Patrick Kennedy On Marijuana: Former Rep. Leads Campaign Against Legal Pot

Reuters  |  Posted: 01/05/2013 2:11 pm EST

By Alex Dobuzinskis

 

Jan 5 (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."

BIPARTISAN APPROACH

 

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. (Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Daniel Trotta and Gunna Dickson)

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Five Stages of Impunity for Torture

By: Kevin Gosztola Saturday September 22, 2012

 

One hallmark of the administration of President Barack Obama has been the commitment of the administration to move forward and not look back—to, as a Democratic Party operative only concerned with election results might say, not re-litigate the eight years of the administration of George W. Bush. This means no accountability for those responsible for committing torture. It means no justice for torture victims.

Professor Alfred W. McCoy, author of Torture and Impunity: The U.S. Doctrine of Coercive Interrogation, was on “Democracy Now!” on Friday to talk about his book. Host Amy Goodman played a clip of President Obama in his first prime-time press conference giving a slick, calculated but somewhat banal comment on whether the administration would have a truth and reconciliation commission examine the past years of the Bush administration.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: My administration is going to operate in a way that leaves no doubt that we do not torture, that we abide by the Geneva Conventions, and that we observe our traditions of rule of law and due process as we are vigorously going after terrorists that can do us harm. And I don’t think those are contradictory. I think they are potentially complementary. My view is also that nobody is above the law, and if there are clear instances of wrongdoing, that people should be prosecuted just like any ordinary citizen, but that, generally speaking, I’m more interested in looking forward than I am in looking backwards.

McCoy reacted to this clip saying what Obama said was an example of “the third stage of impunity.” He then went through the stages of impunity, a “universal process” that he argues “happens in countries emerging from authoritarianism that have had problems with torture.”

Step one, McCoy stated:

…is blame the bad apples. Donald Rumsfeld did that right after the Abu Ghraib scandal was exposed in 2004.

Step two is saying that it was necessary for our national security—unfortunate, perhaps, but necessary to keep us all safe. That was done very articulately by former Vice President Cheney at the time, and he continues to make that argument. He claims that these “enhanced techniques,” as he calls them, i.e. CIA torture, saved thousands, sometimes tens of thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands of lives. OK?

The third step is the step we just witnessed in President Obama, saying that, well, whatever might have happened in the past, we need unity as a nation, we need to move forward together into the future. So, the past isn’t germane. We need to put it behind us, not investigate, not prosecute. And that was the position he was taking there.

In the fourth stage, those implicated in acts of torture seek not only exoneration for their crimes but also vindication. For example, former Bush administration officials argued “enhanced interrogation under the Bush administration led the Navy SEALs to Osama bin Laden,” despite there being no evidence for the claim. They created pressure on Attorney General Eric Holder to not investigate torture and drop investigations into torture, which appears to have worked.

“The fifth and final stage,” according to McCoy, is “rewriting the history, rewriting the past, ripping it apart, without respect to the truth of the matter, and reconstructing it in a way that justifies the torture.” Vice President Dick Cheney’s appearances on news television have frequently been utilized for this purpose—to make it seem as if torture was effective in getting suspected terrorists to talk so that plots could be disrupted.

Like the Party slogan in George Orwell’s 1984, “Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past,” The Party controls the records, which allows it to control all memories. That allows the Party to control the past.

This is but another vile aspect of President Barack Obama, his administration, the Democratic Party leadership’s fealty to the mantra of moving forward and not looking back now enshrined in the messaging of the Obama 2012 campaign with the simple word, “Forward.” It is but another despicable aspect of members of Congress, especially Democrats, and supporters of Obama and Democrats’ refusal to raise their voice to take issue with the administration’s inaction and active refusal to prosecute individuals for torture.

Without accountability or justice, those who were at the center of acts of torture may work to clear their name, as if they never committed any wrong. They are able to suggest that if what they had done was criminal, they would have been put on trial. They would have been charged with committing a crime, but there are no prosecutions so all the civil liberties and human rights advocates and the antiwar or peace activists may just be part of focus groups, which happen to be deluded.

No justice gives former officials license to argue there was no torture. No convictions gives former officials the conviction and brass to sit before a television camera, write a memoir or pen an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal and assert what they did was for Americans’ protection and it is wrong for them to be scrutinized or questioned.

This does a great disservice to the victims of torture, especially those still indefinitely imprisoned in Guantanamo; but it is the inevitable byproduct of the Obama administration’s complicity in allowing officials responsible for torture to walk free. To the extent that the Obama administration continues to subject prisoners to torture and outsource torture to allies in the “war on terrorism,” it is worse than complicity. It is a coverup—an act to conceal and ensure the national security state can continue to be purveyors of violence and torture against those the US contends it has a right to indefinitely hold in detention without charge or trial, without judicial or due process.

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