The Patrick Kennedy's Coerced Rehab All Potheads Project -- also known as the ironically named “Smart Approaches to Marijuana” -- is busy establishing local chapters across the nation dedicated to promulgating the Kinder Gentler Drug War. Today, an op-ed written by its New England field director, Heidi Heilman, is a tour de force so replete with "Reefer Madness," I’d be remiss in not debunking it. How purposefully ignorant about cannabis is she? Let us count the ways…

1. “[D]rug policy decisions [are] funded by a giant industry that sells an addictive, psychotropic drug […and] the multi-million dollar, pro-marijuana lobby.”
Oh, pity the poor drug warriors, backed only by the annual $15 billion budgeted by the government to make daily drug policy decisions, fighting valiantly under the banner of that pauper Patrick Kennedy, to defeat the giant industry that doesn’t exist yet and the 99 percent volunteer pro-marijuana lobby whose funded organizations combined might have 0.1 percent of the drug war’s budget. (Who wants to bet Heidi Heilman makes at least twice my free-lance writer/talk show host income?)

2. “[M]arijuana use directly contributes to mental illness, depression, psychosis, permanent loss of IQ and memory, heightened risk of heart attack or stroke, school drop out…”
Interesting, then, how marijuana use went up dramatically in the 1970s, but schizophrenia diagnoses declined. Or how IQ and college entrance tests show no correlation to the rise and fall in marijuana use. Marijuana use does increase heart rate -- about as much as sex or climbing stairs. And problems that lead kids to pot also cause problems in school -- pot’s a symptom, not a cause.

3. Heidi tries to sell the gateway theory nobody’s buying by miscorrelating New England’s high marijuana use rates with increases in heroin use. “NH’s heroin deaths have doubled this year; authorities now report having one heroin overdose every three days.”
If we’re really concerned about the epidemic of heroin abuse, perhaps we ought to ask the DEA why they approved a 1600 percent increase in oxycodone (synthetic heroin) manufacturing in the medical marijuana era, as many heroin addicts report choosing it when their Oxycontin subscriptions lapse, and why they just approved Zohydro, the purest, most potent form of oxycodone yet?

4. “Today’s marijuana is 300 percent — 800 percent more potent than the pot of yesteryear.”
Today’s Marinol is therefore 3,000 percent to 8,000 percent more potent, yet it’s considered a safe and effective medicine. Pot potency has increased, but it’s not as if there wasn’t good weed back in the day. It’s just when it was seized then, it also had sticks and seeds and leaf in it, too, bringing down the overall sample potency. And Marinol lacks the CBD that moderates THC’s psychoactivity.

5. “[O]ne in six who use marijuana before age 18 becomes addicted.”
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, there are about 60 million adults who tried marijuana before age 18. About one-third of them toked in the past year. To get the 10 million of them who are supposedly “addicted,” we have to include everyone who smoked four or more days per month. So, this stat only makes sense if you think someone smoking a joint on a Saturday night is an “addict.”

6. “Data shows 52 percent of the US public uses alcohol -- a legal drug, and 7.3 percent uses marijuana -- an illegal drug. What happens if we legalize marijuana and use rises to 25 percent, 35 percent or 50 percent? Open up the psych wards, treatment centers, and assisted living beds America, and watch your social and public school costs soar.”
Really, half the country wants to smoke pot, but won’t because it is illegal? The greatest rate of pot smoking in this country ever was 1979 at 13.2 percent and the lowest was 1993 at 4.6 percent. So today is almost twice as “bad” as 1993 and almost half as “bad” as 1979. Yet we’ve seen no great difference in public health and social costs attributable to marijuana throughout these years.

I don’t doubt marijuana use will go up. When I discovered marijuana didn’t give me hangovers like alcohol, upset stomach like aspirin, liver damage like acetaminophen, and sexual dysfunction like anti-depressants, I replaced all those with marijuana. If legality opens up that option for more adults, we’ll see public health and social costs decline.

7. “Sentencing reform that leads to treatment, recovery and strong supports is the better alternative and will yield a more healthy, productive populace. We must focus on practical changes in marijuana policy that neither demonizes users nor legalizes the drug.”
What’s more demonizing than treating someone like a criminal addict? SAM’s glaring flaw is lack of any plan to deal with illegal marijuana markets. Their plan is “sentencing reform” that forces pot smokers into treatment and absolutely no reform for pot growers, traffickers, and sellers. They must falsely assume their treatment can eradicate all consumer demand for marijuana that fuels teenage dealers in high schools and street corners all the way up to domestic growers who ruin public lands and Mexican drug cartels that torture and behead rivals.

8. “Big tobacco kept the public in the dark for a half century by clouding evidence that smoking caused lung cancer…. Big marijuana is following the same playbook -- clouding evidence of harm. As the industry takes root, expect big tobacco companies to take over.”
Big Tobacco had to lie about its product because it is toxic and highly addictive. It is Big Rehab, Big Pharma, and Big Prison that have to lie about the harms of marijuana to convince people to stick with a failed prohibition that funds their industries and today’s criminal Big Marijuana.

9. “Marijuana is being positioned as harmless, and the emerging industry is luring in our youth.”
The only people who say marijuana is harmless are the marijuana prohibitionists who keep putting those words in our mouth. What we say is “marijuana is objectively less harmful than alcohol, tobacco, and nearly all medications.”  Big Tobacco had to hook youngsters because adults trying a cigarette for the first time won’t let peer pressure override their instinctual revulsion to cigarette smoke and understanding of smoking’s harms.

10. “[A] young [Indonesian] tobacco control activist … referred to Tobacco as “Indonesia’s smelly fish," explaining, “we have a saying: when you hide a smelly fish, you can’t hide it forever because the smell will come out eventually.” Marijuana is now America’s smelly fish and more and more of us are starting to pick up the stench....”
Oh, there’s a smelly fish all right: it’s America hiding the futility of prohibition. Did Heidi learn nothing from that last rotting fish we wrapped in the 21st Amendment and threw away?

"Radical" Russ Belville is the host of The Russ Belville Show, which airs live at 3pm Pacific.