WASHINGTON — Only days into the start of the 113th Congress, former Rhode Island 1st District Representative Patrick Kennedy, who has a long history of drug abuse, is spearheading the re-criminalization of cannabis possession in Washington state and Colorado. A referendum last year ended the states’ criminal penalties for recreational cannabis possession.
The website of his pro-criminalization group, Project SAM, forwards that social service and medical authorities alone cannot address problems associated with individual abuse of cannabis, stating, “A rational policy no longer relies only on the criminal justice system to address people whose only crime is smoking or possessing a small amount of marijuana.”
The website of Project SAM, the brainchild also of former President George W. Bush speechwriter David Frum, advocates a view that, “Although people arrested for marijuana possession rarely end up in prison, an arrest record can hurt someone’s chances of . . . accessing social benefits later in life.” The Department of Education website says, “[s]tudents with criminal convictions have limited eligibility for federal student aid.”
The website also calls for the possibility for “expungement of any personal record regarding possession of small amounts of marijuana.” However to pursue numerous professional pathways — particularly in the fields of law enforcement, social services and education — expungement is functionally a mirage.
In 2006 Rep. Kennedy crashed his Ford Mustang into a Capitol Hill traffic barrier. Two pulled Boston Herald articles (now archived here and here) cited sources from a Capitol Hill bar who claimed that, in addition to being under the influence of prescription sleep aids Ambien and Phenergan, Rep. Kennedy had been adding alcohol to the mix. That same year Rep. Kennedy would enter rehabilitation for his addiction to the painkiller Oxycontin.
Marijuana Policy Project Communications Director Mason Tvert, who successfully led a 2006 Denver legalization referendum, was reached for comment about the organizations and individuals funding Project SAM. He writes, “Since they’re a non-profit, it’s unlikely we’ll find out.”