Proponents of cannabis legalization in the US will now face a new obstacle to their end goal as a result of a new political action committee (or PAC) formed with the goal of undermining their progress.
While PACs have existed in the American political system for decades, Super-PACs are a more recent phenomenon. Established after the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court Decision, Super PACs allow individuals, labour unions, corporations and other politically motivated entities to donate limitless sums of cash to the entity for the purpose of forwarding the shared goal of the Super PAC and its funders. Note that Super PACs never donate directly to candidates, only engage in various political activities (such as, but not limited to, advertising) on behalf of the funders.
Though I can think of many private and corporate entities that would benefit from the current status quo, one benefit of Super Pacs is that their donors are not hidden from view. So you will know if Big Alcohol or Big Pharma are chipping into this PACs coffers. However, the same can not be said for 501c entities.
Basically, Super PACs can accept any amount of cash from any entity, but all donors are transparent publicly. As for 501c’s, they can also accept an unlimited amount of cash from any entity, but they are not obligated to transparency in terms of their donors. They also can not exist primarily for the purpose of pursuing political interests. This is why I assume they are often paired with Super PACs (PACs do the political heavy lifting, 501Cs facilitate it by collecting the cash quietly).
But that is both off-topic and not even necessarily related. However, it’s a handy guidebook as to why many things are the way they are in the US political system. Ever wonder why seemingly every right-leaning no one in the American political sphere has a radio show or podcast?
Wonder no more.
New Marijuana Prohibition Super PAC Targets Pro-Legalization GOP Congresswoman, Among Other Races
A top executive of the national prohibitionist group Smart Approaches To Marijuana (SAM) is launching a new political action committee (PAC), targeting pro-legalization candidates and supporting those who oppose the policy in key races. And one of the super PAC’s first targets is a freshman GOP congresswoman who is sponsoring her own bill to federally legalize and regulate cannabis.
Luke Niforatos, executive vice president of SAM and CEO of the newly established Protect Our Kids PAC, told Marijuana Moment that he decided to branch out to create the committee in order to “give more political power to families and children, who want elected representatives in office who will put their health and safety first over industries looking to profit from drug legalization.”
Of course, a Super PAC aimed at enabling underground drug dealers and suppliers by keeping their market share uncontested for even longer would be marketed with the message that is “Will someone PLEASE think of the children!”. The natural way to ensure that minors don’t get their hands on cannabis is OBVIOUSLY to ensure that the suppliers that don’t care about age keep on serving the market.
Also, Smart Approaches to Marijuana reminds me of an organization I came across in the past. Headed by Kevin Sebat, the man on a crusade against cannabis legalization now despite seemingly overlooking the American opioid crisis when he was in an appointed white house position to make a difference to the situation. Could it be?
The following individuals hold leadership positions with Smart Approaches to Marijuana:
- Kevin A. Sabet, President and CEO
- Luke Niforatos, Chief of Staff and Senior Policy Advisor
- Abu Edwards, Director of State Affairs
- Dana Stevens, Director of Local Affairs
- Garth Van Meter, “Vice President of Government Affairs
- Brendan Fairfield, “Director of Business Development
I knew I recognized the distinctly familiar stench of this particular brand of stupid. And also from the same source, check out this unexpectedly relevant piece of information.
Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization describes its mission as “promot[ing] health-first, smart policies and attitudes that decrease marijuana use and its consequences.” The group opposes non-medical marijuana legalization efforts, including state-level ballot initiatives that would legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana at the state level.
Remember what we learned about Super PACs VS 501c’s? Looks like the SAM leadership was sick of the drawbacks of sick of drawbacks of the 501c(3) as well.
Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC) is among the PAC’s first targets. It plans to put tens of thousands of dollars behind a campaign to specifically unseat the congresswoman, who made headlines after introducing a GOP-led bill to end cannabis prohibition late last year.
Asked why the PAC is starting by zeroing in on Mace, rather than other more longstanding pro-legalization lawmakers up for reelection, Niforatos said that the congresswoman “has become the face of marijuana legalization for the Republican party,” and accused her of being “a lackey for Altria Phillip Morris, the largest tobacco company in America which is bankrolling marijuana legalization.”
“Her constituents do not support commercializing marijuana, yet an inordinate amount of her time is spent stumping for the policy,” he claimed. “Legalization of marijuana has hurt kids, families, and caused large health harms in states that have passed such policies. It’s time to hold her accountable.”
The first question that occurs to me is where on earth is SAM (or rather, Protect Our Kids) getting tens of thousands of dollars in order to fling all of this mud at a congresswoman?
It’s possible that individual donors could be responsible. But I seriously question that given the public support for legal cannabis. However, this is just an assumption.
We can, however, look into the claim of this congresswoman being a quote lackey for Altria Philip Morris. Did she accept donations from the company?
According to the following link, not that I can see. Though it’s possible that it was hidden through a 501c/Super PAC combination, I can’t see any cannabis-related donors.
Since this is the case, I think it’s time for Luke Niforatos of SAM to put up or shut up. Where is your evidence?
Evidence that SAM isn’t also bought off by corporate financiers would also be nice, but I won’t play that game. That would make me no better than SAM.
Mace countered the attack, telling Marijuana Moment that polling she has conducted of her constituents shows that “two out of every three Republican Primary voters in our district agree that states should have the right to decide their own cannabis laws, and that’s exactly what the States Reform Act (SRA) does.”
“It protects the rights of states to decide for themselves,” the congresswoman said. “It’s the basic premise of federalism, also a conservative principle.”
While I don’t think that cannabis law should be a states rights issue given all that is at stake (the livelihood and reputation of literally millions of people), that is not the topic at hand. The prohibitionists at SAM claim that her constituents are not interested, she counters with the reality of the situation. So the natural next step is . . . Super PAC funded political propaganda.
Social media ads attacking Mace over the cannabis issue are already rolling out. Like this one, leaning into concerns about marijuana products that some worry would appeal to children:
And this one playing into fears about increased traffic fatalities following legalization, even though data is mixed on the association.
Kevin Sabet is like Cole from The Sixth Sense. He sees dead people everywhere!
Well, except for all of these that overdosed on opioids on his watch as that crisis unfolded unabated throughout the 90s and into the 2000s.
In February, Mace’s Republican primary challenger Katie Arrington criticized the incumbent’s focus on marijuana legalization in a campaign ad, saying, “Is Nancy Mace high?”
Separately, Mace and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) filed a resolution this month imploring President Joe Biden to wield his influence to get the United Nations to end the international ban on marijuana by removing the plant from the list of controlled substances in a global drug treaty.
In any case, Mace won’t be the new PAC’s only target. With what Niforatos said is six-figures of funding that the committee will soon be reporting to the FEC, they will be tackling “6-12 races this cycle, focusing on House races as well as state-level races.”
Lovely. I can’t wait to see the other dog shit these assholes produce.
That includes launching ads in “some key races in the next few weeks” and supporting Colorado House candidate Yardira Caraveo’s primary race because she sponsored legislation to “overhaul” the state’s cannabis program last year. It will also back “one other Colorado Republican in a close race,” he said.
“The slate we are endorsing (which will grow) is comprised of two Democrats and two Republicans, and this bi-partisan nature will continue. We will support and attack the same numbers of both parties,” Niforatos said. “We believe good drug policy that protects families and kids is bipartisan, and it should stay that way.”
I can’t fault them for holding everyone accountable. After all, keeping street-level gangs and dealers in the business of furnishing teens and children with cannabis products is a bi-partisan issue.
Another candidate that the PAC will be backing is Washington State Rep. Lauren Davis (D), which might seem like an unusual pick for an anti-legalization committee since the lawmaker last year sponsored a bill to decriminalize low-level possession of all drugs.
Niforatos said that Davis is “a friend of ours, and she is a courageous lawmaker who has worked in the recovery field and has bravely taken on the marijuana industry in Washington State by advocating for sensible regulations such as potency caps.”
And here we go with the regulations from the no-nothings. To be frank, if you believe in potency caps in the area of cannabis and don’t see a need for other substances such as alcohol or caffeine (the caffeine content of energy drinks has only been rising in the past few years) to have similar conversations, then you are an idiot and are not worth listening too.
“She is also someone who recognizes drug addiction is something to be treated with the goal of recovery, not normalizing use or allowing commercialization of drugs,” he said, adding that he disputes the characterization of her legislation as “broad decriminalization” even though it seeks to remove criminal penalties for small possession all drugs, in addition to bolstering substance misuse treatment.
“That doesn’t mean we will agree on everything—we likely won’t ever agree on every single policy issue or nuance with any of our candidates we support,” he said. “But Rep. Davis is putting the health and safety of families first and these are values we feel are desperately needed for policymakers in America.”
There is another booming industry in this broken world that I have not even touched on in this article (but I did HERE). Then there are the problems with AA as the status quo recovery program (as infamously chronicled by James Frey in the 2000s). But not the focus of this piece.
Also on the PAC’s roster is a former federal prosecutor from the state of West Virginia who is currently running for state Senate. Mike Stuart has regularly expressed hostility to cannabis reform, including at summit events and a symposium on the issue that he organized in 2018 during his time as a U.S. attorney.
The committee will further be supporting Kentucky Rep. Kimberly Moser (R) in her reelection bid. The lawmaker opposed medical cannabis legalization efforts in her state, but she did sponsor cannabis research legislation that cleared the House this month.
Some might be left wondering: if the objective of the new PAC is to defeat pro-legalization candidates and support those who are against enacting such policy change, why not just continue to do that and raise funds for SAM, or its 501(c)(4) SAM Action? After all, the goals seem to closely align.
Niforatos said that “SAM has always been focused on educating the public, lawmakers, and not engaging in partisanship in any way. That mission has been successful and will continue.”
“But SAM is an educational 501(c)(3) nonprofit. It cannot support or oppose individual candidates,” he said.
Well, at least the organization is honest with its intentions. However stupid they may be.
Pressed on the fact that SAM Action could theoretically accomplish what the Protect Our Kids PAC is gearing up to do, Niforatos said that the group’s 501(c)(4) “is only used for lobbying and advocacy related activities.”
“We really want to stay away from electioneering and partisanship with SAM/SAM Action,” he said. “I wanted to start a super PAC of my own, separate from those organizations, that would allow me to do more electioneering work with the vision of protecting families and kids from drugs.”
I’m certainly curious where the funding for the Super PAC and the 501c(3) is going to come from at this point. Though I can’t know for sure, this sure looks to me like opening up for business.
As momentum grows for drug policy reform, this is the latest example of how PACs are continuing to come into the picture.
The former lobbyist for NORML launched his own Better Organizing to Win Legalization (BOWL) PAC last month, for example. And Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), the sponsor of a federal cannabis legalization bill up for a floor vote this week, sent out a joint email blast to supporters to raise funds last week.
Also last month, New York Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes (D) started an equity-focused political action committee that will place a strong focus on electing candidates that support marijuana reform.
While I understand the existence of PACs, I can’t help but wonder if the difference between a PAC and a Super PAC makes a difference here. While a PAC seems like it is limited in scope to members of its head organization, a Super PAC has no such limitations (being able to accept cash from anyone). Something to consider when paired with a 501c(3) which can be (and often, IS) blindly financed.