SAM Criticizes California Cannabis Business Conference

SAM Defends Neighborhoods

Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM), the leading U.S. non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to advancing evidence-based marijuana policy, criticized the California Cannabis Business Conference for fueling the rise of special interest groups that undermine public health and safety regulations in California.

Even though several under-served California neighborhoods have called for a ban on commercial pot shops in recent months, the California Cannabis Business Conference will host pot lobbyists and executives for a two-day industry event focused on for-profit marketing opportunities. The conference takes place September 21-22 in Anaheim.

The vast majority of marijuana businesses operate and advertise in low-income communities of color.

“Many marijuana businesses are making a big push to enter these communities, which do not have the political power to push back. Despite those disadvantages, local community members are vocal about their opposition to a third commercial drug industry that, like alcohol and tobacco, would become richer and more powerful at the expense of the health and safety of their residents,” said Raul Riesgo, a Latino consultant and community activist in Los Angeles.

Drug Industry invades California as residents object

“While a new group of corporations discuss how to get richer from their habit-forming product, residents of under-served cities like Compton and Lynwood are saying they want pot shops out of their neighborhoods and away from their schools,” said Kevin Sabet, President of Smart Approaches to Marijuana and former White House drug policy advisor under the Clinton, Bush, and Obama administrations. “Many concerned Californians are protesting the invasion of a commercial drug industry that lowers their quality of life, makes their roads less safe, and advertises to young people, but their voices are being drowned out by the sound of cold hard cash. Just like Big Tobacco before it, Big Marijuana is laser-focused on generating revenue from heavy users, which ultimately requires targeting kids, minority communities, and substance abuse-sensitive communities.”

One California Cannabis Business Conference sponsor, the National Cannabis Industry Association, has donated tens of thousands of pot industry profits to politicians. Large “canna-businesses” are spending millions on advertising, have engaged in product giveaways, and are seeking to consolidate the sector into large corporations.

Additionally, evidence emerging from states where marijuana is already legal demonstrates that the legalization of marijuana is failing to achieve the promises made by activists to protect public health, reduce discrimination, and achieve social justice. A recent report from the American Automobile Association shows that Washington State has seen a doubling in the number of fatal drugged driving crashes since legalization.

In Colorado, a recent report from the state’s public safety agency reveals that after the state legalized the drug, marijuana-related arrests for black and Hispanic youth rose by 58 and 29 percent, respectively, while arrest rates for white kids dropped by eight percent. Moreover, few marijuana businesses are minority-owned even while