You’ve gotta love it when old people start spouting off radical ideas. My grandma started at age 91, when after a lifetime of middle-of-the-road values she started talking about invoking the Second Amendment to overthrow the Bush Administration with armed militias. Tony Bennett started doing it at age 85, when this September, on the ten-year anniversary of 9/11, he told Howard Stern, “They flew the plane in, but we caused it.”
Yesterday after Whitney Houston’s death Bennett backed a different kind of controversial idea: legalizing drugs.
“First it was Michael Jackson, then it was Amy Winehouse, and now the magnificent Whiteny Houston,” Bennett said at Clive Davis’ pre-Grammy party. He continued:
“I would like every gentleman and lady in this room to commit themselves to get our government to legalize drugs. So they can be getting to a doctor, not to some gangsters who sell them up under the table. There’s enough going on, and it’s time to straighten out our own lives. We’re the greatest country in the world, and we should never forget that.”
Bennett is totally right—we should legalize drugs. But this has nothing to do with the three stars he name-checked. They weren’t even killed by illegal drugs—Jackson and now reportedly Whitney were killed by misusing prescription drugs, and Winehouse was killed from alcohol poisoning.
As for illegal drugs, of the 250 million people worldwide who use them, only 10% are addicts. And those 10% aren’t deterred from finding and abusing drugs because they happen to be illegal. And as seen in places like Holland where drugs are legal, legalizing them doesn’t suddenly turn the other 90% into addicts. It just re-classifies them as being non-criminals. This is why the Global Drug Policy recommended worldwide decriminalization last year, claiming that “the war on drugs has failed.”
Bennett is right—we should legalize drugs, but not because it will save a few rock stars’ lives. It won’t. It will, however, keep thousands out of jail and keep families from being broken apart, which in turn causes more crime down the road. It’ll cut down on crime by creating a legitimate market where there now exists only a black market and raise millions in sales tax revenues. Not to mention the incredible impact it would have on the Mexican drug cartel, whose violence has killed over 48,000 in the last five years alone.
Whiney, Winehouse and Michael are basically the opposite of the reason we should legalize drugs—they’re the outliers who push abuse to the limit. They didn’t need illegal drugs to kill them. Likewise all the evidence says that legalizing the drugs that are currently illegal won’t kill more. When you factor in black market crime it would save many lives and keep many more out of jail.
Bennet’s right Houston’s death is a great tragedy and that we lose too many great artists to abuse. But the kind of care they need is altogether a different issue from drug legalization. Check out Bennett’s comments below.