What's Tony Bennett Smoking?

In response to the tragic death of Whitney Houston, perennial lounge act Tony Bennett told the world how such a tragedy could be prevented:

“First it was Michael Jackson, then it was Amy Winehouse and now the magnificent Whitney Houston,” Bennett said. “I’d like to have every gentleman and lady in this room commit themselves to get our government to legalize drugs, so you can it from a doctor, not just some gangsters that just sell it under the table.”

This argument is so nonsensical it makes me think Bennett has ulterior motives for wanting drugs legalized. Whitney Houston died of a combination of alcohol and prescription drugs that are already legal:

Whitney Houston died from mixing a cocktail of Xanax and other powerful prescription drugs with alcohol, it has been reported.

Her family has allegedly been told by Los Angeles County Coroner officials there was not enough water in her lungs to conclude she had drowned in her luxury hotel bathtub and in fact died before her head went under water, said gossip website TMZ.

The revelations come as it emerged that her daughter Bobbi Kristina, 18, allegedly fell asleep in a bathtub in the same Beverly Hilton hotel just 24 hours before her mother died. TMZ claims security was called to unlock the door and to help the 18-year-old on that occasion.


On Thursday she is said to have gone on a ‘wild binge’ where she clashed with security guards. The next evening she ‘partied heavily, drank and chatted loudly’ with friends at the hotel bar.

Bottles of Lorazepam, Valium, Xanax and a sleeping medication were found in the hotel room, it has been claimed.

So much for that theory about doctors being more responsible than pushers. Michael Jackson, who Bennett also mentions, was killed by his doctor turned pusher who doped the addict singer with a dangerous mix of perfectly legal prescription drugs. This was done at the drug addled Jackson’s request.

Heath Ledger overdosed on a combination of legal prescription drugs to which he was addicted. For all her public troubles with illegal drugs, Amy Winehouse actually died of alcohol poisoning. I would remind Mr. Bennett that alcohol is quite legal.

In non-celebrity drug abuse news, a woman named Debra Annemarie Blackmon pimped out her 13-year-old daughter to a drug dealer in return for drugs. Not illegal drugs, these were the perfectly legal prescription drugs Oxycodone and Percocet. Marijuana does show up in this story though–the dealer used it to make the girl more compliant before raping her.

It’s almost as if the social ills we find related to drug abuse have less to do with the legal status of a drug and more to do with the addictions, habits, and moral decay of drug users.

I have found that conservatives seem to have lost interest in drug policy issues in the last few years, which is understandable given the other issues we face. Yet ceding this issue to liberals and libertarians is not possible for any conservative who understands the import of our crumbling social fabric. I am against legalization because it makes the government both your pusher and your babysitter, it both incentivizes your drug use and makes society at large–through the instrument of government–responsible for ensuring your safety. I’m not against decriminalization if we lived in a society where drug users would be disqualified from things like driving cars, fostering children, working as teachers and the like. But drug abuse, and death by overdose, is a cultural and societal problem that cannot be fixed by legislation.

Tony Bennett illustrates the true drug problem in America which is our lack of real education about drug abuse. None of the deaths he complains about would have been stopped by legalizing illegal drugs. People don’t abuse drugs because the drugs are illegal, they abuse drugs because they are addicts or troubled or in some cases because they’ve been told by groups like NORML that drug abuse is consequence-less.

This message of consequence-free drug use–the mythical “victimless crime”–has seeped into every part of our culture. We have doctors prescribing highly addictive drugs like Xanax to children and wonder why death by drug overdose is on the rise. We have spent more than 50 years teaching children though our education, media, and behavior that drug and alcohol abuse is relatively minor. And now conservatives have exited the stage and allowed the national discourse on drug policy to be dominated by specious arguments that are based on the politicization of drug-seeking behavior.

It’s time to reengage the drug war as not just a legal issue, but an educational, cultural, and moral issue for which conservatism is the answer. The Tony Bennetts of the world cannot be allowed to spread these Cheech and Chongisms to another vulnerable generation.


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