On Friday’s “Real Time” on HBO, host Bill Maher took on former Democratic Massachusetts Rep. Patrick Kennedy over drugs, specifically Kennedy and David Frum’s program seeking “smart approaches to marijuana.”
That program seeks to prevent marijuana legalization but revise some cannabis-related criminal penalties. Maher took issue with the project.
MAHER: You mentioned your uncle, President Kennedy. And that was a great speech he made. And that was the first time the president said this is a moral issue. I’m so curious to read about your other program, which is about marijuana. I swear I’m not pulling this out my ass. It’s called — what is your group called?
KENNEDY: Smart alternatives.
MAHER: Smart alternatives, but I’m sorry I don’t think they’re not smart. You said marijuana destroys the brain and expedites psychosis. I mean, it sounds like you’ve been hanging around with Nancy Reagan in 1983.
KENNEDY: You know, I used to have your position. Bill. I used to think marijuana was no big deal. Everyone in my family had cancer. So I wouldn’t begrudge them using marijuana to mitigate the effects of chemotherapy. But then I learned about the truth of this. And I learned about that fact that if you give a permissive environment, you’re going to have more kids use.
MAHER: Oh, come on. Come on, man. This is like global warming denying. This is the kind of stuff we heard years and years ago.
KENNEDY: Look at the tobacco companies, Bill. That they targeted, right?
KENNEDY: Yeah, so what makes us think that the new tobacco companies — those that are going to have commercial interest in a profit from marijuana aren’t going to want to get new customers?
Maher argued that legalization had much loftier implications, declaring it a “civil rights” issue.
“But your reasoning is adults shouldn’t do things that kids might,” Maher said. “Adults shouldn’t have fire or drive cars with that reasoning, too. Kids might do all sorts of bad things. Parents have to stop them. And teachers have to stop them. And we made laws that said tobacco companies couldn’t target them. I mean, it just seems so un-Kennedy-like to be against what I said a couple of weeks ago was the new gay marriage. It is the next civil rights movement is to get equality under the law for people who want — you’ve had your drug problems. I’m not telling tales out of school. You had problems with Ambien and I forget the other one that made you drive —”