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Former Rep. Patrick Kennedy Leads Campaign Against Legal Pot

By ZenobiaSky, Jan 6, 2013 | Updated: Jan 9, 2013 | | |
  1. ZenobiaSky
    18785.jpg (Reuters) - Retired Rhode Island Congressman Patrick Kennedy is taking aim at what he sees as knee-jerk support for marijuana legalization among his fellow liberals, in a project that carries special meaning for the self-confessed former Oxycontin addict.

    Kennedy, 45, a Democrat and younger son of the late "Lion of the Senate" Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, is leading a group called Project SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana) that opposes legalization and seeks to rise above America's culture war over pot with its images of long-haired hippies battling law-and-order conservatives.

    Project proposals include increased funding for mental health courts and treatment of drug dependency, so those caught using marijuana might avoid incarceration, get help and potentially have their criminal records cleared.

    Kennedy wants cancer patients and others with serious illnesses to be able to obtain drugs with cannabinoids, but in a more regulated way that could involve the U.S. Food and Drug Administration playing a larger role.

    The eight-term former congressman from Rhode Island and the group he chairs will put forth their plan on Wednesday with a media appearance in Denver.

    Their efforts follow the November election that saw voters in Washington state and Colorado become the first in the nation to approve measures to tax and regulate pot sales for recreational use. Kennedy's group is seeking to shift the debate and reclaim momentum for the anti-legalization movement, in part by proposing new solutions with appeal to liberals, such as taking a public health approach to combat marijuana use.

    Legalization backers have argued that the so-called War on Drugs launched in 1971 by former President Richard Nixon has failed to stem marijuana use, and has instead saddled otherwise law-abiding pot smokers with criminal records that may block their avenues to landing a successful job.

    Kennedy faults the U.S. government for allocating too much of its $25 billion drug control budget to law enforcement rather than to treatment and prevention.

    "Yes, the drug war has been a failure, but let's look at the science and let's look at what works. And let's not just throw out the baby with the bathwater," Kennedy, who served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2011, said in a telephone interview.

    The U.S. Department of Justice is still developing a policy in regard to the new state legalization measures.

    President Barack Obama said in an interview with ABC News last month that it did not make sense for the federal government to "focus on recreational drug users in a state that has already said that, under state law, that's legal."


    Conservative political commentator David Frum, a speech writer for former President George W. Bush, is also a board member on Project SAM, which lends it a bipartisan flavor.

    For his part, Kennedy is aiming many of his arguments toward liberals like himself. Polls show Democrats largely favoring legalizing marijuana, and among the 18 states that allow medical marijuana, several are in the West and Northeast and are heavily Democratic.

    "The fact is people are afraid on the (political) left to look like they're not for an alternative to incarceration and criminalization, and they're afraid they're not going to look sympathetic to a cancer patient" who might use marijuana, Kennedy said. As a result, he said the legalization position mistakenly comes to be seen as "glamorous."

    Kennedy admits to having smoked pot but also said that, as an asthma sufferer, he "found other ways to get high."

    In 2006, he crashed his car into a security barrier in Washington, D.C., and soon after sought treatment for drug dependency. He said he was addicted to the pain reliever Oxycontin at that time and suffered from alcoholism. He added that he has been continuously sober for nearly two years.

    Kennedy, who was married for the first time in 2011, said he worries his 8-month-old son might be predisposed to drug abuse - due to a kind of genetic "trigger" - and that is part of his fight against legalization.

    He also said he wants to "reduce the environmental factors that pull that trigger," such as marijuana use being commonly accepted.

    Meanwhile, another prominent figure from Rhode Island, the newly crowned Miss Universe Olivia Culpo, is making waves by also objecting to legalization. She told Fox News this week there are "too many bad habits that go with the drug."

    In Washington state, Alison Holcomb was campaign director for the legalization measure, which billed itself as having a public health element to help people dependent on marijuana.

    The measure, which is not set to go into full effect until after state regulators spend most of 2013 setting guidelines, would allow adults 21 and older to buy marijuana at special stores.

    Holcomb argued that drug dependency courts are more geared toward users of hardcore drugs, and that the approach her group put forward is the sensible one.

    "I don't know what a public health approach without legalization looks like, if you're still arresting people," she said.

    Taxes on marijuana sales would generate, at the high end of estimates, over $500 million a year with $67 million of that going to a state agency that provides drug treatment, said Mark Cooke, policy adviser for the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington state, which supported the campaign.

    Also included in the tax revenue would be $44 million for education and public health campaigns - including a phone line for people wanting to quit using marijuana, Cooke said.

    By Alex Dobuzinskis Sat Jan 5, 2013 3:08pm EST


  1. Rob Cypher
    So why not bring back alcohol prohibition while he's at it, since that seems far more likely to trigger his son's potential 'addiction issues' than marijuana? I don't get this guy's plan at all, man.


    This is some really shoddy reasoning he's using here.
    The vote of the majority rules to legalize marijuana and this guy is out to brain wash the community.
    Its people like this idiot who lied to the community creating prohibition.

    I hope he gets voted out of politics for covering up true fact.
  3. Rob Cypher
    Bill Maher rips Pat Kennedy’s anti-pot crusade: ‘This is like global warming denying’

    Noted marijuana enthusiast Bill Maher had little patience on Real Time on Friday for former Rep. Patrick Kennedy’s (D-RI) campaign against legalizing the drug.

    “It just seems so un-Kennedy like to be against what I said a couple of weeks ago was the new gay marriage,” Maher told Kennedy in a one-on-one debate. “It is the next civil rights movement.”

    Kennedy, son of the late Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA), is the head of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, which claims on its website that it neither wants to legalize nor demonize marijuana. At the same time, Kennedy has gone on record saying he has data showing the drug “destroys the brain and expedites psychosis,” which garnered a chiding from Maher.

    “It sounds like you’ve been hanging around with Nancy Reagan in 1983,” Maher said derisively.

    “I used to have your position, Bill,” Kennedy responded. “I used to think marijuana was no big deal. Everyone in my family had cancer, so I wouldn’t begrudge them using marijuana to mitigate the effects of chemotherapy.”

    Then, he said, he learned “the facts” that having a more permissive environment around the drug would encourage more use by kids.

    “Oh, come on. Man, come on, man,” Maher answered. “This is like global warming denying. This is the kind of stuff we heard years and years ago.”

    Kennedy countered by revisiting his argument that marijuana producers would take the lead of tobacco companies if the drug were to become legal and begin targeting younger consumers.

    “Your reasoning is adults shouldn’t do things because kids might,” Maher retorted. “Adults shouldn’t have fire or drive cars under that reasoning, too. Kids might do all sorts of bad things. Parents have to stop them and teachers have to stop them. And we made laws that said tobacco companies couldn’t target them.”

    When Maher brought up Kennedy’s past addiction issues with prescription drugs Ambien and Oxycontin, Kennedy answered that it “doesn’t matter” what drug one takes.

    “I don’t believe people ought to be incarcerated because of an addiction, and I think that’s a problem we have,” Kennedy said, before bringing up his membership on the board of the National Institute on Drug Abuse and pointing to its own findings pointing toward factors contributing toward increased usage.

    “If you reduce the cost — which will be the case — more people will use,” Kennedy said. “These are the statistics. I don’t want to put something out there that you can contest. All I want is for people to know the truth.”

    Arturo Garcia
    Raw Story
    June 15, 2013

  4. Joe-(5-HTP)
    I think Kennedy's analysis of why legalisation has come to be seen as 'glamorous' actually has a bit of truth to it.

    I don't hear a viable alternative coming from him though. In fact, what he says about a genetic 'trigger' sounds like complete pseudo-science.

    So, the legalisation movment may indeed be getting momentum for bad reasons, but that really says nothing against legalisation as a strategy. His argument is invalid.
  5. Rob Cypher
    What Is a Kennedy Doing Weedsplaining Pot's Dangers to Barack Obama?

    Patrick Kennedy—former congressman, son of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy—got on MSNBC last night to tell Barack Obama that, contrary to the president's recent statements, marijuana is terribly, terribly dangerous. It was a bizarre message. It was even weirder, considering the messenger.

    Last week, Obama made waves when he acknowledged in a long New Yorker profile that recreational pot is not the evil weed it's made out to be. "As has been well documented, I smoked pot as a kid, and I view it as a bad habit and a vice, not very different from the cigarettes that I smoked as a young person up through a big chunk of my adult life," POTUS opined. "I don't think it is more dangerous than alcohol."

    Not so, Kennedy argued on Monday's Hardball With Chris Matthews, in weird fashion. He was there in his capacity as a co-founder of something called Smart Approaches to Marijuana, and here's what he said:

    Bully for Kennedy for being upfront about his own battles with addiction. Upfront, but not entirely honest. And as a result, he's not very honest in how he attacks the president.

    Yes, it's true that Kennedy was addicted to cocaine and Oxycontin. He went to rehab for other prescription drugs, including Ambien, after a car crash in Washington. He also went to Alcoholics Anonymous, with a congressman as a sponsor. In calling himself "lucky" for not having gone down a pot-paved road, he seems to miss two points: First, his real luck was having the financial and family resources, available to very few, to afford both hard drugs and drug addiction treatments. Second, it's pretty easy to become addicted to harder stuff even if you never touch the herb.

    In fact, if there was a gateway drug in Kennedy's life, it may very well have been alcohol, and that was the crux of Obama's statement: not that pot is harmless, but that it's no more dangerous than booze. And the science on that point seems to agree with the president.

    Led by a characteristically rambling Matthews, Kennedy never really answers this point—except in this weird elision, in which he complains about the power of the alcohol and tobacco industries:

    Leave aside the fact that Kennedy's family wealth is built in no small part upon liquor importation during Prohibition. Here, the former congressman's argument seems to be: Oh, well, we have these huge vice industries that we can't possibly rein in! They're already an unchangeable fact of our lives! Do we really need another such industry?

    That is unbelievably defeatist talk from a former Democratic legislator, who knows firsthand the evils of drink, and the power of regulation. What accounts for Kennedy's rage against a legal weed industry and his acquiescence to the booze and cigarette makers?

    As Reason's Mike Riggs points out, it might help to know that as a congressman, Kennedy earned thousands in campaign contributions from those latter industries—and that after Congress, he co-founded SAM with Kevin Sabet, a former adviser to Obama's first drug czar, and a man known alternately as pot legalization's "Enemy No. 1" and "the quarterback of the new anti-drug movement"—a label Sabet proudly includes in his SAM bio.

    In fact, despite its name SAM appears to be committed to continuing criminalization of marijuana use above all. Its sparse list of affiliates includes Drug-Free Hawaii, a Maryland county-level "partnership for alcohol and other drug abuse," and a Missouri group that "seeks to halt to any legislative efforts to legalize the use of marijuana." SAM's online presentations include "Marijuana and the Teen Brain" and "But What About the Children's 12 Provisions to Prevent A Marijuana Industry from Targeting Children."

    SAM is not organized as a traditional non-profit, so no immediate details about its finances were available. But if its purpose is to rebrand and renew the anti-legalization movement, cutting against the grain of public opinion, it might want to find a better spokesman than Patrick Kennedy and a better message than his confusing tangle of personal anecdotes and misremembered science.

    Adam Weinstein
    January 21, 2014

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