Open Reply to Seth Hyman, Parent of Epileptic Daughter

By: Kevin Sabet | Posted: March 8, 2014 3:55 AM
Kevin Sabet

Kevin Sabet

I very much appreciate you reaching out. To answer the subject of your letter, I hope to be a dad soon. I am the cousin of a child suffering from multiple disorders including seizures. I am also the grandson of multiple grandparents who have died of cancer.

But to get to the crux of your email, I had not seen that inflammatory, inaccurate and unprofessional article (reference, Nancy Smith's March 5 commentary, "Anti-Legalization Advocate Trying to Snuff Out Medical Marijuana Bill").

More importantly, I write to you with the utmost compassion and understanding (coming from a person without a suffering child, that is).

Unlike some in the scientific world, I actually do think there is great potential in all cannabinoids, most certainly including CBD. The fact that the evidence is only pre-clinical (or based on anecdote) is not a problem for me. My beef with the current legislation in Florida is that it is heavy on the surface and very light in substance. So the question for me is not "if" this helps -- it is "how do we do it right?"

I've personally seen numerous families have awful experiences with fake CBD (that has high amounts of THC) as well as the false promise of "Colorado as a promised land" (finding out quickly that there are long lines and waits for certain CBD products). So rather than focusing on supporting that route, I have been spending dozens of hours -- ironic given the vitriol expressed in that article -- on the phone with botanists, federal agencies, companies who claim to have pure CBD, lawyers to help me better understand federal and international law in this area, etc. -- trying to find a better solution. 

My organization even sent a letter to the FDA on this and a related matter yesterday, and I personally have contact with FDA Commissioner Peggy Hamburg and the DEA administrator. I've found quickly that there are no easy solutions and that the best of all the imperfect ones is an FDA IND Program (expanded from its current form) to allow for immediate access. Planting in Florida is certainly not faster (eight months at best with the spring planting and fall harvest), and it would require a level of expertise unseen in the state for the difficult process to extract CBD and lose the THC.

But that doesn't mean I hold the slightest bit of ill-will toward you or any other parent in your pursuit of getting the best medication, the fastest way, for your child. My issue, though, is "how we do get the best medicines to the most number of people" in the name of public health.

A final note of distaste I cannot in good conscience ignore: Right now, legalization advocates -- including trial lawyers and political operatives with much larger and wider aspirations -- are clinging to vulnerable parents like you for the wrong reasons. They are saying that "in the name of the children" we need marijuana. It's preposterous as much as it is offensive. They are simply clinging on to your struggle in pursuit of their much wider agenda. That certainly doesn't sit well with me, never mind how it does little to help your cause in the minds of scientists and objective authorities.

I really wish you well in your journey. I can't imagine to understand your struggles; I don't pretend to. I simply hope that our mutual objectives of increasing health are achieved. I wish you well on your journey with Becca.

Kevin Sabet, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of psychiatry, director of the Drug Policy Institute at the University of Florida, a consultant, professor, author, and drug policy adviser. With Patrick J. Kennedy, he co-founded Project SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana) in January 2013. 

Comments (14)

8:36AM APR 21ST 2014
Hey Kevin,

Have you given up looking like a shill yet? Or is the pay still good enough?
2:02PM MAR 11TH 2014
Let me summarize this letter without the polite "tone."

In this Open Reply, Sabet is saying, "Sorry, Mr. Hyman, my job is to delay the legalization of marijuana so that those who make money off of its illegal status can continue to do so until they can figure out a way to make money off of marijuana in new ways. Your daughter will have to suffer until then. I'm paid to exacerbate the failed status quo, and your daughter's well-being is not as important as my paid job."
5:05AM MAR 11TH 2014
I trust Dr Sanjay Gupta FAR MORE than I trust Kevin Sabet. Dr Gupta is aiming at medical advancement to reduce suffering for mankind... Sabet just gets money for spouting un-scientific, political agenda.

Who are YOU going to trust?

Plus, the guy is CLEARLY getting his rear-end kicked across America... Hard to believe he and his SAM buddy Kennedy are still showing their heads after the wool has been removed from the People's eyes.
2:31PM MAR 9TH 2014
Sabet writes with a reasonable tone here but look back at his notes to the legislative panel. Following the Sabet way will price CBD pharmaceuticals out of sight. Clinical trials followed by one company's drug (no generic product) will bankrupt these poor families. He has no heart for this task.
Jim Freedom
12:50PM MAR 9TH 2014
Pot Opponents are mounting a fierce campaign to nip the industry in the bud calling Medical Cannabis a "A Smokescreen" - Taken from NBC news report on Florida's Medical Cannabis campaign known as Amendment 2 - but you can find these same prohibitionist rants with their same lame sound bites everywhere - Lets address them
Prohibitionist Statement #1 “This is another example of how this industry is turning into big business,” said Kevin Sabet, PhD., director of the Drug Policy Institute at the University of Florida. “[It’s] today’s version of big tobacco.” [fyi Kevin Sabet, PhD is a Dr. of Social Policy, his undergrad is Political Science Mr. Sabet is NOT a part of the Medical Community - Mr. Sabet is a basically a free lance POLITICIAN]
Reality Check Response - Where do we see big tobacco like business's taking over in the 20 states that have legalized medical (or recreational)? It's not happening - these markets look more like the Wine industry where smaller vineyards feed distinct branding to local dispensary's - Sorry Kevin but Cannabis industry looks more like a Bed and Breakfast Vs your Holiday Inn franchise model you claim.
Prohibitionist Statement #2 The consequences, Sabet said, will be dire and the social costs will far exceed the increased tax revenue. He and other marijuana opponents have argued there will be more accidents on highways and heavy users will flood the healthcare system. Marijuana marketers are targeting young people, opponents say, and education will suffer. So will employers who’ll have to deal with increased tardiness and absences.
Reality Check Response - When you cannot sell the truth sell the fear factor - like the Reefer Madness that helped spawn and fan the flames of Cannabis Prohibition there really is nothing in this claim to refute it's just all just bunk - consider the following;
Prohibitionist keep telling us that Cannabis causes all kinds of issues - from cancer from smoking to all out highway Armageddon! The Social Cost of medical cannabis? the social cost of Medical Cannabis will be less deaths from Opiate based drugs and more relief and a better quality of life for Floridians who need less toxic medicine.
We have had 75 years of prohibition - the NIH estimates that 5.5% of Americans use cannabis -let me actually back up my numbers - the 5.5% reference is from NIH and can be found here by searching NIH - this site won't let me post links - while its link uses the term "facts" - even the NIH acknowledges it does not know much - it's all based on surveys -but the government site shows that cannabis use amongst High School age children fluctuates between 25% and 50% - these are "Prohibition" usage rates
5.5% of roughly 300 Million Americans is 16,500,000 people who use cannabis - these claims below simply have not manifested themselves in the past - or even in the recent past of Medical Cannabis since 1996.
• more accidents on highways - No numbers to back up this claim and we have had 18 years of Medical Cannabis is the most lenient Medical Cannabis State California - So Kevin where are the body bags?
• flood the healthcare system - where do we see these numbers? I wonder if we reduced opiates and used cannabis as an alternative would we save lives?
• targeting young people - somewhere between 25-50% of HS have or are using BLACK Market Cannabis - how worse could this situation be? We are pretty sure the HS market is saturated with prohibition supported dealers - Amendment 2 is not about supporting the BLACK market - it's about allowing less toxic medicine to people who need it, in as safe a manner as possible - free of pesticides and additives.
The targeting of young people is a BLACK market issue that exists currently in HS and is a DIRECT product of Prohibition of cannabis not medical cannabis laws.
• education will suffer. As if the 25-50% of HS users is not enough suffering? Education is suffering as we have lied to the children and caused this situation - what if we spend time educating our children with the TRUTH about this plant and the need for them to fully develop before using any mood altering substances - alcohol, tobacco, and cannabis - what if we told the truth?
• increased tardiness and absences. This is again just bunk - it's no different than an employee showing up drunk - if it happens get rid of the employee -
• marijuana is not medicine. Doctors can’t control doses or possibly toxic side effects.
Reality Check Response - This is the Biggest Lie of all There are the big pharmacy brands of cannabis extracts like sativex and the US Government Patents that tell a different story - how do we explain that and balance it with the fact that 20 states consisting of millions of patients and tens of thousands of medical professionals disagree - Search for "10 Pharmaceutical Drugs Based on Cannabis" you will find the link
Prohibitionist Statement #4 In Florida, Sabet argues that the push for medical marijuana isn’t about helping the sick – but about profit. “They’re using compassion as a smokescreen for a larger agenda,” he said.
Reality Check Response - Currently there is a large existing BLACK market in Florida making profit, untaxed, unregulated focused on children - all that money goes to Gangs and Narco states
Creating a controlled Cannabis market will reduce all of these issues and yes there will be profits in a regulated market.
Why is it that Prohibitionist think taking profit away from gangsters is a bad thing?
11:36AM MAR 11TH 2014
That's because the Prohibitionists ARE gangsters making money off the victims of the Drug War they created.
1:08PM MAR 8TH 2014
Who would one trust more on this matter? Dr. Sanjay Gupta? Dr. Sunil Aggarwal? Or "Dr." Kevin A. Sabet-Sharghi?
12:49PM MAR 8TH 2014
"Kevin Sabet, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of psychiatry, director of the Drug Policy Institute at the University of Florida, a consultant, professor, author, and drug policy adviser. With Patrick J. Kennedy, he co-founded Project SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana) in January 2013. "
Is this guy for real?! A PhD in SOCIAL POLICY with a UG in POLITICAL SCIENCE is NEITHER a MEDICAL DEGREE NOR a DEGREE IN SCIENCE! Sabet is a walking fraud, trying to propagandize an educated populace; how's that working out? I have four questions for Sabet-Sharghi; why doesn't he use his FULL name? How can he direct anything in Florida when (as per his Twitter) is NEVER in Florida? Why doesn't he update his pictures to show the 80 plus pounds he's packed on (unless he thinks the obesity epidemic is minor)? How much satanic Sembler money is backing him?
About me? I too have a PhD (in hydrogeology/organic chemistry), teach at a small college (by choice), exercise in the pool daily, use tobacco, use cannabis. I would bet one years' pay, I could run rings around fatboy Sabet physically and/or mentally....but that's not saying much.
10:12AM MAR 8TH 2014
I disagree with you on a couple of points. You claim the legalization advocates are trying to use sick children. There has been a legalization bill presented to the Florida Legislature every year for at least 4 years. Nothing ever got a hearing until Amendment 2 got on the ballot. Now there is a rush, by partisan politicians, to do SOMETHING to counter Amendment 2. It is not the legalization people who are using sick children, IT IS THE PARTISAN POLITICIANS IN THE REPUBLICAN PARTY THAT ARE GUILTY! You say marijuana has potential but must be done right. You and Big Pharma have had decades and have not even gotten close. How much longer must patients wait while you and BP fiddle? All while other script meds, which should have gotten it right destroy lives with serious side effects including death. I hope every Floridian Votes YES ON 2. You sir, are WRONG!
7:01PM MAR 8TH 2014
Well said....
Paul M.
10:08AM MAR 8TH 2014
Wow! It has been a long time since I've read or listened to an advocate on one side of an emotionally charged issue like the legalization of marijuana, offer such a fact-based, respectful response to a charge from the other side that lacked both facts and respect. The tone that Dr. Sabet sets is one that we can/should all learn from. Regardless of my personal position on this issue (I'm undecided at this point), I do appreciate Sabet's respect-filled approach. Not surprisingly, because of his tone, combined with his time in researching the issue to find "the right way," I find myself now leaning his way. A tip of the hat is and an offer of appreciation to him for his civil tone and rational thought.
4:55AM MAR 11TH 2014
Sabet offers no expedient medical option for Mr Hyman's epileptic daughter. If marijuana were outright legalized, Mr Hyman's daughter would have the medicine she needs immediately.

How is that for rational?

Get your priorities straight.
4:54AM MAR 11TH 2014
Sabet offers no expedient medical option for Mr Hyman's epileptic daughter. If marijuana were outright legalized, Mr Hyman's daughter would have the medicine she needs immediately.

How is that for rational?

Get your priorities straight.
7:07PM MAR 8TH 2014
He does deserve kudos for replying in a civil manner. I was actually able to read it through easily. His issue though "My issue, though, is "how we do get the best medicines to the most number of people" in the name of public health." seems to me no reason to lobby against the bill. If we waited for perfection from anyone or anything in medicine we wouldn't have a fraction of the medicines or treatments we have.

IMO, we learn best through trial and error- despite the FDA process and most carefully designed studies. (Or hotly and thoroughly debated laws for that matter.)

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