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Garth Van MeterKENTUCKY (3/5/20) — My name is Garth Van Meter, and I’m the Vice President of Government Affairs for Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM). SAM is a national, nonpartisan nonprofit that advocates for responsible research, for removing criminal penalties, and against the commercialization of marijuana without proper research. I’m here to share my experience working on this issue in other states that have already gone down the path of legalization and have invited an addiction-for-profit industry into their states. They never intended it to work that way, but it’s happened in every state.

You have to understand, whatever the good intentions are of legislators … however carefully they think they have structured their bill, it doesn’t occur in a vacuum. They are not starting a responsible industry from scratch. There is a whole multi-billion-dollar business ecosystem out there already, and it doesn’t care about patients or safety, it only cares about one thing: profits. The existing marijuana businesses do that in two ways: juicing the potency of the products to make them more addictive, and aggressively promoting heavy, repeated use of those high potency products through advertising and promotions.

This isn’t under the control of doctors. Once someone gets their medical marijuana card, they are only under the supervision of the businesses that are trying to get them to use more. Have you tried this new product? Here is a text message with a promo code. Here is an ad in your Instagram feed. Oh, teenagers are seeing that? Whoops, well we want to make sure the next generation knows about extremely high potency products!

It’s as if you were taking the worst offenders from the pill mills and said, “that’s not the exception anymore, that’s the goal. That’s the entire business model, and we’re going to import it from other states where these companies are machines that are highly successful at turning a profit.”

So, we’re here today to say, “Yes, we want to help suffering people.” But we have to do this carefully, we have to do this right, we have to make sure we are doing the proper research first. Because if we skip ahead and turn this over to those who would profit at the expense of public health, we are going to regret it.

— Garth Van Meter, SAM VP

Information provided by Commwealth Policy Center

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