Courts & Corrections

Patrick Kennedy weighs in on marijuana debate

Former U.S. Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy is urging a Vermont legislative panel not to move forward with a bill, H.170, that would legalize adult possession of limited amounts of marijuana.

Kennedy, son of the late Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy, urged lawmakers in a letter dated March 15 to oppose the bill “so that Vermont children can grow up in healthy environments, and Vermont communities remain safe.”

“Like you, I do not want to see anyone jailed for personal amounts of marijuana or their opportunities in life ruined because of a past personal-use pot conviction,” Kennedy wrote. “However, the amount of marijuana allowed in this bill would not just be for personal use, but allow cultivation of massive amounts of marijuana far beyond the needs of one person.”

Kennedy, who has been a public advocate on issues related to mental health and substance abuse, is an honorary adviser to the national group Smart Approaches to Marijuana.

He argues that the bill would have serious public health and safety consequences, including increasing drug-impaired driving. It would “invite organized criminal groups to take advantage of the law to ‘hide in plain sight,’” he wrote.

But advocates for the bill dismissed Kennedy’s critique.

Dave Silberman, an advocate in favor of marijuana legalization in Vermont, responded that to him SAM is an “organization without credibility.”

“They claim to be for something other than prohibition, and yet every single proposal to do anything other than prohibition, whether it be decriminalization, whether it be medical marijuana, whether it be personal home grow, they oppose and oppose vociferously,” Silberman said.


If you read us, please support us.

Comment Policy

VTDigger.org requires that all commenters identify themselves by their authentic first and last names. Initials, pseudonyms or screen names are not permissible.

No personal harrassment, abuse, or hate speech is permitted. Comments should be 1000 characters or fewer.

We moderate every comment. Please go to our FAQ for the full policy.

Elizabeth Hewitt

Recent Stories

  • Bob Orleck

    David Silberman’s argument is without merit. Vermont already has medical marijuana on the books and has decriminalization law on the books as well. H.170 is a legalization bill and if passed by the House would lead to what David really wants and that is a commercialization bill that would bring this new kind of “drug store” to our towns and villages. I am hopeful based on last year’s House vote rejecting the commercialism bill coming over from the Senate, that the House realizes what is up and if they passed H.170 they would be playing into the hands of certain wrong-headed Senators who would see it as the ideal opportunity to morph H.170 into their S.241 language of last year which would bring with it all the evils of legalized marijuana.

    Thank you Patrick Kennedy for standing up for children and their safety needs! You are absolutely right and I thank SAM for its principled stand on this bad law that is bad because it damages children’s brains, worsens mental health disease and increases deaths and injuries on our highways by impaired drivers.

    Let’s hope that the House which seems to be more sensitive to the need for safety of its citizens than certain of our tax-revenue hungry Senators will not even move this bill out of Judiciary but let it sit this session and next and hopefully permit it to die right there.

    • Matt Simon

      Bob Orleck can’t formulate a coherent argument against H. 170, so he has to argue about what (he says) it will lead to. Opposition to “commercialization” is no excuse for continuing to punish adult marijuana consumers.

      • Bob Orleck

        Matt: That is easy to say but you obviously didn’t read the second paragraph of what I wrote above. Let me say it again. It damages the brains of children and youth (proven). It worsens mental health conditions.(proven). I will increase deaths and injuries on our highways by impaired drivers. (already has and shown statistically accurate from other states with legalized marijuana. You should also know better than argue that adults consumers are continuing to be punished. It’s not happening and you know that. Tell me of one case in the last year or one case in the last two years where someone has been punished. Also define the punishment. Tell me how much jail time they got. Let me hear your coherent argument now that I have responded to the things I have just mentioned. Bet I don’t hear from you and if I do it will be the old worn out cliches; alcohol is worse than marijuana, its prohibition, you are restricting freedoms. Those are not coherent arguments. How much sense does it make to make legal a mind-altering drug and to argue the it will not increase usage when you know full well it will. And if use increases, those bad things I mentioned above will also happen. That is all common sense, but of course that is not allowed by those who just want marijuana for their own pleasure in getting high.

        • Joe McSherry

          Cannabis does not damage the brains of adolescents. The 8 point IQ article of 2012, quoted innumerable times by NIDA, the DoH of Vermont and others, was replaced by the same authors in 2016 with the observation kids who are doing drugs at 14 need a diagnosis and appropriate intervention. Taking away cannabis, which is neuroprotective, has no effect. And the article claiming reshaping of young adults’ brains was debunked six months later. After 40+ years NIDA has nada, nothing but wasted dollars.
          The only bad things about cannabis are kids getting their lives ruined because some officer shook them down for pot and they are poor and probably of a minority facing life long discrimination. That is bad, and what the current laws were designed to do. I know your morals and mine diverge in places, but only a racist could like that.

        • Mark Godfrey

          Can we please stop debating adults and non-toxic flowers?

          I’m getting really bored of it.

    • Dave Silberman

      Legalization has not, in fact, lead to increased underage use in ANY jurisdiction.

      Legalization has not, in fact, lead to an increase in drugged driving accidents, injuries or fatalities in ANY jurisdiction.

      Legalization has not, in fact, lead to an increase in the incidence of “mental health diseases” in ANY jurisdiction.

      But why let the facts stand in the way of a good argument, eh?

    • Francis Janik

      Bob Orlek, Please understand that you have no argument that is valid. Our medical program is a failure. Decriminalization is discrimination and H.170 is not a retail bill. H.170 simply legalizes the growing for personal use that has gone on for decades. This allows for all to use this non toxic plant as needed. Please do not spread your alternative facts. Please educate your self.

    • Michael Olcott

      All H170 does is allow for individuals to posses and grow their own. No legal marketplace. to kill this bill would be catastrophic to our tourism industry as people would avoid VT en route to or from the other 2 states in NE that have legalized WITH commercial markets. Are you people so foolish that you would cut your nose to spite your face over propaganda and keeping the profiteers (through civil asset forfiture) in power to oppress someone just for choosing something other than booze or pharmaceuticals? Bob you hide behind ‘ it damages children’s brains’ man what does the pills you pushed for years do to their minds? off label uses for what amounts to legal meth/speed has zombified 2 generations of kids before society said enough. the mental health aspects that you drag out have never been proven to be caused by cannabis use only that they exist side by side and every non gov. study disclaims as much. the states that have legalized have actually seen a reduction the highways fatalities and not one has been shown to be caused by cannabis use alone. as i have said b4 you can choose to not consume cannabis but you have little right to impose your choice nor your ‘morality’ ( and i use that word loosely as it seems nothing is beyound you prohibitionist’s) on anyone else

  • Bob Orleck

    David Silberman’s argument is without merit. Vermont already has medical marijuana on the books and has decriminalization law on the books as well. H.170 is a legalization bill and if passed by the House would lead to what David really wants and that is a commercialization bill that would bring this new kind of “drug store” to our towns and villages. I am hopeful based on last year’s House vote rejecting the commercialism bill coming over from the Senate, that the House realizes what is up and if they passed H.170 they would be playing into the hands of certain wrong-headed Senators who would see it as the ideal opportunity to morph H.170 into their S.241 language of last year which would bring with it all the evils of legalized marijuana.

    Thank you Patrick Kennedy for standing up for children and their safety needs! You are absolutely right and I thank SAM for its principled stand on this bad law that is bad because it damages children’s brains, worsens mental health disease and increases deaths and injuries on our highways by impaired drivers.

    Let’s hope that the House which seems to be more sensitive to the need for safety of its citizens than certain of our tax-revenue hungry Senators will not even move this bill out of Judiciary but let it sit this session and next and hopefully permit it to die right there.

  • Rick Veitch

    Beware out-of-staters telling Vermonters what they should do about cannabis.

    That goes doubly for those who’s families built fortunes on Alcoholic spirits.

  • Dave Silberman

    SAM’s national president (and Bush-era “Drug Czar”) Kevin Sabet gave an interview last August, where he proposed that instead of allowing a regulated market for cannabis sales, he favors letting someone “grow a plant at home”: https://youtu.be/ho5knkpehV8?t=8m55s

    That is exactly what SAM is now lobbying against. The truth is that SAM is, and always has been, against every single legislative or referendum proposal to reduce incarceration for marijuana. They’ll tell you they’re against “commercial pot” but in favor of homegrow when that suits them, and then they’ll turn around and tell you that, well, actually, they’re against homegrow too, when that suits them.

    We see right through you, Mr. Kennedy. You want to impose your own moral values on others. Sell your self-righteousness elsewhere. Here in Vermont, we respect personal autonomy.

    • Bob Orleck

      You know quite well there is a difference between decriminalization and legalization and there is quite a difference on what flows from each of them. SAM can speak for themselves, but I hear loud and clear what they are saying. You are either confused or you want to confuse others by accusing them of deception. They are opposed to legalization and you are being deceiving if you are suggesting it would end there. You want commercialism and you called it a regulated market. They do not preach that decriminalization is bad. I have not heard that at all.

      How can anyone with a straight face argue that increased availability will not result in increased use. With legalization will come advertising. Why do companies advertise? They expect it will increase demand.

      Dave, you should not try to paint the picture that these people just want to impose their moral values on others. They know that marijuana is bad for brains, the mentally ill and increased use does increase highway accidents. You have no credibility when you claim this is not so. Why don’t you support a change to Schedule II status to allow medical researchers to do well-controlled studies and let the cards fall where they may. I think you know what those results would be and that would not support your narrative.

      • Joe McSherry

        Bob, it is the Federal government that has spewed Trump like alternate reality “facts” about cannabis and prevented research in this country and required those countries who would trade with US to adopt the cannabis is poison line. There is nothing about cannabis that justifies Schedule II, or any other schedule for that matter.
        Decriminalization leaves kids buying marijuana from a dealer who makes bigger bucks off pills and the marijuana may be spiked with synthetics that are cheap and cause strokes and heart attacks. Why would anyone want kids getting anything from such a creep?

        • Bob Orleck

          Joe: We don’t want any kids using marijuana. If it means more law enforcement and penalties to get the drug sellers (your word creep) off the street, then let’s do that. Legalization won’t stop the creep and it will increase use.

          THC is a Schedule I drug and that is the fact. President Trump has only been in office for less than two months but marijuana has been illegal to possess since 1970 when Congress passed the Controlled Substances Act. That act has been found constitutional and the feds are the sole deciders on whether it can be possessed and whether medical research can be done on it. In 2009 a request was made to the Obama administration to allow marijuana to be classified to allow well-controlled medical research to be done. It took the Obama administration until August, 2016 to make the decision that the drug should remain illegal to possess although they did make it a little easier to do some research. They evaluated that marijuana has no “currently accepted medical use, there are no adequate safety studies, the drug is not accepted by qualified experts, there is no consensus that it is safe and effective for any use and “the known risks of marijuana use have not been shown to be outweighed by specific benefits in well-controlled clinical trials that scientifically evaluate safety and efficacy.”

          So you can have your opinions but they are not supported by the facts. Also the Obama administration, not Trump administration should be the culprit in your reasoning. I believe the Obama administration acted responsibly its conclusions but I wished they would have made it easier for medical researchers to do their work..

          • Joe McSherry

            Bob, more draconian laws have failed. Three strikes and one can get life in prison. Kids report they have easier access to pot than alcohol.
            Marijuana was put on Schedule I by Congress when they wrote the CSA because they did not know where to place it and expected the Schafer Committee report to clarify the hazards a year or so later. When that report came out recommending decriminalizing and, when appropriate legalization, Governor Schaffer was denied the Federal Judge appointment Nixon held over him and the report was buried.
            As a retired pharmacist you know you cannot dispense a medicine when you have no idea what chemicals are in the chemotypes. To know what a cannabis chemotypes consisting of one needs regulation, so the product is tested, free of pesticides and pests and synthetic chemicals, and quantified in the amounts of THC, CBD, CBN and numerous other active cannabinoids, terpines and terpenoids. Regulation requires legalization.
            As tha IOM report of 1999 says “effects of cannabinoids, such as anxiety reduction, sedation, and euphoria … are potentially beneficial for others. The only folk who are going to increase use are us Seniors, with arthritis, anxiety, sleep disturbances, pain and depression. Everyone else already has access to the illegal stuff.
            As by now you and I are the only ones reading this, and no one has changed their beliefs, I will await your rehash of Harry Anslinger’s alternative facts.

      • Mark Godfrey

        SAM is laughable at best.

  • Clancy DeSmet

    Why are you covering his position?

  • Francis Janik

    Seriously, Why does Patrick Kennedy’s opinion matter to us. Both he and Kevin Sabet of SAM have no valid arguments to support their position against legalization. I would like to see the opinion’s of Vermonters get the same level of coverage. Just yesterday, I heard that the legislators wondered what happened to the Home Growers. We are still here. Vermont Home Grown rises to support H.170. and H.490. Legalization in MA. has changed the dynamic. Our legislators need to pass these bills as written.

  • Joe McSherry

    As we discussed today in Neuroscience Grand Rounds, the people who will benefit from legalization are adults, mostly those over 35, who do not want to know dealers or take risks on whatever is around, but would benefit from a regulated, labeled product from an adult only venue. Cannabis is substituted for Big Pharma drugs by medical seniors when that is an option – Feb 20 2017 New York Times covered a 98 year old lady who uses cannabis for her ailments because it reduces her need for morphine by 30%. A 98 year old lady with the cognitive ability to say she does not want to get high but cannabis works for her is to be believed! Cannabis for insomnia, anxiety, pain, poor sleep and (with a lot more neuroscience explanation) prevention of dementia – that will require a regulated product which necessarily means a legal product. H170 is a first leg that will allow people who grow cannabis out of the public (and enforcement) eye to be legal. Legislation to bring the alcohol DUI limit down to 0.05 ( still double the crash risk of 0.0) with other drugs like sedatives, anti anxiety drugs and cannabis will deal with driving and provide evidence on which drugs, with alcohol, result in accidents. The third leg, legal markets, regulated, requiring tested and labeled products will make something that is safer than over the counter aspirin and acetominophen, each of which can kill you, available to people with arthritis, anxiety depression and sleep disorders. Kids are not going to want to steal grandma’s medicine when their older brother can buy it at an adults only venue selling all varieties, most of which do not do anything kids are interested in.