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Patrick Kennedy Urges Congress Not to Legalize ‘Addictive’ Marijuana Industry

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WASHINGTON – Former Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.) urged Congress not to legalize marijuana, breaking with other members of his party such as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).

Schumer announced today for the 4/20 cannabis holiday his plan to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level, writing that he had evolved on the issue along with the electorate.

Kennedy argued lawmakers should oppose legalization of marijuana, in part because it would worsen the crisis of addiction in America.

“The biggest issue here is denial in our lives, those of us who come from homes with alcoholism and addiction, who live with it in our own lives. In fact, the people with addiction are often the last ones to know,” Kennedy said at a press conference today with the organization he co-founded called Smart Approaches to Marijuana.

“I would say as a society, right now, collectively, as a nation, we are in a collective denial about the scope and severity of addiction in this county,” he added.

Experts joined Kennedy at the press conference to warn about the dangers of driving under the influence of marijuana and how marijuana use could lead to addiction to other illicit drugs.

“At the end of the day, as all these experts can tell you, it’s addiction, it’s addiction, it’s addiction. We can substitute one for the other; the bottom line is we have to understand this for what it is, and I think obviously it detracts at a time when we’re in an all-out crisis in this country with addiction,” Kennedy said. “It makes it more difficult for us to have a clear and consistent voice in policy about this to be giving a wink-wink over here while saying maybe it’s not a smart idea over there. That is dissembling –  isn’t that what we call it in recovery when we try to have it both ways?”

Kennedy warned about the high levels of tetrahydrocannabinol or THC contained in marijuana edibles, noting that consumers “might not be aware of how much THC is in what you are eating, hence all the emergency room visits.”

“Because people thought ‘well, I only took a bite or two and it never made an impact on me, so I finished the brownie, and next thing I knew I was hallucinating in an ER,’” Kennedy said.

“Our country clearly loves to self-medicate, all right, and more than ever before now because the stresses and anxieties brought about by a shifting economy that does not share wealth equally across this country and leaves more and more people feeling insecure about their financial well-being and about the future of their families – that’s the truth,” he added.

Kennedy said America’s young people are “heading into a global economy” that’s inflicting a lot of stress and they need the mental health skills to cope.