San Fernando Valley Business Journal / The Hills Treatment Center

Not Getting High on This Vote

November 28, 2016


Californians’ decision to legalize marijuana may well help businesses. It will create a bigger marijuana industry and boost all the usual service businesses, from accountants and security guards to real estate brokers and lawyers.

And it’ll help Howard Samuels’ business, too. But he does not want the extra work.

Samuels is a counselor who owns the Hills Treatment Center on the Valley side of Mulholland Drive. He treats people with addictions. “I see people with anxiety disorders, panic attacks and people who lack motivation,” he said. “Basically, a lot of them are not high-functioning individuals.”

Virtually all of them, he said, started by smoking marijuana.

His objection is a personal one, and his story is embarrassing. He started smoking weed at age 14 or 15 and started using heroin and cocaine by the age of 16. In the early 1970s, when he was 19, he was pulled out of line at John F. Kennedy Airport for a search and was arrested for possession of heroin and cocaine, a felony. His father, whose business created the Hefty plastic bag and who had served in President Lyndon Johnson’s administration, was running for governor of New York at the time. Young Samuels was “on every cover of every newspaper in New York,” he said. His father lost.

Still, Samuels remained an incorrigible addict until 1984 when his family staged an intervention, for which he is grateful today.

He’s been clean and sober since and now runs his treatment center, which was in the news a few months ago when Lisa Marie Presley reportedly checked in. (Samuels would not confirm or deny that report.)

Samuels would like to see marijuana decriminalized, as in possession would get you a ticket. But he doesn’t like this extreme swing in which California is sending the message that smoking weed is OK.

“I’ve got three kids,” he said. “Now they’re getting the message that marijuana is safe. As a parent, I’m shocked.”

In Colorado, which several years ago legalized recreational toking, marijuana-related traffic accidents are up more than 150 percent over eight years and drug-related school suspensions are up 40 percent in six years.

“Now that it’s legal, we’ve opened up Pandora’s Box. It will be mass produced and mass promoted. We’re going to see a huge rise in access to marijuana and a huge rise in addiction rates for that drug,” he said.

That’ll be great for his billable hours. But not for the greater society.

“My business is going to do really well,” he said. “Unfortunately.”

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