Patrick Kennedy's Anti-Pot Crusade Conflicts With His Own Congressional Record

Must-read email exchange shows Kennedy backtracking on medical marijuana and more.

Courtesy of Project SAMCourtesy of Project SAMFormer Democratic Congressman Patrick Kennedy has taken a hard line stance against marijuana since leaving office in 2011. The one-time prescription pill addict is on a media tour in support of his new role as chair of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, or Project SAM, an anti-marijuana-legalization group founded by former drug czar advisor Kevin Sabet in response to the legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington.  

Kennedy has earned the ire of marijuana reformers by calling pot a "very dangerous drug" that's no different from hard drugs like heroin and meth. In the last month, Kennedy's group has called for intervention and rehab for marijuana users and the closure of all medical marijuana dispensaries and cannabis clubs. In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, Kennedy personally asked the Department of Justice to block recreational marijuana laws in Colorado and Washington. 

In response, marijuana policy reformers have criticized Kennedy for pushing "mandatory marijuana-education programs," "working out his personal control issues in public," and grossly overstating the addictiveness and dangers of marijuana. Missing from their critiques is the fact that Kennedy has done a 180-degree policy reversal, practically overnight. Indeed, as a representative from Rhode Island, Kennedy was a vocal advocate for medical marijuana. He was also an ally to the gambling industry and a beneficiary of money from tobacco and alcohol companies, whose businesses he now assails. (I corresponded at length with Kennedy about his record in Congress. You can read our email exchange on page 2.)

Between 2003 and 2007, Kennedy voted for the Hinchey-Rohrabacher amendment, a bipartisan piece of legislation that would've prohibited the Department of Justice (DOJ) from using its funds to "prevent...States from implementing their own State laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana." Kennedy voted for the amendment every year it was introduced, in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2007.

Project SAM, however, opposes letting states determine their own medical marijuana laws, and is calling for "the end of 'cannabis clubs' and so-called 'dispensaries' that are fronts for marijuana stores and do not follow appropriate standards of medical care." The group also argues that smoked marijuana is not medicine, and that THC-derived pharmaceutical products should be available only to people receiving palliative and hospice care. 

That last line directly contradicts something Kennedy said about medical marijuana in a 2009 video shot at a fundraising party. In the video, reporter Tommy Christopher (now of Mediaite) asks Kennedy, "If we're acknowledging the medical necessity of medical marijuana, and 80 percent of Americans favor legalized medical marijuana, why do we have a federal ban at all?"

"It really doesn't make a lot of sense whatsoever," Kennedy says, before relaying his plan to limit the Drug Enforcement Administration's ability to police medical marijuana. 

"I am actually in favor of taking the Drug Enforcement Agency [sic] out of monitoring doctors and their prescription authority, which has really been a big problem. Health care can monitor health care, and they know what's best for the patient," Kennedy says in the video. "I don't believe that for medical marijuana, for cancer or palliative care, that we want the DEA overseeing doctors," he adds. 

Watch the 2009 video below.

"Patrick Kennedy's de-evolution on marijuana reform is atypical," says Marijuana Majority's Tom Angell, who alerted me to Kennedy's voting record on the Hinchey-Rohrabacher amendment. (Marijuana Majority supports treating pot like alcohol and other reforms.) "The only other politician I can think of who similarly devolved from being a marijuana reformer to doing the opposite of what voters want is Barack Obama, who before becoming president said that the drug war is an 'utter failure' and that we have to 'rethink and decriminalize our marijuana laws,' and then went on to shutter more medical marijuana dispensaries than President Bush did."

But Kennedy's apparent policy U-turn doesn't end with medical marijuana. Project SAM argues that one of the most important reasons to stop marijuana legalization is that pot producers could end up becoming the next Big Tobacco. That is, legal marijuana producers would preumably market its products via seductive advertising campaigns.

"A commercial marijuana industry will act just as the tobacco industry acts. Big Tobacco may even take over a marijuana industry once it’s up and running," reads a Project SAM article that fingers "Altria, the parent company of Phillip Morris" for purchasing, in 2009, "" and "" What Project SAM doesn't tell you is that Altria gave money to Patrick Kennedy's congressional campaign, and that Philip Morris, New Century Tobacco Group, and U.S. Tobacco all did as well.

And what about alcohol? Project SAM warns that legalizing marijuana means we might see it used in as many crimes and car accidents as alcohol currently is. Kennedy, who routinely references his own battles with intoxicants and DUIs in public, has called alcohol use in the U.S. an "epidemic." Yet while in office, Kennedy received over a hundred campaign contributions from the alcohol industry, including Anheuser-Busch, the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America, the National Beer Wholesalers Association of America, and many other alcohol distributors, manufacturers, and retailers

These associations are absolulely dwarfed, however, by Kennedy's relationship with the gambling and casino industries. During the course of his eight terms in the House, Kennedy received over $500,000 from gambling groups—including big Las Vegas casinos, tribal casinos, and the electronic gambling machine company GTech Corp. This relationship, which Kennedy freely admits to, is relevant to his work with SAM, as addiction researchers say that "the mere sight of a slot machine can trigger a chemical response in the gambling addict's brain in the same way the thought of cocaine stimulates a drug addict." As a congressman heavily supported by gaming interests, Kennedy advocated increasing access to legal gambling in his home state and elsewhere. Yet Kennedy now says his years-long support for addiction treatment suddenly conflicts with making it easier for people to engage in potentially addictive behavior.

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  • Brett L||

    Bahaha! Taking drug policy advice from Pat Kennedy is stupider than taking marital advice from Donald Trump.

  • Jon Lester||

    Now that he's a private citizen, I guess he doesn't have to disclose his investments in Big Pharma.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    Patrick Kennedy should be bludgeoned with a golf club.

  • ||

    I understand the ex-Mrs. Tiger Woods is still available...

  • Brett L||

    Tied up in a large automobile and driven off a bridge?

  • niobiumstudio||

    Lol "one-time prescription pill addict"? He has fallen off the wagon many, many times and was in and out of rehab several times - just a few years ago most recently.

  • Brandon||

    "Several-time prescription pill addict" just doesn't have the same ring to it.

  • R C Dean||

    "Occasionally-resting prescription pill addict", perhaps?

  • ||

    No one likes a quitter, RC.-)

  • H. Reardon||

    Rehab is for quitters.

  • niobiumstudio||

    I think that is the best option. While "one-time" may have a good flow, it is far too inaccurate to describe Kennedy... Possibly just "Prescription pill addict, who is currently taking a break, ..."?

  • sloopyinca||

    I'm sorry, but I think "one-time" is accurate here. He's been an addict only once...from the moment he took the first pill until right now.

    Or how about just using the most accurate: "Prescription Pill Addict Patrick Kennedy." It's not like that family can't use their deficiencies as a means to get votes anyway.

  • tarran||

    This seems a good time to bring up an issue.

    My High school's 25th reunion is coming up. One of the people who will attend the event is a newly elected congressman who is a member of the Kennedy dynasty and will be gladhanding us.

    I have a range of options, I could treat him with disdain, ignore him, join the crowd in praising him, mock him, or confront him with some issue from murderdroning to med marijuana.

    I'd be interested in your thoughts, since you guys will never face any consequence if I do what you suggest. ;)

  • Jon Lester||

    Bake brownies.

  • Brett L||

    Punch him in the nuts and scream, "More people died at Chappaquidick than 3 Mile Island!"

  • SIV||

    I'll second this.

  • Zeb||

    You need to think up something that seems polite on the surface, but is actually incredibly insulting and/or embarrassing and find a way to say it to him so that as many people as possible hear it.

  • Being Waterboarded||

    "Hello Mr. Kennedy! It really is a pleasure to finally meet you! I would like to commend you and your family for your fervent support of drug laws. These laws have been such a terrific means to keep blacks and other minorities off the streets and incarcerated where they belong. You can count on the very vocal support of my esteemed organization - which shall remain nameless, but is usually known by our three initials... heh heh. I look forward to seeing you at our upcoming meeting. To what address should I send the invitation?"

  • ||

    "Can I get a ride home?"

  • Aresen||

    Not if you are crossing any bridges.

  • R C Dean||

    This isn't really your show, so I would just go with ignoring him unless and until he tries to make it all about him.

    If he does that, then, by all means, make it all about him and his odious, nepotistic, criminal family.

    But I wouldn't blow up the reunion if he's willing to kind of low-profile it.

  • tarran||

    That's what the little spock on my left shoulder is telling me to do. The mccoy on my right shoulder is crying with rage that he will be treated a million times better than he deserves.

  • ||

    Meh. My take: Don't be THAT GUY unless he decided to be THAT GUY. He's a Kennedy for SOD's sake; it's not like your at a loss for rhetorical and invective ammunition.

  • ||

    Why the fuck would you ever in a million years go to a high school reunion? Are you retarded?

  • derpules||

    THIS, high school reunions are where all the former nerds who are now Walmart managers to parade themselves around the former jocks who are now Walmart cashiers.

  • ||

    Yeah, do not go to the reunion. That is one of the five or so decisions in my life that I had to spend the least time thinking about.

  • JW||

    If he could re-enact the reunion scene from Grosse Point Blank, it's be totally worth it.

  • derpules||

    Sounds like the opportune time for a good old fashioned SWATing!

  • sloopyinca||

    My serious suggestion is to give the limpest-wrist handshake you possibly can, and then be sure to interject yourself into every conversation he is having and claim to be a big supporter of his while giving the limp-shake to every other man there.

    When he decides to extricate himself from the situation you have put him in (no man respects someone with a limp-shake), you can reintroduce yourself to everyone and tell them they owe you one for getting the turd out of the punchbowl.

  • JW||

    None of the above.

    Fuck his wife. And maybe the daughter too.

  • T||

    So, apparently it's news that a Kennedy will change his positions out of venal self-interest?

    Dog bites man, indeed.

  • Lincoln||

    This is what happens when a congressman leaves his position and invests in rehabilitation services and pushes for drug court to mandate people into his programs.

  • niobiumstudio||

    Maybe he is pushing all of this as a condition of his most recent DUI? Maybe he got nicked with some oxys or something and this is part of his PTI?

  • The Late P Brooks||

    I'd be interested in your thoughts

    Ask him what his marginal tax rate is. And how much it costs him the trust to get it there.

  • Killazontherun||

    This just in. Patrick Kennedy involved in three car pile up. Now he is raging at other motorist, shaking his fist, clutching a bottle of Bacardi 151 in the other hand. In a fit of anger, he douses his body and lights himself on fire. Paramedics have arrived. They have him on life support, but he is still on fire, Chet.

  • sloopyinca||

    Is it too late to make a "Seal has been accidentally shot by the LAPD after being mistaken for Dorner after he was removed from the cabin" joke?

  • Killazontherun||

    Too late? How about too soon? It's only been since last Spring Seal has gone without Heidi's poontang.

  • ||

    **changes channel**

  • Killazontherun||

    That would not surprise me. Like Oscar Wilde said, 'One must have a heart of stone to read the death of little Nell without laughing. One must lack a soul to not enjoy the suffering of a Kennedy.'

  • RenkBooo||

    Sounds liek some pretty crazy stuff to me dude.

  • ||

    Lookit that much inbreeding does it take to produce that?

  • Brian from Texas||

    Seeing as how Kennedy's grandfather made millions smuggling whiskey across the Canadian border during Prohibition, I wouldn't be surprised to find him on the payroll of the Mexican Cartels in his fight to keep marijuana illegal.

  • Roderick||

    uptil I looked at the check of $6418, I didn't believe that my sister was realie earning money parttime on their apple labtop.. there mums best friend started doing this for only fifteen months and just took care of the dept on there home and got Smart ForTwo. we looked here, http://www.FLY38.COM

  • John C. Randolph||

    The one-time prescription pill addict

    I rarely support new legislation, but severe punishments for simple, aggravated, and egregious hypocrisy would make this world far better.


  • FlyingTooLow||

    I smoked my first joint in December, 1967, at the tender age of 21.

    Now, a mere 44 years later, I still smoke pot. I have never 'graduated' to 'harder' drugs. Nor, have I ever harmed anyone.

    I am living proof that this prohibitionist propaganda is a fallacy...a blatant lie.

    The worst experience I had with marijuana was spending 5 years in Federal Prison for a pot offense.

    While there, I watched armed bank robbers come and go in as little as 20 months.

    When I went to the parole board after more than 3 years 'behind the wall,' I pointed this out to the panel members. Their response: "You must understand that yours was a very serious offense."

    I laughed about that for another 2 years (as I still sat in prison)...then wrote my book:

    Shoulda Robbed a Bank.

    I would be honored by your review.

  • FlyingTooLow||

    The closest I have ever seen marijuana come to harming anyone was during an air drop. We brought in 1100 pounds from Jamaica and dropped it in a peanut field in middle Georgia. The bales were dropped from a small plane at 125 feet altitude. One of the bales, about 80 pounds, missed my compadre by only a few feet... but it surely messed up his truck.

    You can read about it in: Shoulda Robbed a Bank

  • Max||

    Thanks for the article. For info on people using voluntary Libertarian tools on similar and other issues worldwide, please see the non-partisan Libertarian International Organization @ ....

  • دردشة عراقنا||

    Nicest chat and chat Iraqi entertaining Adject all over the world

  • Thomas4||

    just as Alfred replied I am surprised that a mother can make $4084 in four weeks on the computer. did you see this page http://www.FLY38.COM

  • دردشة بغدادية||

    Nicest chat and chat Iraqi entertaining Adject all over the world

  • PatrickHenry||

    Is this the kennedy that crashed and almost killed someone in DC a couple of years ago or the kennedy that murdered MaryJo, or the first kennedy that made his girlfriend (while he watched) give a bj to his adviser in the White House pool (look it up libs)?

  • LifeStrategies||

    Seems that Patrick Kennedy, along with many other politicians, is actually a hypocrite. Doesn't honesty and sincerity count any longer? What happened to supporting the constitution?


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