Award from the National Narcotics Officers Associations Coalition.
She related during an interview that she became involved in the world of countering drug abuse as a businessperson. She started a company that wrote drug policy for employers, educated employees on the dangers of drugs and trained supervisors on how to recognize drug abuse. It was from this that she became aware of the gravity of the issue.
“People used to come to me to tell me they had a nephew or niece who had a drug problem," Fay said. "This was when I realized how broad a problem this is. It became personally relevant at one point.”
After she sold her company, she was approached by the DEA and the Houston Chamber of Commerce to improve the way substance abuse in the workplace was addressed. After a while she built a coalition of about 3,000 employers.
During this time she kept meeting more and more people who were addicted or had loved ones who were. So it became important to her to be involved in drug abuse prevention and treatment. She then became aware of the movement to legalize drugs.
“I knew that we had to push back against legalization, because if we did not prevention and treatment would not matter," Fay asserted.
2. Kevin Sabet
Sabet is the director of the Drug Policy Institute at the University of Florida, where he is an assistant professor in the psychiatry department at the College of Medicine.
He is a co-founder of Project SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana) and has been called the quarterback of the anti-drug movement.
Sabet served in the Obama Administration as a senior advisor for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) from 2009-2011. He previously worked on research, policy and speech writing at ONDCP in 2000 and from 2003-2004 in the Clinton and Bush Administrations, respectively. This gives him the distinction of being the only staff member at ONDCP to hold a political appointment in both the Bush and Obama Administrations.
He was one of three main writers of President Obama’s first National Drug Control Strategy, and his tasks included leading the office’s efforts on marijuana policy, legalization issues, international demand reduction, drugged driving and synthetic drug (e.g. “Spice” and “Bath Salts”) policy. Sabet represented ONDCP in numerous meetings and conferences, and played a key role in the Administration’s international drug legislative and diplomatic efforts at the United Nations.
He is also a policy consultant to numerous domestic and international organizations through his company, the Policy Solutions Lab. His current clients include the United Nations, where he holds a senior advisor position at the Italy-based United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI) and other governmental and non-governmental organizations.
Sabet is published widely in peer-reviewed journals and books on the topics of legalization, marijuana decriminalization, medical marijuana, addiction treatment, drug prevention, crime and law enforcement.He is a Marshall Scholar. He received his Ph.D. and M.S. in Social Policy at Oxford University and a B.A. in Political Science from the University of California, Berkeley.
3. Bill Bennett
Bennett was a former “drug czar” (i.e. director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy) during the administration of President George H.W. Bush. Prior to that he was the Secretary of Education in the Reagan administration. Bennett is a prolific author - including two New York Times Number- One bestsellers; he is the host of the number seven ranked nationally syndicated radio show Morning in America. He studied philosophy at Williams College (B.A.) and the University of Texas (Ph.D.) and earned a law degree from Harvard.
Bennett, along with former prosecutor Robert White, recently penned an op-ed piece for the Wall Street Journal calling marijuana a public health menace. The two are also finishing a book about marijuana legalization which is due out in February 2015.
Bennett frequently features on his radio show guests warning of the dangers of marijuana legalization. He is concerned that while the science shows that legalizing marijuana is not beneficial, public opinion is going in the other direction.
Why is he involved in this? Simply put, he thinks marijuana legalization is bad for America. The author of the acclaimed series of books about American history called America: The Last Best Hope thinks marijuana legalization will have deleterious effect on Americans, especially the youth of America.
“Because as Jim Wilson said, drugs destroy your mind and enslave your soul,” he told MainStreet.
“Medical science now proves it,” he added.
4. Patrick Kennedy
The other co-founder of Project SAM is former Rhode Island Democrat congressman Patrick Kennedy, son of Ted Kennedy. When he started SAM in Denver in 2013, Kennedy, who has admitted past drug use, was quoted as saying, “I believe that drug use, which is to alter the mind, is injurious to the mind ... It’s nothing that society should sanction.”
His organization seeks a third way to address the drug problem, one that “neither legalizes or demonizes marijuana.” Kennedy does not think incarceration is the answer. He wants to make small amounts a civil offense. He emphasizes his belief that public health officials need to be heeded on this issue and they are not. He predicts that, if legalized, marijuana will become another tobacco industry.
“The thought that we will have a new legalized drug does not make sense to me,” Kennedy said during a 2013 MSNBC interview.
5. Joseph Califano
This former Carter administration U.S. Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare founded, in 1992, the Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (since 2013, it has been called CASAColumbia). He is currently the chairman emeritus. The center has been a powerful voice for research, fundraising and outreach on the dangers of addiction. It shines the light, especially on the perils of marijuana for adolescents.
Recently Califano released an updated edition of his book How to Raise a Drug-Free Kid: The Straight Dope for Parents. He believes an update was needed because of the advances in science regarding youth and substance abuse that have occurred during the past five years.
He zeroes in on marijuana in the book, which he says is more potent today than it was 30 or 40 years ago. He points out - during an interview about the book published on the CASAColumbia website - the hazards of “synthetic marijuana” also known as Spice or K2. He says this is available in convenient stores and gas stations but is so lethal it was banned in New Hampshire.
Califano stresses that parents are the bulwark against substance abuse and addiction. He cited data during the interview that “70% of college students say their parents’ concerns or expectations influence whether or how much they drink, smoke or use drugs. Parental disapproval of such conduct is key to kids getting through the college years drug free. This is the time for you to use social media to keep in touch with your kids.”
He makes the analogy that “sending your children to college without coaching them about how to deal with drugs and alcohol is like giving them the keys to the car without teaching them how to drive.”
6. Stuart Gitlow
Gitlow is the President of the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), a professional organization representing over 3,000 addiction specialist physicians.
In 2005, he also started the Annenberg Physician Training Program in Addictive Disease at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, NY. He is currently executive director. He is on the faculty of both the University of Florida and Mount Sinai School of Medicine.
About ASAM’s attitudes toward marijuana, he said:
“Our positions and policies with respect to marijuana have been developed over many decades and have been updated based upon the latest scientific evidence. We are firmly opposed to legalization of marijuana and reject the notion that the plant marijuana has any medical application.”
That said, he believes anecdotal evidence supports that more research should be conducted to deduce which parts of the marijuana plan can have medical value.
Why did he get involved in this?
“I didn’t get involved in this as a "crusader" or because of a specific interest, but rather because I serve as the spokesperson for ASAM,” he told MainStreet.com. “In fact, though, given that there is so much industry-sourced money financing the marijuana proponents, and that the science-based opposition has little funding at all, I recognize the need for the public to actually hear what the facts are, particularly given the media bias and conflict of interest in terms of being motivated by potential ad revenue.”
7. David Murray
A senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, Washington D.C., Murray co-directs the Center for Substance Abuse Policy Research. While serving previous posts as chief scientist and associate deputy director for supply reduction in the federal government’s Office of National Drug Control Policy. Before entering government, Murray, who holds an M.A. and Ph.D. in social anthropology from the University of Chicago, was executive director of the Statistical Assessment Service and held academic appointments at Connecticut College, Brown, Brandeis and Georgetown Universities.
What motivated him to get involved in a campaign to oppose marijuana legalization?
“It results from a steady regress from encountering a host of social pathologies (homelessness, failed school performance, domestic violence, child neglect, poverty, early crime, despair and suicide) and then time and again stumbling over a common denominator that either was a trigger or an accelerator of that pathology - substance abuse,” Murray told MainStreet. “Yet one finds as a dispassionate social analyst that the matter is either discounted, or overlooked, or not given sufficient weight, in the efforts to remediate the other surface manifestation pathologies,” he continued. “Moreover, one keeps encountering a sense that there is a closet with a door that is shut and it holds behind the door a host of explanations or guides to understanding of our woes, yet few are willing to open that door and address what lies behind it.”
He notes that even those who acknowledge the impact of substance abuse across so many maladies seem to not approach the problem with an open and searching mind. He said often one finds a ready-made narrative that serves to explain away the impact. The more that narrative is refuted “with counter argument or robust data indicating otherwise” the more social analysts resist or are in denial about the inadequacy of the standard narrative.
Subsequently, people who do criticize this encounter pressure from peers essentially telling to accept the narrative or shut up.
He mentions a good specific example can be found by encountering the reaction to the “gateway hypothesis” regarding early marijuana exposure. The literature in support of the gateway is quite strong he says.
“Yet everywhere the dominant response is to evade the implications,” he points out. “Our analysts pose alternative and unlikely accountings that seem practically Ptolemaic in their complicated denial of the obviously more simple and more real mechanism: exposure to the drug does, in fact, increase the likelihood of developing dependency on other, 'harder' drugs in a measurable way.“
8. John Walters
He was, from December 2001 to January 2009, the director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) and a cabinet member during the Bush Administration. During this time he helped implement policies which decreased teen drug use 25% and increased substance abuse treatment and screening in the healthcare system.
He is a frequent media commentator and has written many articles opposing the legalization of marijuana. He points out many of the fallacies of the pro-legalization movement. His editorials, essays, and media appearances have refuted the claims of the New York Times, pro-legalization libertarians and others.For example, during a July 2014 appearance on Fox News Walters responded to the editorial boards condoning legalizing pot. Walters said when the science is increasingly revealing the risks of marijuana the “ New York Times wants to act like it time to be ruled by Cheech and Chong.”
Walters has taught political science at Michigan State University's James Madison College and at Boston College. He holds a BA from Michigan State University and an MA from the University of Toronto.
9. Robert DuPont
DuPont was the founding director of National Institute on Drug Abuse. He has written more than three hundred professional articles and fifteen books including Getting Tough on Gateway Drugs: A Guide for the Family, A Bridge to Recovery: An Introduction to Twelve-Step Programs and The Selfish Brain: Learning from Addiction. Hazelden, the nation's leading publisher of books on addiction and recovery, published, in 2005, three books on drug testing by DuPont: Drug Testing in Drug Abuse Treatment, Drug Testing in Schools and Drug Testing in the Criminal Justice System.
DuPont is active in the American Society of Addiction Medicine. He continues to practice psychiatry with an emphasis on addiction and anxiety disorders. He has been Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the Georgetown University School of Medicine since 1980. He is also the vice president of a consulting firm he co-founded in 1982 with former DEA director Peter Bensinger - Bensinger, DuPont and Associates. DuPont also founded, in 1978, the Institute for Behavior and Health a drug abuse prevention organization.
10. Bertha Madras
A professor of psychobiology for the Department of Psychiatry of Harvard Medical School. She is in a new position at McLean Hospital, a Harvard Medical School hospital affiliate. She was a former deputy director for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP).
She has done numerous studies about the nature of marijuana. She is the co-editor of The Cell Biology of Addiction, as well as the co-editor of the 2014 books Effects of Drug Abuse in the Human Nervous System and Imaging of the Human Brain in Health and Disease.
She rejects the claims of pot proponents. For example, she states that the marijuana chemical content is not known or controlled. She also notes that the “effects of marijuana can vary considerably between plants” and that “no federal agency oversees marijuana, so dose or purity of the plant and the contaminants are not known.”
11. Carla Lowe
A mother of five grown children, grandmother of nine, graduate of UC Berkeley and former high-school teacher, Lowee got started as a volunteer anti-drug activist in 1977 when her PTA Survey to Parents identified “drugs/alcohol” as their priority concern. She organized one of the nation’s first “Parent/Community” groups in her hometown of Sacramento and co-founded Californians for Drug-Free Youth. She also chaired the Nancy Reagan Speakers’ Bureau of the National Federation of Parents for Drug-Free Youth, co-founded Californians for Drug-Free Schools, and in 2010 founded an all-volunteer Political Action Committee, Citizens Against Legalizing Marijuana (CALM)
She has traveled throughout the U.S. and the world speaking to the issue of illicit drug use, primarily marijuana, and its impact on our young people. As a volunteer consultant for the U.S. State Department and Department of Education, she has addressed parents, students, community groups and heads of state in Brazil, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Pakistan, Germany, Italy, Ireland, and Australia.
CALM, is currently working with parents, law enforcement, and local community elected officials to stop the proliferation of marijuana by banning “medical” marijuana dispensaries and defeating the proposed 2016 ballot measure in California that will legalize recreational use of marijuana.
She wants to go national and is part of an effort to start Citizens Against Legalization of Marijuana-U.S.A. that will also function as a Political Action Committee dedicated to defeating legalization efforts throughout the country.
Lowe is a strong proponent of non-punitive random student drug testing. She believes this is the single most effective tool for preventing illicit drug use by our youth, and will result in billions of dollars in savings to our budget and downstream savings from the wreckage to our society in law enforcement, health and welfare, and education.
12. Christian Thurstone
He is one of a few dozen mental health professionals in America who are board certified in general, child and adolescent, and addictions psychiatry. He is the medical director of one of Colorado’s largest youth substance-abuse treatment clinics and an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Colorado Denver, where he conducts research on youth substance use and addiction.
According to a May 2013 interview posted on the University of Colorado website, Thurstone was named an Advocate for Action by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy in October 2012 for his “outstanding leadership in promoting an evidence-based approach to youth substance use and addiction.”
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper named Thurstone to a state task force convened to make recommendations about how to implement Amendment 64, a constitutional amendment approved by Colorado voters in November 2012 to legalize the personal use and regulation of marijuana for adults 21 and older.
He became involved in the marijuana issue in 2009 “when a whole confluence of events occurred that led to the commercialization of marijuana….What matters is not so much the decriminalization; it’s the commercialization that affects people, especially kids. ...95% of the treatment referrals to Denver Health are for marijuana. Nationwide, it’s two-thirds of the treatment referrals according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).”
13. Peter Bensinger
Bensinger was a former DEA chief during the Ford, Carter and Reagan administrations. He was in the vanguard opposing medical marijuana in Illinois. He acknowledges medical marijuana as a value but he notes that it is available as a pill or spray, so the idea of legalizing smoked marijuana for medicinal purposes is merely a ploy.
14. David Evans
The executive director of the Drug Free Schools Coalition before becoming a lawyer he was a research scientist, in the Division of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, New Jersey Department of Health. He was also the manager of the New Jersey intoxicated driving program. He has written numerous articles warning of the dangers of marijuana legalization.
15. Pope Francis
The new pontiff, while being hailed by many as being a liberal influence in the Catholic Church has taken an intransigent line against marijuana legalization. This past June the new international pop culture icon told the 31st International Drug Enforcement Conference in Rome, “No a ogni tipo di droga (No to every type of drug).”
He was an active opponent of marijuana while a bishop in his native Argentina. He says now that attempts to legalize drugs do not produce the desired results.
He deplores the international drug trade as a scourge on humanity. Pope Francis has said it is a fallacy to say that more drug legalization will lead to less drug use.
16. Dennis Prager
A nationally syndicated radio talk show host in Los Angeles, Prager has used his microphone to condemn marijuana legalization. He has asked rhetorically, “Would you rather your pilot smoke cigarettes or pot? and “ How would Britain have fared in World War II if Winston Churchill had smoked pot instead of cigars?
17. Mel and Betty Sembler
The Semblers are longtime soldiers in the war on drugs. They co-founded, in 1976, a nonprofit drug treatment program called Straight, Inc. that successfully treated more than 12,000 young people with drug addiction in eight cities nationally from Dallas to Boston. They also help fund other organizations dedicated to opposing legalizing drugs including marijuana. Betty Sembler is the founder and Board Chair of Save Our Society From Drugs (S.O.S.) and the Drug Free America Foundation, Inc. Both organizations work to educate people about attempts to legalize as “medicine” unsafe, ineffective and unapproved drugs such as marijuana, heroin, PCP and crack as well as to reduce illegal drug use, drug addiction and drug-related illnesses and death.
18. Seth Leibsohn
Leibsohn is a radio host, writer, editor, policy, political and communications expert. He is a former member of the board of directors of the Partnership for a Drug Free America-Arizona Affiliate.
He told MainStreet that he got involved in the campaign against marijuana after seeing the effects of pot smoking on a college friend.
“One thing I noticed and never left my mind was a friend I had in college who so very clearly, freshman year, was one of the most gifted and intelligent thinkers and writers I had ever met," he said. " I predicted to myself and others, he’d be the next big American author, published in The New Yorker, books of short stories galore. But then he picked up a really habitual marijuana smoking practice. He smoked, probably, daily. This was the mid to late '80s. And to this day, I believe he is still a smoker....and he is a waste-case. Lazy, never had a serious job, never published a serious piece of writing, totally ended up opposite what I had predicted. That story never left my mind.”
Leibsohn also noticed this was happening more and more. But the problem really was driven home while he was the producer and co-host for the Bill Bennett radio show, Morning in America.
“We noticed something very interesting: whenever we dealt with the issues of drug abuse, and particularly marijuana, the phone lines lit up like no other issue," he said. "We had doctors, we had nurses, we had truckers, we had small businessmen, we had housewives, we had moms, we had brothers, we had teachers, we had sisters, we had aunts, we had uncles telling us story after story of the damage marijuana and other drugs had done to their and their loved ones lives. It amazed me how widespread the issue is. I concluded, to myself, this issue of substance abuse may very well be the most important and damaging health issue in America."
He also noticed that “there just weren’t that many who seemed to give a serious damn about it.” He said Joe Califano and Bill Bennett were about the only ones he knew with a large microphone or following who would address the issue. The silence in other precincts and from others was astounding to him.
“I still am amazed not more people are taking this as seriously as it should be taken," he said. "But I know, too, that any family that has been through the substance abuse roller coaster, needs to know they are not alone, and they are the real experts--their stories tell the tale I wish more children and pro-legalizers could hear. Today, I still talk, write, and research on the issue and have joined the board of a non-profit dedicated to helping on it as well,” he explained.
19. Alexandra Datig
A political advisor and consultant who has experience of more than 13 years on issues of drug policy she was instrumental in the defeat of California Proposition 19, The Regulate Control & Tax Cannabis Act. Datig serves on the Advisory Board for the Coalition for a Drug Free California, the largest drug prevention coalition in California.
She became involved in the anti-marijuana legalization movement because of her own experiences. She was working in politics at the local and state level for over eight years by 2009, but she also reached ten years in sobriety from a 13-year drug addiction that nearly cost her her life. When California Proposition 19 came along, she decided “to jump in and form my own independent campaign committee “Nip It In The Bud.”
“I began reaching out to several other committees, drug prevention groups and law enforcement and together we built a powerful statewide coalition for which I became one of its leading advisors and strategists,” she told MainStreet
“Today, I consider myself a miracle, because I was able to turn my life around," she told MainStreet. "This is not something I could have done had I not gotten sober. Having rebuilt my life in recovery, I believed that my experience could convince voters that legalizing a drug like marijuana for recreational use would make our roads more dangerous and, much like cigarettes, was targeted at our youth. That legalization would cause harm to first time users, people who suffer from depression and mental disorders and especially people vulnerable to addiction or relapse.”
20. Monte Stiles
A former state and federal prosecutor, Stiles supervised the Organized Crime/Drug Enforcement Task Force – a group of agents and prosecutors who investigate and prosecute high-level drug trafficking organizations, including Los Angeles street gangs, Mexican cartels and international drug smuggling and money laundering operations.
One of his proudest personal and career achievements was the organization and implementation of the statewide “Enough is Enough” anti-drug campaign which produced community coalitions in every area of Idaho. In addition to the prosecution of drug traffickers, Monte has been a passionate drug educator and motivational speaker for schools, businesses, churches, law enforcement agencies, and other youth and parent organizations. He left government service in April 2011 to devote all of his time to drug education, other motivational speaking and nature photography.
--Written by Michael P. Tremoglie for MainStreet