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Network media fail (updated)

November 8, 2012
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Some of the network media have been trying to cover the legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington and clearly are in catch-up mode, not really knowing how to talk about it. And they’re completely thrown by the fact that the DOJ, for the most part, isn’t coming right out and commenting. So they’re all forced to turn to… Kevin Sabet.

Check out this ABC piece by Christing NG: Marijuana Legalization Celebrations May be Premature, Lawmakers and Experts Say.

The experts on what the federal government will do appear to be… Kevin Sabet.

“I think this is the beginning of the conversation on legalization, not the end,” former Obama Drug Policy Advisor Dr. Kevin Sabet told ABCNews.com today.

“When you have the governors of both states [opposing it] as well as the president and Congress, who has already determined that marijuana is illegal, this is not going to be a walk in the park for marijuana enthusiasts,” Sabet said. [...]

Even though the measures have passed, they are likely to meet legal challenges very quickly.

Sabet predicted that the federal government would find a way to make clear that the passage of the amendments violates federal law and they won’t “take this lying down.”

“I wouldn’t advise anyone to toke up just yet. This is going to be caught up in the courts. This is a to-be-determined situation,” Sabet said. “The government has multiple avenues. They can wait until it’s implemented, take action before it’s implemented, reiterate what federal law is, send warning letters.”

The avenue the federal government will choose remains to be seen, Sabet said, especially since the passage is unprecedented.

“If you look back, the only precedent is the medical marijuana situation,” he said.

In 2005, the Supreme Court by an 8-0 margin struck down a California law that legalized medical marijuana in the state. The Court said Congress had the power to criminalize marijuana under the Commerce Clause.

He said that it may take a state’s move toward implementation to spur the federal government into intervening.

“I think you’re going to see very soon a response from the administration,” he said. “It’s completely premature for any legalization advocate to be celebrating at this point.” [...]

When asked if the federal government may try to quickly quash the amendments as a way to prevent a potential future domino effect of other states following in the footsteps of Colorado and Washington, Sabet said a failed legalization could actually set the movement back.

“A lot is going to ride on what happens next in these two states.” he said. “This very well may backfire because if this does not turn out so well, if implementation does not happen, the donors and millionaires that donated for this to happen may pause when doing it in other states.”

“I think people should just pause before celebrating this,” Sabet said. “The story is just beginning.”

What’s that – something like a dozen paragraphs out of a not particularly long story dedicated to total speculation by a former employee of the federal government about what the federal government will do.

And I’ve seen this in a number of articles. I asked Christine why she devoted so much time to this, but she hasn’t responded yet.

I asked another reporter why he depended on Kevin Sabet quotes and he told me: “I too would like some answers from the DOJ but in the absence of that we have to give our readers some idea of how they might be leaning.”

But the question is, how does Kevin know how they’re leaning? Why couldn’t the reporter give the basic facts of the federal-state conflict without having to turn to someone who appears to be nothing more than a media whore looking for more attention?

I asked Kevin if he was being paid to speak for the federal government or whether he just enjoyed making stuff up? He said he wouldn’t answer me unless I took back some of the things I’ve said about him in the past…. I decided I didn’t really need to know the answer that bad.

The thing is, good reporting can be done.

Update: Stop the Drug War has done a follow-up of this blog post: Fast Talking Has Started

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Pete Guither is the editor of drugwarrant.com

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