Patrick Kennedy to President Obama: Pot has changed
By: Tal Kopan
January 21, 2014 06:16 AM EST
Former Rep. Patrick Kennedy says President Barack Obama is wrong about the dangers of marijuana, saying that the drug today is not like what the president smoked in his youth.
The former eight-term Rhode Island Democrat said Obama’s statement in an interview this weekend that pot is not worse than alcohol was based on anecdotal evidence, not science.
“I think the president needs to speak to his NIH director in charge of drug abuse,” Kennedy said on MSNBC’s “Hardball” on Monday night. “[She] would tell the president that, in fact, today’s modern, genetically modified marijuana, so it’s much higher THC levels, far surpass the marijuana that the president acknowledges smoking when he was a young person.”
Kennedy said government research shows that marijuana is harmful.
“He is wrong when he says that it isn’t very harmful, because the new marijuana is not the old marijuana,” Kennedy said. “We need to have presidential decisions made based upon public health and the sound science that the federal government’s invested in.”
The former congressman said if the president believes alcohol is more dangerous, he should be concerned about legalizing and commercializing marijuana, because, Kennedy argues, America doesn’t want another Big Tobacco or Big Alcohol.
“I mean, if the president feels alcohol is worse than tobacco, what’s he prepared to do? And I’ll tell you, the president won’t be able to do a thing,” Kennedy said. “Why? Because alcohol is too powerful an industry to change. And right now, we have a chance to stop another for-profit industry from targeting our public health.”
The son of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) and nephew of President John F. Kennedy is the chairman of the advocacy group Smart Approaches to Marijuana.
Marijuana advocates took issue with Kennedy’s remarks, saying he missed the point.
“There is a certain irony in Kennedy — who admits he doesn’t have much experience with marijuana — lecturing President Obama about this, especially when the president was focusing his comments on the need to end the injustices of disparate enforcement,” said Aaron Houston, a lobbyist and co-founder of the Marijuana Majority.
Houston also rejected comparisons to the alcohol and tobacco industry, saying such analogies were designed to scare voters.