I recently began getting physicals. It had been more than a decade since I’d seen a doctor, which is to be expected when you are invincible, and my new physician began to document my medical history.
He then paused and asked, “Weed?”
“I’ve tried ’em.” To which he said, “I don’t care about the weed, but those are a problem.”
Doc’s advice considered, I was more than baffled to find former Congressman Patrick Kennedy, not in any way a medical professional, sounding the alarm about the dangerous, addictive, and felonious nature of marijuana.
It’s mandatory at this juncture to note how Kennedy’s extremely public battle with addiction and recovery is admirable, and how it makes him a credible spokesman against booze and prescription painkillers. Nonetheless, it’s vexing to see him rail relentlessly against “the large scale commercialization and marketing of an addictive—and therefore highly profitable—substance.” Forget about alcohol and painkillers, to which can be directly attributed in excess of 100,000 combined deaths annually.
On its face, Kennedy’s anti-legalization organization has a noble mission—preventing the second coming of a big tobacco and stopping “a profit-hungry special-interest group looking after profits, not public health.” But cannabis is a different beast altogether, and even if we’re cherry-picking statistics, the rate of marijuana use among teens in Colorado has not changed since legalization in 2012.
The real comparison, of course, is to opioids. Prescription and otherwise. But while Kennedy is working to “deter the special interests driving Big Marijuana,” his antidrug initiatives—SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana) and Advocates for Opioid Recovery—are far less harsh on Big Pharma. In fact, even as he denies the rehabilitative qualities of cannabis, Kennedy is rather close with some drug sellers in the recovery space. As reporter David Armstrong wrote in STAT last week:
A company that sells a new opioid-addiction medication is a secret funder of an advocacy group fronted by Newt Gingrich and Patrick Kennedy that is pushing for more government funding and insurance coverage of such treatments.
In another case, SAM board member Ben Cort works as a spokesman for an addiction rehabilitation center, which stands to lose business from pot legalization. While the group’s president and CEO, one Kevin Sabet, is a demonstrable fraud who just last year this newspaper caught lying to an audience in Boston during a debate about legal weed.
All of which amounts to Kennedy either being a complete fraud, who understands that he’s a shill for questionable companies and a front group led by docs who lie about the harm of cannabis, or just a total dummy, who doesn’t pay any attention to which special interests are actually funding his pet projects. Let alone the background of products like Oxycontin, whose marketers spent hundreds of millions of dollars peddling poison while politicians like Kennedy sat idly.
And let’s face it. Without the Kennedy name, Patrick’s just another two-bit prohibitionist claiming that weed is addictive and pushing junk science for a sham organization. It’s an undeserving air of legitimacy, and it’s part of the problem.
A Queens, NY native who came to New England in 2004 to earn his MA in journalism at Boston University, Chris Faraone is the editor and co-publisher of DigBoston and a co-founder of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. He has published several books including 99 Nights with the 99 Percent, and has written liner notes for hip-hop gods including Cypress Hill, Pete Rock, Nas, and various members of the Wu-Tang Clan.