Confronted and Owned: Anti-Marijuana Zealot Bill Bennett

Let states enact their own marijuana policies
By Paul Armentano, Special to CNN
July 6, 2011

(CNN) — It is hardly surprising that former drug czar William Bennett would, in his op-ed, oppose any changes to America’s criminalization of marijuana. But it is surprising that he would lump Barney Frank and Ron Paul’s proposal to allow states the opportunity to enact their own marijuana policy with the effort to legalize drugs.

Let’s be clear: HR 2306, the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2011, proposed by Reps. Barney Frank and Ron Paul, does not “legalize drugs” or even so much as legalize marijuana. Rather, this legislation removes the power to prosecute minor marijuana offenders from the federal government and relinquishes this authority to state and local jurisdictions. In other words, HR 2306 is just the sort of rebuke to the “nanny state” that conservatives like Bennett otherwise support.

Barney Frank and Ron Paul: Get feds out of pot regulation

The House bill mimics changes enacted by Congress to repeal the federal prohibition of alcohol. Passage of this measure would remove the existing conflict between federal law and the laws of those 16 states that already allow for the limited use of marijuana under a physician’s supervision.

It would also permit states that wish to fully legalize (for adults) and regulate the responsible use, possession, production and intrastate distribution of marijuana to be free to do so without federal interference. In recent years, several states, including California and Massachusetts, have considered taking such actions either legislatively or by ballot initiative. It is likely that several additional states will be considering this option in 2012, including Colorado and Washington. The residents and lawmakers of these states should be free to explore these alternate policies, including medicalization, decriminalization and legalization, without running afoul of the federal law or the whims of the Department of Justice.

Of course, just as many states continued to criminalize the sale and consumption of alcohol after the federal government’s lifting of alcohol prohibition, many states, if not most, might continue to maintain criminal sanctions on the use of marijuana.

But there is no justification for the federal government to compel them to do so. Just as state and local governments are free to enact their own policies about the sale and use of alcohol — a mind-altering, potentially toxic substance that harms the user more than marijuana — they should be free to adopt marijuana policies that best reflect the wishes and mores of their citizens.

Does Bill Bennett believe that state and local governments cannot be trusted with making such decisions on their own?

Speaking during an online town hall in January, President Obama acknowledged the subject of legalizing and regulating marijuana was a “legitimate topic for debate,” even as he expressed his opposition. Yet Texas Rep. Lamar Smith, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, recently boasted that he would not even consider scheduling HR 2306 for a public hearing.

There might be another reason people like Smith and Bennett will go to such lengths to try to stifle public discussion of the matter. To do so would be to shine light on the fact that the federal criminalization of marijuana has failed to reduce the public’s demand for cannabis, and it has imposed enormous fiscal and human costs upon the American people.

Further, this policy promotes disrespect for the law and reinforces ethnic and generational divides between the public and law enforcement. Annual data published in the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, and compiled by NORML, finds that police have made more than 20 million arrests for marijuana violations since 1970, nearly 90% of them for marijuana possession offenses only.

It is time to stop ceding control of the marijuana market to unregulated, criminal entrepreneurs and allow states the authority to enact common sense regulations that seek to govern the adult use of marijuana in a fashion similar to alcohol.

In Bennett’s own words, “We have an illegal drug abuse epidemic in this country.” How is such a conclusion anything but a scathing indictment of the present policy? After 70 years of failure it is time for an alternative approach. The “Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2011” is an ideal first step.

Editor’s note: Paul Armentano is the deputy director of NORML , the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, and is the co-author of the book “Marijuana Is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink?” (2009, Chelsea Green).

93 thoughts


  2. Texas Rep. Lamar Smith, should be made to spend a day in the life of someone that needs cannabis to make it through a day.And for that matter all the pin heads that think the current policies are working or have ever worked!FFS people wake up ! Stop believing and perpetuating the LIES!

  3. Just legalize the shit and get it over with. Lobbyist for pharma companies are making this a big deal to maintain big bucks.

  4. I saw when Bennett first published the op-ed on CNN. I was both infuriated with CNN and disappointed with the media in general. Look around, how is marijuana reform being received by the media? It appears to anyone compelled to follow the issue throughout the various media outlets, that marijuana is coldly received by the media. Sure there are debates here and there on TV programs, but when it comes to visiting CNN, USA Today, MNSBC, etc. it all seems to be a side-show of sorts. We need to make the media more aware of our passion and our movement and restore the context of logic and rationale when discussing marijuana reform.

  5. [“Does Bill Bennett believe that state and local governments cannot be trusted with making such decisions on their own?”]
    Nixon, who created the DEA, didn’t even trust the FBI to carry out his own personal war on U.S.citizens.
    Bring on the HR 2306!

  6. While I appreciate the article, your characterization of Bill Bennett, proudly displayed at the top, does little to help you seem legitimate.
    I’m pretty disappointed.
    [Editor’s note: The truth hurts. Bennett profits mightily from his self-appointment as the king of virtue, when he is more like the king of vice. Should cannabis consumers and victims of the Cannabis Prohibition laws Bill Bennett is so famous for championing for decades feel about calling him out as a big fat hypocrite?
    How many otherwise taxpaying paying Americans have suffered because of bloviators like Bennett wanting to maintain the failed and expensive policy of arresting cannabis consumers?
    Why pretend to be civil any longer to a hypocritical moralist who would have you as a cannabis consumer get violently busted and to crawl into a cage, make you piss in a cup for a job, take your home and children away by government fiat while he chain smokes, drinks America’s most dangerous drug and twitches to go blow the family milk money on video poker.
    Why should cannabis consumers and the victims of 74 years of Cannabis Prohibition continue to cede one iota of respect or deference to this man and his zeal to treat cannabis consumers like third rate citizens who he deems as criminal deviants?]

  7. “Bill Bennett is an insufferable and overweight hypocrite who smoked or still smokes tobacco, drank or still drinks alcohol and has a gambling addiction!”
    This is exactly what I said – “Everyone has bones in their closet.” If the American public becomes the paparazzi of these hypercrites will die on the vine.

  8. Relax, prohibition will end just as long as leaders like Ron Paul and Barney Frank keep pushing for reform. Nothing happens over night and slow progress isn’t sptopping you from getting high, not really.

  9. Wow – great article! I couldn’t have said it better myself 🙂 That’s because Paul Armentano is in a league by himself! I’m sure glad he’s on our side – the right side!
    Republican Lamar Smith is another person who is in a league all by himself – and it’s not a good one! This guy would have half of America locked up if he could; total facist – Hitler like (in my opinion).
    I was one of the contributors to the blog about the article written by Bennett. He is a dinosaur who’s time has come to depart this earth forever – him and others like him! Considering what Obama has done for us (against us) lately, he can go too!

  10. Aye, fight and you may die. Run and you’ll live — at least a while. And dying in your beds many years from now, would you be willing to trade all the days from this day to that for one chance, just one chance to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they’ll never take our freedom!!!

  11. It still astounds me that people fear marijuana more than alcohol,tobacco products, and prescrition drug’s. It’s time for the END of marijuana prohibition. The states will do far better if HR2306 is passed, the $ spent on the marijuana prohibition is ridiculous. Prohibition makes criminal’s rich, look at what alcohol prohibition done for organized crime, marijuana prohibition is doing the same thing. Only marijuana is far less harmful and intoxicating than alcohol and prescrition drug’s.Wake Up!!!

  12. In Bennett’s own words, “We have an illegal drug abuse epidemic in this country.”
    No legal drug abuse? Come on Billy, let’s go drinking and gambling shall we? That’s all legal. I hear 4-5 people are dying daily in FL from oxy odee’s. That’s probably three times the deaths caused by any illegal drug world wide. So Bill, where’s your paycheck coming from these days? Right wing think tanks that are owned by (cough, cough) big pharma? Fucking cow! Please go away.

  13. I remember Bennett when he was czar to the first Bush. He was creepy with shifty eyes. He has a smoking addiction, he drinks, and is a gambling addict. Now I know why he had shifty eyes. Maybe he could get MMJ card. I bet he would feel a lot better considering its all natural and nontoxic.

  14. it seems i remember bill bennett has intrest in drug a testing company. what a bust for him if it were legal like alcohol. oh well, what do i know??????????

  15. Tell it to George Washington, who used hemp, smoked cannabis you know what illy boy and your bullish- for about 40 years. George Washington would be embarrassed to know you.

  16. There is no Federal law banning consumer fireworks in the United States. States pick and choose to ban some fireworks or all fireworks or allow some fireworks or all fireworks to be used and sold.
    The same policy should apply to marijuana laws. States should be allowed to decide to legalize or ban it.

  17. While I’d agree with the dislike of Bennett, it would be wise not to offend those who may not measure up to society’s expectation of body mass. I believe the object here is to persuade, not offer gratuitous offense. To note that he is a tobacco and alcohol-using hypocrite is, however, germane.
    [Editor’s note: Correct. Using disparaging characterizations regarding Mr. Bennett’s choice not to watch his weight is not helpful. Unlike Bennett, your editor repents.]

  18. bill bennett should give up drinking and gambling and try smoking pot!!1
    He would probably be a hapier camper!!1
    what a hypocrite!!

  19. Bill Bennett supports the old-school status quo of a vibrant prison industry and the police state we live under. Unfortunately, this is one of the main issues blocking any significant reforms from taking place.
    Think about it. How many jobs would be LOST if marijuana became legalized today. There would be less need for LEOs, court system personnel, jailers, and drug-testers. A lot more people would be out of work.
    The negative impact to the economy would clearly not be offset by the number of jobs the industry would create; and, I’m certain this is a major reason that Obama has stayed with the status quo on this issue as well.

  20. “When you’re not welcome – you don’t hang around.”
    One would think that prohibitionists would get the message by now. We have exposed [not only] prohibition’s weakness – but – its total failure as well. There exists no conceivable reason or justification to continue this senseless and unjust war [for the sake of] its profiteers – be it legal or illegal. Sooner or later – prohibs are going to “give up” the one thing they don’t have now – or never have had – “control.” That is why they never have won this war – nor will they ever.

  21. Actually I would like to encourage Mr. Bennett to smoke and drink till his heart’s…well…stopped. If not in my lifetime then I’m teaching my kids the truth. Maybe in theirs. Maybe they can fix the economy too. It sucks that I can’t trust the government of the greatest superpower on earth NOT to screw my kids inheritance over with their greed.

  22. So! Bennett has been depicted as a fat ass, smelly drunk, with creepy shifty eyes, an addition, and interests in a drug testing company [is that collusion]? He was also described as a treasonous bastard, King of Vice, and an insufferable hypocrite. IS THIS TRUE? All of this only tells us how the man takes care of himself – and – if he will destroy himself – why should we let him destroy us. IF THIS IS SO – who the hell would listen to him. See how a smear campaign is put together – and – dishin’ the dirt works.

  23. The war on marijuana has broght the absolute worse out in politicians. They will always go to the utter most extremes to get their votes at our expense, won’t they? It will never stop till it’s legal. They will put us in a world of hell just to get what they want, votes. Time for us to take what we want, a little pay back. We ain’t never going to forget the lies from Obama and the millions jailed, the billions of dollars collected. And don’t tell me they disposed of all the evidence and didn’t take any home! Years from now, people will look back at this time period like it was cartoons and laugh. But not today, we ain’t laughing till they hurt like we’ve been hurt.

  24. I can see why he can never change his mind. To do so, he would have to admit that he is partially responsible for tens of thousands of death, by murder, restraint of research and restraint of medicines, etc.
    Think of the suffering that could have been avoided if people like Bennett had chosen to fight prohibition laws rather than fight (select) drug users.

  25. I don’t understand conservative logic. maybe because there is none. support states’ rights…..except when it comes to CURRENT illicit substances. Then back the feds…wtf??????

  26. Talk about a Jackoff! Man this Weasel takes the cake. Typical republican. How much lower can our country go?All they do or have been doing for the last forty years is sit up there and dream up ways to screw the average Joe “nickel sack” American.All I can say, and I feel its coming on fast now, is,it’s time for payback boys, and you are going to get what’s coming to you,and I don’t want to hear you cry when it comes around and bites you where it counts,Mr. republican drug warrior,zealot,Facist pig, Mr. Bennett you’re going to need a really good fire suit where you’re going.And from what I hear your other buddie’s suits are’nt holding up too well, maybe I’ll send you some urine, if your lucky, to cool you down some when the fire gets a little too close for comfort.

  27. Every one needs to be nice to Bill. He has addition to 2 Real bad drugs. And has no problem throwing the family money away. Feel for his pain. Then show him our pain. Let him have it. Any one that is pro prohibition is responsible for all the killing that is happen in Mexico .Let the world know that if u support prohibition. Then u are the ones that are guilty. And u must sham them i do they hate it to.

  28. More than likely, when an article is published on this website I completely agree with it. This one is no different. However, what I do not agree with is the “editor’s note” that is riddled with ad hominems toward Bill Bennett. I don’t know the man, nor do I even particularly care for him, but I do understand that such remarks are not necessary and only lessen the impact of our cause. We are better than those petty comments that more often than not come from those opposed to our legalization/decriminalization/medicalization efforts.

  29. Not so much “confronted and owned” as “rebuked and discredited”
    We need to stay on Lamar Smith about this bill. He took down his facebook page and has had to hide from callers etc… this is good. Make him not want public service push, push, push. Keep calling! Keep writing! Go to his official webpage ( and send him feedback there. Drive this SOB out of office. We’re starting to get public opinion more and more on our side.
    If you do a google news search for “marijuana prohibition” or “Marijuana legalization” it is amazing how many of the articles are on our side… and then you read comments. If the internet is any indication the number of American supporting legalization is WAY more than 50% (though it IS the internet…..)
    In any case, it is time for us to do some witch hunts of our own. Lamar Smith. ANYTHING to discredit or shame this man. That is what we need to get on… ruin his career and get him the F*** out of the way.
    I’ll be doing my part (researching Smith’s skeletons and sending a contribution to NORML)
    Good work Paul!

  30. bill bennett has a radio show. why don’t we all flood his switchboard? if you get on, ask questions about his drinking or tobacco use. he has approximately 1 and 1/4 million listeners. we need to get on his show and expose what a lying buffoon he is. we need to continue to put pressure on politicians. lamar smith received $50,000 from the pharmaceutical industry for his last campaign. i think we need to ask the question, if the cannabis industry donated $50,000 (i don’t think that will happen) to his campaign, would his tune be different about HR 2306. i don’t think we need a bill in congress in order to continue putting pressure on congressional members. call a politician everyday, and ask them to support favorable cannabis legislation. we have to hound these people and educate them. educate their staff, as we will likely never have the opportunity to speak to them. call congressional offices that have supported favorable legislation and thank them. contact your local sheriff and police stations, and try to educate them about cannabis. realization is the key to the universe, and unless the realization occurs for people with the badges, the guns and the power to direct them, cannabis-users and their families will continue to be collateral damage in this war.

  31. Genesists run “at it” – not – “from it.” We intend to run “straight at it.” Our Constitution is a vivid thread woven in the fabric of our great and glorious country. I am an American. What I believe – I believe! What I say – I say! What I believe – I say. The answer is too simple. We will overwhelm them with our 3141 Genesist Colonies – now and in 2012. The smallest thing we do – will be the biggest thing we’ve done in the final judgment.

  32. Can’t say this about weed!
    WellnessWorks of Hancock Medical Center
    Alcohol Awareness Week
    July 4-8, 2011
    Alcohol abuse is America’s #1 health problem. This problem has major costs and consequences that place a huge burden on our society today. Such addictions strain the health care systems, economy, threatens public safety and plays a huge role in harming family life. In addition, alcohol addiction has no boundaries when it comes to ethnic groups, genders, and financial incomes.
    · There are more deaths and disabilities each year in the United States from substance abuse than from any other cause.
    · About 18 million Americans have alcohol problems; about five to six million Americans have drug problems.
    · More than half of all adults have a family history of alcoholism or problem drinking.
    · More than nine million children live with a parent dependent on alcohol and/or illicit drugs.
    · One-quarter of all emergency room admissions, one-third of all suicides, and more than half of all homicides and incidents of domestic violence are alcohol-related.
    · Heavy drinking contributes to illness in each of the top three causes of death: heart disease, cancer and stroke.
    · Almost half of all traffic fatalities are alcohol-related.
    · Between 48% and 64% of people who die in fires have blood alcohol levels indicating intoxication.
    · Fetal alcohol syndrome is the leading known cause of mental retardation.
    · Alcohol and drug abuse costs the American economy an estimated $276 billion per year in lost productivity, health care expenditures, crime, motor vehicle crashes and other conditions.
    · Untreated addiction is more expensive than heart disease, diabetes and cancer combined.
    · Every American adult pays nearly $1,000 per year for the damages of addiction.
    · Addiction can be overcome with proper treatment, so seek help!
    · Prevention is a huge part of staying away from your addiction!
    To schedule an educational talk within your company,
    call Service Coordination to schedule a meeting with your
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  33. Bill Bennett. Fuck him and the horse he rode in on.
    Same goes for Smith.
    Bennett pays his bills with the money he gets from prohibitionists. He is a fellow architect of oppression. He’s a has-been. He’s never going to admit his policies are a costly failure.
    Smith, well he’s from Texas, so that makes him stubborn as a mule. Which prohibitionists have been funding Smith? Or is that not the case and he’s got some kind of Moby Dick obsession against cannabis? Could he be one of the poor souls who has lost a loved one in the drug violence, and now has a vendetta against all currently illegal drugs? What is his story, anyway?
    I guess the corpus of politicians and movers and shakers are just not taking this legislation seriously because the of the sponsors. The guesses as to why are things one overhears at a venue with tongues loosened by alcohol. Because Frank is gay: Dick Armey referred to him on the floor as Barney Fag. Because Paul started off libertarian and is the butt of comedy when he strays from the republican prohibitionist dogma. He was in Brüno, that gay-themed comedy movie.
    What are their reasons whey they perceive they are in their safe-to-say company of confidants?

  34. Sacrament as a Food.
    “Let the food be thy medicine, and the medicine thy food.”
    Hemp Nutrition – Natures Super Food.
    In the Genesist Faith’s penchant [propensity] to free our Sacrament from the prohibition that falsely imprisons it, we should not neglect to claim the superior benefits from hemp food – the most nutritionally complete food source in the world. Hemp is legal – it’s legal in any form. Hemp [God’s gift to his Creation as Sacrament] has been a food [that which grows naturally from the ground] since the beginning of time – The Sixth Day. Hemp, if not the first, was one of the first, plants to be cultivated by mankind, and present-day areas of wild growth have resulted from plants escaping from prehistoric cultivation. More recently, since the early 1990’s, shelled hemp seeds have been used as a foodstuffs, including, baked goods, snacks, breakfast cereals, beverages, frozen desserts, tofu, even cheese! Hemp is highly nutritious. From a nutritional standpoint the hemp seed is highly desirable.
    The Geneist Faith promotes Hemp Therapy as a vibrant and essential part of a highly nutritional dietary program. In addition to its nutritional value, the Genesist Faith promotes physical wellness, by maintaining a concentrated program of exercise [both aerobic and resistance]. Diet and exercise go hand in hand, and are essential to well being.

  35. To the Democrats: Better run someone else in 2012 cus Obama n Holder will be heading back to Chi Town. To the Republican n Tea Party: WTF! Go back and read the Constitution, and get back to me. Mean while the raids continue: Kent, Wa. 7.6.11, Police shut down 4 MMJ dispensaries, seizing product, phones and computers.

  36. Oh, btw Holder, got them guns back yet! Guess Calderon is none to happy, how many people died while I wrote this. WTF over!

  37. Just a note – when there are Congresspeople… And they have vices that are legal… and your vice is illegal… it doesn’t help win their favor by pointing out their flaws… We should enunciate the benefits of marijuana decrim/ legalization.

  38. Judiciary committee chair Lamar Smith / Texas has said he won’t let the bill come up for debate; check out his Campaign Finances at
    Note the $20,000 from the National Beer Wholesalers Association (and see more about their contributions at
    Note also: $2,000 funding from Corrections Corporation, a gigantic, for-profit prison corporation
    The alcohol industry and the for-profit prison industry; is this why Mr. Smith doesn’t want a discussion about marijuana?

  39. Neocons are idiots… if they knew what the word “conservative” meant, they would all be libertarians and not Republicans. Why does everyone want a nanny state? No drugs, Patriot act, no gay marriage, no guns, no pro-religion, no anti-religion, no abortion…
    How about if you don’t like one of those, then don’t participate.
    If the pendulum swings Republican, Gary Johnson is our only hope…

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