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Profiles in Prohibitionist: William Bennett The First “Drug Czar”


By Richard Cowan, former NORML National Director and author of the Effects Of CBD On Mental Health with Dr. Igor Bussel.


When former President George H. W. Bush died almost 2 years ago, he was praised for his decency, undoubtedly benefiting from the contrast with his successors. However, there was also a very dark side to his Administration, personified by William Bennett, whom he anointed the first “Drug Czar” in March of 1989.


Later that year, on Sept. 5, 1989, Bush made his first televised speech from the Oval Office. announcing his administration’s escalation of the so-called “War on Drugs.” Bush held up a bag of crack cocaine on live television and claimed that it was bought at Lafayette Park in front of the White House.


See: US agents lured a teen near the White House to sell drugs so George H.W. Bush could make a point


So much for his inauguration speech promising a “Kinder, gentler America.” 


See: Donald Trump railed against George H.W. Bush’s “kinder, gentler America” as early as 1990


I have not seen any record of Bennett’s role in that farce, but his record as Drug Czar was an appalling blot on America’s criminal justice system. On a Larry King Live television interview, he said that a viewer's suggestion of beheading drug dealers would be "morally plausible." He also "lamented that we still grant them [drug dealers] habeas corpus rights.


However, it was his utter hypocrisy that I found most disgusting. He was both a heavy drinker and a tobacco addict while he was demonizing “drug” users. He made a fortune publishing The Book of Virtues: A Treasury of Great Moral Stories (1993), which he edited. and, ironically, The Death of Outrage: Bill Clinton and the Assault on American Ideals (1998). 


Then it was revealed that he was a compulsive gambler, who had lost large sums, at casinos. 


See: Problem Gambling AND: We Know Too Much About Marijuana for It To Be Illegal


As for his favorite drugs: An estimated 88,0005 people (approximately 62,000 men and 26,000 women) die from alcohol-related causes annually,”


Tobacco was the leading preventable cause of death in the US. According to the CDC, The Center for Disease Control and Prevention, “Cigarette smoking is responsible for more than 480,000 deaths per year in the United States, including more than 41,000 deaths resulting from secondhand smoke exposure. This is about one in five deaths annually, or 1,300 deaths every day. On average, smokers die 10 years earlier than nonsmokers.”


See: Tobacco Companies and Cannabis – Should They Be Allowed In?


And we are still arresting over 600,000 Americans every year for marijuana possession, more than for all violent crimes combined. 



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