For the most part, a Tuesday afternoon anti-marijuana legalization panel hosted by the Heritage Foundation featured traditional conservative arguments against legalizing recreational marijuana. Rep. John Fleming (R-LA) called arguments for medical marijuana benefits “complete rubbish.” General Barry McCaffrey said “You’ve got to have a screw loose” to want children smoking pot. Researchers discussed the role of marijuana in teenage drug abuse.
But one panelist, from the co-sponsoring Smart Approaches to Marijuana, took a different approach.
“Folks, if you care about Monsanto manufacturing corn, you should really care about the GMO marijuana that’s out there now,” said Kevin Sabet, a veteran of drug policy under the Clinton, Bush, and Obama administrations. “There’s no other way to describe the way that the active ingredient has been completely manipulated to increase the high and take away the things that may have medicinal value.”
Sabet also warned against the “mass commercialization” of marijuana, lest it become another tobacco industry and be “highjacked by the corporate interests.” (He was not a fan, for example, of Bob Marley’s special marijuana brand.)
“I don’t know why we would want to repeat that nightmare,” said Sabet of the tobacco industry’s fight against health regulations.
Sabet’s group bills itself as the “nuanced,” bipartisan opposition to marijuana legalization.
Conservatives, including Heritage scholars, have a strong record of supporting GMOs and fighting against the voodoo science promoted by environmental groups like Greenpeace.
The argument that marijuana has become too potent is fairly common, and the subject of much debate. Marijuana prohibitionists contend that this is “not your father’s marijuana” and that the more potent strains are more addictive and pose greater health risks. Pro-legalization groups respond that people simply smoke less of the new strains to get the same high, just as the average drinker consumes less gin than beer for the same effect.
Perhaps Sabet’s reference to GMOs was meant to be tongue-in-cheek. After the event he tweeted “And yes, to you anti-GMO folks, today’s marijuana couldn’t be more genetically modified!”
And yes, to you anti-GMO folks, today's marijuana couldn't be more genetically modified! http://t.co/IA2pMx0ABH— Kevin Sabet (@KevinSabet) December 10, 2014
You can watch video of the panel below. Sabet’s comments begin around the 34 minute mark.