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Patrick Kennedy launches local marijuana education group

Jeff Meade

Former Congressman Patrick Kennedy, son of the late Senator Ted Kennedy, is wading into Washington state’s marijuana legalization process. He’s opening a local chapter of his group that aims to educate people about the health risks of the drug.

Kennedy has struggled in the past with addiction to alcohol and prescription painkillers. And he’s admitted using marijuana in the past before learning about the health risks of today’s more potent cannabis.

Kevin Sabet co-founded a group with Kennedy called Smart Approaches to Marijuana, or SAM.

"His own addiction has shown that we need to treat this like a health issue," Sabet said.

Sabet was a drug policy advisor in the Obama administration and now heads the Drug Policy Institute at the University of Florida.

He and Kennedy are launching a Washington affiliate with local substance abuse prevention workers and doctors. The local group says its aim isn't to repeal Initiative 502, but rather to  let people know about the dangers and to limit marketing to kids.

"This is not good for kids regardless of what parents—their experience in a dorm room 40 years ago with marijuana that was literally ditchweed, compared to the marijuana of today," Sabet said. 

Sabet says they also want to keep marijuana from becoming a giant industry like big tobacco that aims to get people hooked. Recently, a former Microsoft executive said he wants to open a chain of pot stores in Washington and Colorado, where voters also legalized the drug. 

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.