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Patrick Kennedy
Patrick Kennedy
Apparently having nothing better to do now that he is no longer in office, former Rep. Patrick Kennedy, the eight-term congressman from Rhode Island, will unveil his personal crusade Wednesday in Denver. It's called Project SAM, Smart Approaches to Marijuana. It is anything but smart, however, what with its opposition to both medical marijuana and legalization of weed. He and those working with him say they seek a third way that "neither legalizes, nor demonizes, marijuana."

Thank goodness for small favors, Project SAM won't be promoting more of the arrests and lock-ups that have maimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans over eight decades for partaking of a mind-altering substance which all but the most stubborn opponents know causes harm to vastly fewer people than alcohol. That latter product has been legal in most of the nation for 80 years after a 14-year experiment with prohibition that helped make organized crime big business, exacerbated lethal violence and corrupted police departments from coast to coast as outlaw entrepreneurs sought to meet consumer demand.

Sound familiar? Just a few years after alcohol was re-legalized, marijuana was banned and has stayed that way for 75 years. Supplying the black market for the stuff is a gigantic business, both domestic and imported. The main foreign source is still Mexico, where the drug cartels whose wars have killed an estimated 50,000 people in the past seven years still get about half their profits from the marijuana trade. On the import side, the misbegotten War on Drugs launched 42 years ago by Richard Nixon has consumed a trillion (with a "t") dollars, which doesn't include income losses from people having their careers ruined or student loans chopped off because of marijuana convictions.

To his credit, Kennedy wants to see an end to such corrosive stupidity. But in its place, instead of legalization, he wants to impose mandatory drug treatment. That presumes everyone who uses marijuana is addicted or otherwise negatively affected. And this is, to put it plainly, bullshit. As is Kennedy's claim made Tuesday: “Marijuana destroys the brain and expedites psychosis. It’s just overall a very dangerous drug.”

For tens of millions of people, sir?

Disputing this idiocy doesn't mean marijuana isn't without health risks. It has some. Fact of life: Mind-altering substances of all kinds are dangerous to the mental health of a certain percentage of users.

But let's pretend for just a moment that legal marijuana would generate one-tenth the amount of mental illness, extra deaths, extra diseases, car and job accidents, bar fights, marital troubles, violent crimes and addictions as alcohol. I know, I know. Ludicrous. But just for the sake of argument, pretend. If someone could prove to a certainty, with psychic powers, say, that legalizing marijuana would become one tenth as deadly as legal alcohol, wouldn't that be a good reason to join Project SAM?

It might. Assuming, of course, that we were planning to crank up the old Temperance Union and fight to re-prohibit alcohol. Which we will never do.

Like alcohol, narcotics and other drugs, marijuana is not appropriate for underage individuals. People shouldn't drive, hunt or operate chainsaws while high. And, of course, some people are fools sober or high and will do things they shouldn't. But adults should not be forced to accept a misdemeanor or felony marijuana conviction on their record unless, as Kennedy is proposing, they submit to treatment that they don't need for consuming a substance that, for most users, does not cause mental problems, reduce their IQs or spur them to start mainlining heroin or smoking meth.

In the place of medical marijuana, now legal in 20 states, Kennedy wants extracted cannabinoids to be used. That's fine for ailments on which these extracts work. But that is not the case with many afflictions. There is apparently a beneficial synergy among at least some of the many chemicals in marijuana that extracts cannot achieve on their own.

How about instead of Kennedy's "third way" nonsense we just stop arresting people for using marijuana? Period. How about legalizing cultivation and sale under strict regulation and taxing?

Too extreme? Compared with what? The f'n War on Drugs?

Perhaps, since Patrick Kennedy has a history of alcohol, cocaine and oxycontin abuse, including driving under the influence, he might try focusing his crusade on the problems associated with substances he knows more intimately instead of one with an overdose death rate of zero and extremely low incidences of triggering violent behavior. Kennedy and the other crusaders involved with Project SAM, like former Bush speechwriter David Frum and former White House economic adviser Austin Goolsbee, who sit on its board, may be well intended. But their third-way approach is way way off the mark.

Originally posted to Meteor Blades on Tue Jan 08, 2013 at 05:33 PM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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