Smart Approaches to Marijuana

Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM, Inc.) is a political organization opposed to marijuana legalization and commercialization. SAM describes itself as a bi-partisan partnership that works with local, state, and federal legislators to create policies that decrease marijuana use.[3] SAM advocates for civil penalties for marijuana use (what some call decriminalization), along with mandated treatment, prevention, education, and awareness.[4]

Smart Approaches to Marijuana
FormationJanuary 1, 2013; 10 years ago (2013-01-01)
FoundersPatrick Kennedy and Kevin Sabet[1]
Type501(c)(3) nonprofit[2]
HeadquartersAlexandria, Va.[2] New York, NY
Region served
US, International
President and CEO
Kevin Sabet, PhD [1]
Executive Vice President
Luke Niforatos
Vice President of Federal Affairs
Garth Van Meter
Key people
David Frum, Barry McCaffrey
AffiliationsSAM Action, a 501(c)(4)[2]

History and backgroundEdit

SAM was founded in 2013, by former Congressman Patrick Kennedy (D-Rhode Island), former White House drug policy adviser Kevin Sabet, senior editor of The Atlantic, David Frum and a group of health professionals in response to the successful 2012 marijuana legalization initiatives in Colorado and Washington.[5]

The group states they have four priorities:[6]

  • Prevent Big Marijuana. SAM endeavors to prevent the formation of 'Big Marijuana', a potential commercial marijuana industry. SAM also seeks to prevent Big Tobacco from expanding its influence into Big Marijuana.
  • Educate. SAM works to inform the public and policymakers about what the group considers to be "the science of today's marijuana."
  • Reduce consequences. SAM aspires to open a dialogue about reducing civil and criminal penalties for marijuana offenders.
  • Medical research. SAM aims to encourage medical marijuana research and promote the development of FDA-approved marijuana medications.

In 2013, the organization was endorsed by former president Jimmy Carter, who stated "I'm very proud of Patrick Kennedy and his Project SAM, Smart Approaches to Marijuana". "I wish him and Kevin Sabet every success in your independent project to make sure marijuana is handled responsibly."[7] Despite this, Carter has expressed support for marijuana legalization.[8]

Prior to 2020, SAM led several successful efforts to defeat marijuana legalization measures in Ohio (2015), Arizona (2016) and North Dakota (2018). SAM's opposition to marijuana legalization has been less successful since the 2020 elections, which resulted in four marijuana legalization measures being approved in Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota; SAM opposed all four and failed to prevent commercial marijuana sales from being legalized in Vermont shortly before the election. The following year, legislatures in New York, New Mexico and Virginia moved forward with cannabis legalization despite the vocal opposition of both Kevin Sabet and his organization. Commenting on the diminishing support for his cause, Kevin Sabet stated that marijuana's opponents were still extant but that many had "gone underground" in response to bipartisan support for legalization.[9]


Criminal penalties for useEdit

SAM supports removing criminal penalties for use, advocating instead for mandatory treatment. The group however do advocate for civil fines or penalties.[10]

Medicinal marijuana productsEdit

Project SAM supports the study of the components of marijuana.[1] The organization promotes research on marijuana in order to obtain FDA-approved, pharmacy-dispensed, cannabis-based medications.[3]


SAM says it is mostly funded by small donors, and by grants.[1] Sabet has stated none of the organization's funding comes from corporations or opiate manufacturers.[11] At least one donor, a private art collector dedicated to assisting substance abuse non-profits, gave $1,364,000 to SAM Action in 2016.[12]

Media and activismEdit

SAM Action, Inc. is the 501(c)(4) sister organization of SAM.

State and local chaptersEdit

SAM has affiliated organizations in 50 states that work to support its mission at the state level. In addition to its network of state affiliates, SAM has partnered with Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy,[13] the California Coalition for Responsible Drug Policies,[14] Mainers for Healthy Youth, the Campaign for a Safe and Healthy Massachusetts,[15] and Nevadans for Responsible Drug Policy.

  • Alabama[16]
  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • California[17]
  • Colorado[18]
  • Connecticut
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii[19]
  • Iowa[20]
  • Kansas[21]
  • Maine[22]
  • Maryland[6]
  • Massachusetts[15]
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire[23]
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • Oregon[24]
  • Rhode Island[25]
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Washington[26]

International branchesEdit

  • Smart Approaches to Marijuana Canada (SAMC)[27]
  • Smart Approaches to Marijuana New Zealand (Say Nope to Dope) [28]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d Michael Roberts (14 August 2017). "Meet Kevin Sabet, USA's Most Influential Critic of Marijuana Legalization". Westword. Retrieved 4 January 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d "Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) Biography". 10 July 2017. Retrieved 4 January 2018.
  3. ^ a b SAM (4 January 2018). "Who We Are". SAM. Retrieved 4 January 2018.
  4. ^ "Smart Approached to Marijuana - Criminal Justice Reform". Retrieved 9 August 2018.
  5. ^ "Patrick Kennedy's SAM pot-health campaign lands in Denver". The Denver Post. 2013-01-10. Retrieved 2020-06-22.
  6. ^ a b Talbot Partnership (4 December 2013). "Marijuana Abuse Prevention". Talbot Spy. Retrieved 4 January 2018.
  7. ^ Justin Green (17 May 2013). "Jimmy Carter Endorses SAM, Opposes Marijuana Legalization". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 4 January 2018.
  8. ^ Carter: I'm OK with legalizing pot
  9. ^ This Election, a Divided America Stands United on One Topic
  10. ^ German Lopez (24 March 2016). "Meet the man trying to halt marijuana legalization". Vox. Retrieved 4 January 2018.
  11. ^ Keegan Hamilton (26 October 2016). "Here's who's bankrolling the fight against legal marijuana". Vice News. Retrieved 4 January 2018.
  12. ^ "404" (PDF). {{cite web}}: Cite uses generic title (help)
  13. ^ "The Billboard Battle: Anti-Marijuana Group Wants Pro-Pot Signage Gone". Phoenix New Times. 31 October 2017. Retrieved 4 January 2018.
  14. ^ "Who Is With Us?". CALM USA. 4 January 2018. Retrieved 4 January 2018.
  15. ^ a b C. Eugene Emery Jr. (30 March 2014). "Marijuana legalization opponent Heidi Heilman says today's marijuana is 300 percent to 800 percent stronger than in the past". PolitiFact. Retrieved 4 January 2018.
  16. ^ "Is Big Pharma Out to Stop—Or Take Over—Marijuana Legalization?". Vice. 25 August 2016. Retrieved 4 January 2018.
  17. ^ Paul Elias and David Crary (28 September 2016). "9 states to vote soon on expanding legal access to marijuana". Athens Banner Herald. Retrieved 4 January 2018.
  18. ^ "Hundreds Of Vets Receive Pot Free Of Charge At Special Event". CBS Denver. 20 September 2014. Retrieved 4 January 2018.
  19. ^ "Project SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana) goes to Hawaii". The Garden Island. 31 March 2013. Retrieved 4 January 2018.
  20. ^ Kristin Buehner (11 October 2013). "Speaker cites dangers of youth and marijuana use". Globe Gazette. Retrieved 4 January 2018.
  21. ^ "Marijuana Abuse Prevention". Kansas Prevention Collaborative. 4 January 2018. Retrieved 4 January 2018.
  22. ^ Kevin Miller (2 March 2015). "Bill to ban local votes on legalizing marijuana draws fire at hearing". Press Herald. Retrieved 4 January 2018.
  23. ^ Joe Gallagher (30 January 2013). "NH TO BECOME 20TH STATE AFFILIATED WITH SMART APPROACHES TO MARIJUANA (SAM)". New Futures. Retrieved 4 January 2018.
  24. ^ Carl Wellstone (6 November 2015). "SAM Oregon Uses Ben Carson to Support Marijuana Prohibition". Marijuana Politics. Retrieved 4 January 2018.
  25. ^ "Nancy DeNuccio: Ocean State Prevention Alliance". Ocean State Prevention Alliance. 4 January 2018. Retrieved 4 January 2018.
  26. ^ "Northwest Tribes Oppose Pot Legalization". KNKX. Associated Press. 26 February 2014. Retrieved 4 January 2018.
  27. ^ Travis Lupick (17 June 2015). "Anti-pot group Smart Approaches to Marijuana Canada looks at legal challenges". Georgia Straight. Retrieved 4 January 2018.
  28. ^ "SAM-NZ (Smart Approaches to Marijuana NZ) - Position Statement". 7 June 2020.