President Barack Obama's claims that smoking marijuana is no worse than drinking alcohol is wrong, because the drug is now much stronger than it was when he smoked it, says reformed addict, former Rep. Patrick Kennedy.
The drug today has a much higher level of the active ingredient, Ted Kennedy's son told Chris Matthews on MSNBC's "Hardball."
"The president needs to speak to his (National Institutes of Health) director in charge of drug abuse," the eight-term Rhode Island Democrat said.
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He said Nora Volcow would tell the president that today’s modern, genetically modified marijuana has much higher THC levels, and "far surpasses the marijuana that the president acknowledges smoking when he was a young person."
"He is wrong," said Kennedy. "The new marijuana is not the old marijuana and the president is making this decision based on his anecdotal experience. We need presidential decisions based on public health and the sound science that the federal government has invested in, which shows this is very harmful."
Kennedy said if marijuana is legalized, use will increase.
"Marijuana is insidious," he said. "You could be using it for most of your life and not wake up to the fact that you are on a slow train to nowhere — and that's the damaging part about marijuana for our country."
Obama said last week
"As has been well documented, I smoked pot as a kid, and I view it as a bad habit and a vice, not very different from the cigarettes that I smoked as a young person up through a big chunk of my adult life. I don't think it is more dangerous than alcohol."
Kennedy, a Democrat who represented Rhode Island in the House for eight terms before stepping down in 2010, is the chairman of the advocacy group Smart Approaches to Marijuana. Last month he said
"marijuana legalization goes against the president’s own goals of effective education and healthcare reform."
He added, "The president must also stop to consider the highly concentrated, and increasingly popular, form of marijuana called 'hash oil.' Doses of that oil often exceed 80% THC, which is essentially a different drug than the weed of Woodstock, which ranged around 1-3% THC."
On "Hardball," Kennedy warned that the legalization or commercialization of pot could result in Obama's government having to having to face a powerful marijuana lobby similar to Big Alcohol or Big Tobacco.
"If the president feels alcohol is worse than tobacco, what’s he prepared to do?" Kennedy asked.
"I’ll tell you, the president won’t be able to do a thing. 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."
Kennedy has battled substance abuse since his teenage years when he was treated for a cocaine problem. He has admitted that he abused drugs and alcohol while a student at Providence College, and in 2006, he was treated for an Oxycontin addiction.
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