Former Rhode Island Representative Patrick Kennedy has long attempted to shape US drug policy, specifically by keeping cannabis illegal. Now he’s brazenly campaigning for an even bigger role in the Biden-Harris administration.
Specifically, Kennedy posted what is effectively a resume cover letter on his website, pitching himself to head up the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). In more colloquial terms, Kennedy really, really wants to be our nation’s official drug czar. He even included professional references at the end of the letter.
Kennedy is the son of late liberal icon Sen. Teddy Kennedy, and he describes himself as a mental health advocate, which he says makes him especially qualified to run ONDCP, rather than another typical cabal of lawyers like the ones who have been botching cannabis policy for so long.
All that seems OK until you realize that Kennedy co-founded Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM), a crusading anti-legalization group that, in 2017, disgustingly claimed that prohibition was better for Black Americans than Sen. Cory Booker’s cannabis legalization bill, the Marijuana Justice Act. At the very start of 2018, SAM filed a complaint to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) against CNN for broadcasting its New Year's Eve special live from a weed tour bus in Denver.
In Kennedy’s defense, he gets kudos for his support of mental health programs and his vocal opposition to insurance discrimination against addiction treatments. And, surprisingly, he voted seven times in support of a spending bill rider that protected state medical marijuana programs from federal harassment.
Still, Kennedy also never co-sponsored or supported any weed reform measures. In fact, SAM's site features one of his quotes as a photo banner, which reads: “We cannot promote a comprehensive system of mental health treatment and marijuana legalization, which increases permissiveness for a drug that directly contributes to mental illness.”
So, yeah, this guy wants to be on the front line of US drug policy just as prohibition is seriously beginning to crumble.
Kennedy’s open letter to the incoming presidential administration camouflages his ongoing anti-legalization efforts by wrapping them in warm, fuzzy language: “I share President elect Biden’s position in support of marijuana decriminalization. Like him I support expanded research and expungement as priorities while also recognizing the dangers of today’s higher potency consumption options and a rapidly evolving for-profit industry.”
Talking to STAT News about his ambitions, Kennedy doubled down, “I have no shame in saying it: I believe I could do better than anyone else … There’s a major distinction between commercialization of a new big tobacco industry and decriminalizing marijuana and ensuring that people aren’t incarcerated because of it.”
On the sanity front, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) issued a statement this week that called for the elimination of the drug czar position altogether, and, “at a minimum,” that Kennedy should not even be considered in the running.
“Kennedy is a longtime opponent of legalization who has dedicated a tremendous amount of time, energy, and money to organize against marijuana policy reform,” NORML stated. “In fact, he co-founded with Kevin Sabet the group Smart Approaches to Marijuana — which has consistently lobbied against virtually every state and federal reform bill to legalize marijuana for either adult-use or for medical use. Further, while the group claims to support ‘decriminalizing’ penalties for the personal use of cannabis, it has failed to use its lobbying resources to advocate in favor of such policies in states like Virginia and in others that have done so.”
Most chillingly, NORML pointed out, “In 2014, Kennedy said ‘Incarceration is a powerful motivator,’ in regard to his efforts to prevent the adult consumption of cannabis.”
Don’t let this fool anywhere near a drug policy, President-Elect Biden.
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