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Former Rhode Island Congressman Patrick Kennedy spoke with GoLocal LIVE on Wednesday about efforts in Rhode Island once again to legalize marijuana - and what he said is the country’s crisis of addiction, and why he is opposed to marijuana legalization. 

“We’re going though an epidemic of addiction and depression…and we’re in the midst of the rollback the biggest expansion of healthcare coverage that benefits people with mental illness [and] addiction, and this was the first time the ever got coverage,” Kennedy told GoLocal’s Kate Nagle on Wednesday.

“We ought to think do we want throw gasoline on the fire,” said Kennedy, of legalizing marijuana in Rhode Island. “We know what’s happened with other addictive substances where’s basically there’s no perception of ‘risk’ — alcohol is ubiquitous; tobacco, until the settlements, there was no appetite for addressing [the impact of that].”

“Going down this road of adding a new intoxicant is not a good thing,” said Kennedy.

Kennedy helped found Sensible Approaches to Marijuana after serving as United States Congressman for 16 years. According to his bio:

He has since founded the Kennedy Forum, which unites the community of mental health, and co-founded One Mind for Research, a global leader in open science collaboration in brain research. Kennedy is also the co-author of “A Common Struggle,” which outlines both his personal story and a bold plan for the future of mental health in America.

“Why would we support an intoxicant that effects cognition, motivation, and perception — why as Americans would we want something else to drag us down?" asked Kennedy. 

Questioning Pro-Pot Motivations

In his interview with GoLocal, Kennedy addressed the arguments from legalization proponents — and called out who he said will serve to benefit from legalization. 

“I think it’s popular to be ‘pro-pot,’ and be rebels and supporter legalization that sounds so attractive, like let’s end prob,” said Kennedy. “It’s not as innocent as it seems. [Legalization] is about supporting Wall Street, big private equity of folks who are already making big money off this.”

“So the people who are traditional supporters [of legalization], need to look at this is not decriminalization, but what we’re talking about is it’s about giving an industry the ability to advertise, market and target an audience of people who are already susceptible to addiction, and young people,” said Kennedy. “And the perception of risk will be lower, because it’s sanctioned by society.”

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