Kevin Sabet’s Former Professor Acknowledges Cannabis’ Medical Benefits


I happened to stumble across Project SAM’s Kevin Sabet’s Twitter feed and I noticed that he mentioned that a former professor of his had warned the cannabis industry about the potential for a backlash. I happen to agree with this sentiment and have long advocated that cannabis law reform advocates keep in mind moderate voters and take into account the legitimate concerns of our neighbors. While it can be frustrating, it is often necessary to compromise as the we don’t want a rollback from our political and cultural gains across the nation.

Curious, I followed the link and read the entire interview with Professor Robert MacCoun, author of Drug War Heresies. MacCoun taught Sabet at the University of California, Berkeley, but he is now working at Stanford University. Usually, prohibitionists don’t tell the entire story, and Sabet, the so-called quarterback of the anti-cannabis legalization movement, is no different. While Professor MacCoun did indeed state that a backlash could occur, he also stated a few things that don’t fit the narrative of Sabet and his fellow Reefer Madness propagandists in an interview published by Stanford’s Freeman Spogli Institute:

Could there be any positive health effects of marijuana use?

Absolutely. There are plenty of lines of evidence suggesting medical benefits for some patients. Intriguingly, several new studies suggest that medical marijuana states may be experiencing reduced levels of opioid use and opioid overdoses. The Catch 22 is that the DEA decided not to reschedule marijuana because there isn’t enough rigorous evidence, but there isn’t enough rigorous evidence because the Feds have made such studies almost impossible to conduct.

Some of the biggest health benefits of marijuana will occur if it turns out that marijuana use is a substitute for binge drinking. There are both physiological and economic reasons to think that might be the case, but while some studies show substitution, others show complementarity. For a researcher, one big benefit of legalization is that it is going to help us finally answer a lot of these research questions.

Professor MacCoun also stated that legalization provides an opportunity for regulations to be implemented that don’t exist with prohibition. MacCoun expressed skepticism that enough regulations have been put in place in legalized states, but he must not have studied Oregon’s strict regulations on testing, packaging, labeling and advertising.

I met Kevin Sabet back in 2003, when he worked for George W. Bush’s Drug Czar, who used taxpayer dollars to campaign against a local decriminalization measure that I co-authored in Columbia, Missouri. While we lost the election in 2003, Columbia went on to decriminalize personal use and legalize medical use, in 2004. In 2014, Sabet came full circle into my life, trying to use taxpayer dollars to campaign against the Measure 91 legalization effort in Oregon. Measure 91 passed with just over 56% of the vote.

With the huge electoral victories this year, Sabet and his fellow prohibitionists are desperate. They will continue to cherry-pick statistics and are even pushing for the federal government to trample the will of state voters. We must remain vigilant and continue to call out those that continue to spout Reefer Madness.

Anthony Johnson
About Anthony Johnson 128 Articles

Anthony Johnson, a longtime cannabis law reform advocate, is the director of New Approach Oregon, working to effectively implement the cannabis legalization system while protecting small business owners and the rights of patients. He sits on the Oregon Marijuana Rules Advisory Committee and fights for sensible rules at the legislature, before regulatory bodies,and at city councils and county commissions across the state.

He was proud to work as Chief Petitioner and co-author of Measure 91, Oregon’s cannabis legalization effort and director of the Vote Yes on 91 PAC, the political action committees responsible for the state’s legalization campaign. He also advises cannabis entrepreneurs on how to comply with Oregon’s laws and helps organize the International Cannabis Business Conference and the Oregon Marijuana Business Conference. Anthony’s blogs on are personal in nature and don’t speak for or reflect the opinions of any group or organization. You can see his work here at as well as