Patrick Kennedy, the former Democratic Congressman from Rhode Island, is not a fan of marijuana legalization, and he wants everyone to know about it. The son of the late Teddy Kennedy, the wildly popular long time Senator from Massachusetts, Patrick is riding the coattails of his family name on a whirlwind media tour to promote his new prohibitionist group, SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana).
After visits to nationally syndicated cable television shows like Bill Maher and Piers Morgan, Kennedy’s latest soapbox comes in the form of an op-ed piece that was graciously printed by the notoriously conservative and anti-cannabis San Diego Union-Tribune.
In the piece, Kennedy says, “When I woke up after the 2012 election, two states had voted to legalize marijuana. That day I also ‘woke up’ to how naive I had been. ”
He goes on to pat himself on the back for the alleged work and study time he has put in “since leaving Congress”, claiming that his new-found knowledge on “how the brain works” has led him to determine that rehabilitation, not legalization, is the answer to the failing federal war on weed.
It’s a shame that Kennedy neglects to mention his real-world experience in the subject of addiction and mental health issues, especially when he refers to his Congressional career.
It was 2:45 a.m on a foggy Washington D.C. morning in May 2006 when Kennedy smashed his car into a barricade at the U.S. Capitol building. When questioned by police on the scene, he slurred his way through trying to tell them that he was “late for a vote”.
The very next day he held a press conference where he admitted to the country that he had long suffered from a severe bi-polar disorder coupled with a crippling drug and alcohol addiction.
With that said, he promptly resigned from politics.
Oh wait, no he didn’t. He got his car fixed and kept his driver’s license and his 5-term Congressional seat for another four years, finally walking away in 2011 in an attempt to get his shit together.
Now, after two whole years of alleged sobriety, he has burst onto the media scene to tell all of us what our problems are. He often references “Big Marijuana” as some sort of powerful political action committee who he claims “markets to children”.
Bill Maher, who discussed the issue with Kennedy on his June 14th episode of Real Time on HBO, scoffed at the notion, saying, “Your reasoning is adults shouldn’t do things because kids might. 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…It just seems so un-Kennedy like to be against what I called two weeks ago was the new gay-marriage. It is the new civil rights movement.”
Kennedy insisted, “If you legalize, there’s going to be greater use, that’s a fact.”
Pretty ironic coming from a man whose family fortune was built on the back of Prohibition-era bootlegging of illegal booze with the mafia.
He then circled back, just as he does in the Union-Tribune op-ed, just as he did on Piers Morgan’s program, to his tired and debunked “What about the poor kids?” argument. Despite actual, verifiable research results that show that teen marijuana use shows no adverse effects on brain tissue, Kennedy repeatedly doubles down on his claims that “addiction is almost inevitable if you experiment and use as a teenager, when your brain is not fully developed, before the prefrontal cortex has made its connections to the rest of the brain. We know now that nine out of 10 alcoholics and addicts started when they were teenagers.” Something tells me that Kennedy just called up 9 of his boarding school buddies and conducted his own polling.
Maher cut right through the compassionate rehabilitation crap and rightfully called Kennedy out for promoting another form of profitable imprisonment, saying, “Its money. The more people we put into rehab, for reasons that they don’t belong there, the more money for people. I assume these people smell money there for a reason. It’s the same reason we have so many people in prison–because we’re making customers out of people who should not be customers.”
Kennedy, who regularly pulls $50,000 payments for speaking engagements, has the burden of a family legacy to live up to, and living in his in-law’s house just isn’t ‘the Kennedy way’.
In the sheep’s clothing of the Kennedy name and a history of progressive politics, Patrick Kennedy appears on millions of TV screens across the globe warning of the dangers of “Big Marijuana”, saying “If we didn’t like Joe Camel, we’re not going to like what the commercialization of marijuana is already doing.”
He claims to promote science, yet hinges his entire argument on flawed old wives tales.
He says his goal is to “increase social justice and reduce incarceration”, yet his demonization of cannabis and his sole solution of “rehab all the potheads” is just a repackaged form of oppression over our sovereign rights as adults.
Mason Tvert, of the Marijuana Policy Project, summed it up best when asked about SAM, “Former Congressman Kennedy’s proposal is the definition of hypocrisy. He is living in part off of the fortune his family made by selling alcohol while leading a campaign that makes it seem like marijuana – an objectively less harmful product – is the greatest threat to public health.” Tvert added, “If this group truly cares about public health, it should be providing the public with facts regarding the relative harms of marijuana and discouraging the use of the more harmful product.”
That Patrick Kennedy has supposedly found personal redemption via rehabilitation is commendable. Next time I drive my truck into a historic landmark in the nation’s capital in the wee hours of the morning due to weed, perhaps I’ll consider his opinions on addiction and rehabilitation.