Tony Bennett Urges Drug Legalization After Whitney Houston's Death

In the wake of Whitney Houston's death, at Clive Davis'pre-grammy party last night, singer Tony Bennett urged the U.S. to legalize drugs.

"First it was Michael Jackson, then Amy Winehouse, now, the magnificent Whitney Houston," he began. "I'd like every person in this room to campaign to legalize drugs."

"Let's legalize drugs like they did in Amsterdam," he continued. "No one's hiding or sneaking around corners to get it. They go to a doctor to get it."

There's still no indication of cause of death. TMZ has reported she drowned in the bathtub. [More...]

From the position in which TMZ reports her security guard found her, it sounds like she fell asleep and slid under water. Two security guards, her stylist and her hairdresser were with Whitney to get her ready for Clive Davis' party. She went to take a bath, and when she hadn't come out almost an hour later, concerned that it was getting late, one of the security guards went to the bathroom, knocked on the door, and receiving no answer, entered and found her under water.

TMZ reports it was customary for Whitney to take Xanax before going to big public events to calm her nerves. The police say while prescription drugs were found in the room, they have no evidence drugs played a role in her death.

Whitney had recently finished filming the movie Sparkle with American Idol winner Jordin Sparks and Sony says the film will still be released in August.

Howard Rosenman... an executive producer on the new film....[said] "This would have been a big, big comeback, she is so brilliant in it." [He] had seen a rough cut of the film Friday night....

....Houston's final recordings will be heard in the film. She sings the gospel classic "Eyes on the Sparrow" and duets with Sparks on a new R. Kelly song, "Celebrate"....

Simon Cowell confirmed yesterday that Whitney was under consideration for an invitation to be a judge on the next season of X-Factor.

Here are some pictures of her as she sang ""Yes, Jesus Loves Me" with R&B singer Kelly Price at Price's pre-Grammy at at Tru, Thursday night. The video is here.

So far, it doesn't sound like Whitney Houston died from a drug overdose. While no alcohol was found in her room, she reportedly had a lot to drink the night before. Xanax, like alcohol, is a central nervous system depressant which can slow brain activity, the heart rate and breathing. It is often prescribed for panic and anxiety disorder.

Drinking alcohol while taking Xanax may increase your risk of certain Xanax side effects, such as: Drowsiness, Dizziness, Problems with coordination.... It may also slow both the heart rate and breathing, which can cause you to pass out or have difficulty breathing -- and may even lead to death.

Drugs were not involved in Amy Winehouse' death. She died from accidental alcohol poisoning.

Tony Bennett may be right about legalizing drugs, but I don't think Whitney Houston and Amy Winehouse are the best examples. Unless his point is that had they been allowed to freely use drugs, they wouldn't have turned to alcohol. Even then, I think better arguments are the number of people who safely use recreational drugs without becoming addicts or alcoholics and that it should be the right of every adult to make their own choices as to what they put in their bodies, free from Government interference.

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    Even (5.00 / 2) (#1)
    by lentinel on Sun Feb 12, 2012 at 01:38:37 PM EST
    if some people do get addicted to "recreational" drugs, they should be legalized.

    People can get addicted to anything.
    A person.
    A food.

    Others don't get addicted.

    Some people get dependent on certain television programs.
    Some are addicted to politics. The term "political junkie' has meaning.

    In all these cases, if there is a victim; it is only the person choosing to identify so strongly with a particular substance or social circumstance.

    Another more pernicious addiction is to power and personal aggrandizement.

    That is much more lethal.

    We should legalize drugs.

    The Ones That Are Becoming Problematic (none / 0) (#17)
    by ScottW714 on Mon Feb 13, 2012 at 12:16:36 PM EST
    Video games, shopping, and porn.

    And it's not the addiction, it the bad behavior we should be demonizing.  How many functioning alcoholics and drug abusers go through life and never display any of the behaviors normally associated with dependency.  I suspect enough that if those numbers were known, we would seriously re-evaluate how we approach the issue.

    Call them recreational users, functioning abusers, whatever, if their behavior, beyond the use, isn't illegal, let it go.

    I know this, when I go to Specs in Houston, which is basically a mega-mart liquor store, there is no way all that booze is for social consumption.  I was shocked coming from Wisconsin to see a liquor store with shopping carts and people filling them up to the top.  Which leads me to believe there are a hell of a lot of functioning alcoholics in my city.  Just like there are a hell of a lot of functioning illegal drug addicts, but that's their choice, so long as they aren't breaking laws, who cares.

    And for the record, alcohol is a drug, just like prescriptions, legal, but not something everyone can buy.


    Drugs, again. (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by Gerald USN Ret on Sun Feb 12, 2012 at 01:57:30 PM EST
    Well I see my comment in the previous thread is missing.

    It essentially said "drugs kill and ruin lives."

    Celebrities/Rich people usually have the ability to get as much as they want, when they want it, so legalization doesn't affect them.  Likewise they can go to rehab as much as they want.  We still see them dying.  (I include alcohol as well with "drugs.")

    Decriminalizing will have two effects.

    1.  Yes fewer people will be in jail for selling it, including a relative of mine.  He would like that.  He has 5 more years to go.
    2.  More drugs will be available and more people will use them, and there will be more tragedies.

    The biggest point I would make is Michael Jackson had a doctor "on staff" that administered his drugs personally and still died.
    Did I say drugs kill?  It is like Russian Roulette.  You spin the cylinder enough times, the gun goes bang.

    Point 2 is not supported by evidence (5.00 / 2) (#3)
    by observed on Sun Feb 12, 2012 at 02:03:47 PM EST
    Also, you fail to consider the effect of decriminalization/legalization on the market.
    The drug trade is very lucrative because it is illegal. It's possible there will be fewer drug pushers if there is less money to be made selling drugs.

    So i assume you want alcohol illegal (5.00 / 4) (#4)
    by Dadler on Sun Feb 12, 2012 at 02:09:13 PM EST
    Since it is the biggest killer drug on the free market.  If you aren't calling or alcohol prohibition, then all your comments about illegal narcotics are noise.  The same thing that happened during prohibition with booze is, and has been for decades, happening with narcotics.  Our stupidity and lack of understanding of our own history never ceases to amaze me.

    Remember when letting gay people live open lives was going to lead to the fall of society.  The only way narcotics destroys society as a whole is if society is so phucked up people see no better alternative than getting high to escape.  We're on our way there certainly -- wages flat for a half century, housing that costs an immoral amount, schools always in the process of being defunded further, etc.


    Gerald, your entire comment (5.00 / 4) (#5)
    by Jeralyn on Sun Feb 12, 2012 at 02:40:28 PM EST
    is filled with false assumptions and misinformation.

    With all due respect Jeralyn, (none / 0) (#16)
    by Gerald USN Ret on Mon Feb 13, 2012 at 11:18:35 AM EST
    you are wrong on every point.

    Everything I said is either a fact or has strong evidence to support it.

    I must say most of what I have said is being repeated in one form or another by other more acceptable to this Blog posters whom you don't have such a negative view of.


    With all due respect (none / 0) (#20)
    by sj on Mon Feb 13, 2012 at 01:17:36 PM EST
    when a comment has been deleted it is very bad form to repost it without an invitation to do so.

    Legalizing drugs doesn't protect anyone (5.00 / 1) (#8)
    by Anne on Sun Feb 12, 2012 at 04:22:17 PM EST
    from addiction, or from the far-ranging effects of addiction, which can be plainly seen in the use of a completely legal drug - alcohol.

    As someone who has/had family members with addictions, I know that not only would these people still have become addicted, but in the case of my brother, legal access to drugs would probably have killed him.  

    Put marijuana on the same legal footing as alcohol?  Sure, might as well - because there's no way alcohol is ever going to be put on the same illegal footing as marijuana - there's just too much money in it, too much revenue, and the alcohol lobby is far too powerful.

    If Tony Bennett really believes that legalizing drugs would have prevented what has happened to too many people, up to and including death, I think he perhaps doesn't have as much of an understanding of addiction as he should.  He need look no further than Whitney Houston herself - someone with admitted addiction issues is playing with fire if she is still drinking and taking even legally-prescribed drugs: you're either clean and sober, or you're not - and she clearly wasn't.  

    What pushed my brother off the wagon and back to abusing prescription painkillers was a motorcycle accident and three surgeries for which he was prescribed medication for the very real pain he was experiencing.  His physical pain ended, but the addiction came roaring back.  And he'd be dead if he had continued, unrestricted access to the drugs.

    It's an insidious, complex thing, and legalizing drugs won't change that.

    I understand where you are coming from (none / 0) (#9)
    by sj on Sun Feb 12, 2012 at 07:41:15 PM EST
    I, too, have lost family members to addiction.  Alcohol usually.  Pain management -- especially for addicts -- is a tricky thing.  Sometimes a tragic thing.  

    I agree that neither Amy Winehouse nor Whitney Houston would have derived benefit from legalized drugs.  And I trust that you know your own brother and what worked best for him.  But, as a society, the "War on Drugs" has failed us.  Big time.  It has squandered valuable resources on a fool's errand and created a whole new level of incarcerated.  I don't have a solution.  Heck, my mind has difficulty with the distinction between decriminalization and legalization -- I think I almost get it.

    Anyway, from where I sit, Tony Bennett was advocating the right thing for the wrong reasons.


    I agree that this so-called "war" has (5.00 / 1) (#10)
    by Anne on Sun Feb 12, 2012 at 08:12:44 PM EST
    been a huge waste of time, money and personnel, clogged our court system, and hasn't changed a thing.

    We don't arrest people for coming home from work and having a drink, or for sharing a bottle of wine at dinner.  And millions of people do just that - and only that - just as millions of people enjoy a joint, for the same reasons and to much the same effect.

    We don't make it illegal to buy sugar, or products that contain sugar; we don't make it illegal to buy butter or bacon or pork belly, even though we know that diabetes and obesity are taking a huge toll on us.

    We need to treat the problems, not criminalize the product.  There is help for people with diabetes and obesity, and we educate the bejesus out of people so they know the help is there.

    But have a drug problem, and your options are limited; why?  Why is having an addiction to drugs less worthy of treatment than an addiction to sugar and fat that pushes people into diabetes and obesity?  People are proud to say they lost weight on Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig, or Nutrisystem - but do you know anyone who's proud to announce that he or she is going to Narcotics Anonymous meetings, or is taking a leave of absence to go to rehab?  I don't.

    Legalizing drugs won't change that those drugs have the potential to be abused, that people who start out with a recreational intent might end up addicted.  But maybe legalizing or decriminalizing makes treatment for those who need help more accessible because much, much more of the money that used to go into locking people up can go there.


    No, I don't know anyone (none / 0) (#11)
    by sj on Sun Feb 12, 2012 at 08:41:37 PM EST
    who is proud about going to rehab.  Which makes Betty Ford all the more remarkable in my mind.  I had/have issues with President Ford.  But Betty Ford?  nope.

    The problem with your analogy (none / 0) (#13)
    by jbindc on Mon Feb 13, 2012 at 07:40:02 AM EST
    To people who are proud to say they went to Weight Watchers vs those who can't feel the same about going to NA, is that everyone still has to eat - you cannot go "cold turkey"  and while we could all make better food choices,our society still runs on functions centered around food. On the other hand, no one NEEDS to drink or take drugs, and while they are truly horrible addictions, to compare them to overweight people is the wrong analogy.

    I'm aware of the limitations of (5.00 / 1) (#15)
    by Anne on Mon Feb 13, 2012 at 09:15:34 AM EST
    the analogy; I know we all need to eat to live.  My larger point was to the stigma that still attaches to drug and alcohol addiction in ways that it doesn't with diseases and conditions that arise from food.  Or any other disease for that matter.

    And the even larger point was that putting so much of our limited financial resources into arresting and locking people up is never, ever going to solve the problems of addiction.  Never.  We treat people with diabetes, and heart disease and cancer and high blood pressure - we do what we can to make them well.  Why don't we do this with addiction?  Why aren't we working to treat addiction with the same zeal with which we treat every other disease on the planet?

    Alcohol is legal.  Pick up the PDR: those drugs are legal, too.  And I would venture to guess that many more people are addicted to and suffer the consequences of access to legal drugs than are addicted to the illegal ones.  
    Legalizing drugs won't make them less addictive, but I think the studies have shown that marijuana's addictive properties- if any - are miniscule compared to booze, and yet, anyone of legal age can have access to all the alcohol he or she can afford, but no one can buy pot without fear of arrest; that makes no sense to me.  

    There are no simple answers, for sure, and we all bring our experiences to the table and see these issues differently.  


    Liberation... (5.00 / 1) (#14)
    by kdog on Mon Feb 13, 2012 at 08:59:22 AM EST
    won't help with addiction by itself...what removing the chains and cages will do is limit the problems associated with addiction to addiction and its societal costs, instead of the current addiction, societal costs, police state abuses, corruption, over-incarceration, wasting money, harassing good people with no addiction problem, etc etc etc.  Bottom line, prohibition does nothing to alleviate addiction problems, but it sure does pile on more problems.

    Ideally, we could roll a substantial amount of the cashish we waste on prohibition into funding more education and addiction treatment.  In that sense liberation could help with addiction...by freeing up funds to allow us to focus on the problem, instead of piling problems on problems.

    I Would Argue... (5.00 / 1) (#19)
    by ScottW714 on Mon Feb 13, 2012 at 01:02:15 PM EST
     ...that legalization would help un-demonize drugs which surely would allow people to come forward and ask for help a hell of a lot sooner, maybe even before it becomes a problem.  Which would make treatment all that much easier.

    I am not sure what work does, but right now if I said I was having a problem with something, it would not go over well.  If I actually went to the insurance paid for rehab for a month, I don't think my job would be here when I get back.

    That has to change, shaming abusers into not seeking help is not doing society any favors.  I don't see how you keep drugs illegal, while un-shaming the acts one has to do to become an addict, namely buying and transporting.

    Speaking Of MM and Obama... (5.00 / 1) (#22)
    by ScottW714 on Mon Feb 13, 2012 at 02:35:46 PM EST
    The Obama administration's stunning betrayal of medical marijuana patients claimed a new victim today. Delaware Gov. Jack Markell announced that he would halt the implementation of the state's medical marijuana dispensary program following a vague and threatening letter from U.S. Attorney Charles Oberly III.


    If this is the democrats stand on MM, the argument about legalization or decriminalization is moot.  Republicans aren't going to press it, and Obama is hell bent reversing the progress made in the last decade.  The odds of legalization or serious decriminalization are about as close to zero and one can get.

    At the federal level... (5.00 / 1) (#23)
    by kdog on Mon Feb 13, 2012 at 03:02:17 PM EST
    yeah, its a lost cause...like the big man said, it ain't even in his (very limited) vocabulary.

    But at the state level, there is hope.  Jeralyn linked up to NORML last week with a list of states moving in the right direction on prohibition.  Fed law trumps state law, as we know all too well, but its something.


    Big Distinction (none / 0) (#24)
    by ScottW714 on Mon Feb 13, 2012 at 03:39:59 PM EST
    MM to legalizing/criminalization recreational use.

    But great point, and now that you mention it, even my own city of Houston has made progress.  No longer is it a requirement to arrest someone possessing weed.  Which basically puts it in the traffic ticket arena as far as punishment.  Not sure how it looks on your 'sheet'.

    Seems like I remember hearing Austin made possession a small fine, like $25.  And I know a lot of cities are headed in that direction, making it a nuisance fine, or making it super low priority, rather than a crime.

    A friend of mine, who is in a band, got pulled over at a check point while driving back from Cali.  They have checks points near the Mexican border.  Anyways he was with his band mates and had something he put in a Subway bag with sub thinking the dog couldn't smell it.  The problem of course is that the whole van reeked of it.  Anyways, the dog went nutz, and Border Patrol told them if he had to dig through their stuff, no one was going home.  My friend gave him the Subway bag, he laughed, and let them go.  My friend is E Indian, but looks like Mexican gangster, and the band is all black dudes.  My point is they don't fit the 'let go with a warning' profile.  Not sure if this is the norm, but I didn't think the Feds played that game.

    Don't they take you down at the airport for even nominal amounts ?


    Tony Bennett is confused... (none / 0) (#6)
    by diogenes on Sun Feb 12, 2012 at 02:58:51 PM EST
    Michael Jackson GOT the drugs that killed him from a doctor.  Amy Winehouse died from alcohol poisoning, and alcohol is already legal.  No one knows what Whitney Houston died of; the hints above are alcohol (legal) and Xanax (prescribed by doctors already).
    Legalizing drugs will reduce crime, cartels, drive by shootings, etc.  It will also increase use (since the legal risks of using will decrease and price will probably also decrease).  Make an informed choice and go for it.

    Gerald (none / 0) (#7)
    by Edger on Sun Feb 12, 2012 at 03:19:17 PM EST
    You need new batteries in your lamp, man...

    Supposedly Whitney was drinking, and upset (none / 0) (#18)
    by JeriKoll on Mon Feb 13, 2012 at 12:27:27 PM EST
    and took sedatives.  At least 2 were found in Whitney's  room.  Valium and the equivalent of (Ativan) Lorazepam.  Both these drugs caution against use with alcohol another sedative.

    Prescription (whose one might ask), legal or not, drugs will kill you if misused.  First thoughts are that she was in a hot bath, drugged out of her mind, and just slipped down into the tub and drowned.

    The problem is the use of the drugs (alcohol, ativan, valium) in wrong ways for fun, for emotional relief of tension, grief, etc., until they are the answer for everything and people just keep piling them on until, well I will guess, you just drown.

    It seems then that a similar thing happened to Whitney's daughter.  She was upset, and there was more alcohol, more sedatives, but at least she wasn't in a hot tub, and they sent her to the hospital twice.  Probably when she got out the hospital the first time, she went back to more alcohol and sedatives.


    Amsterdam (none / 0) (#21)
    by ScottW714 on Mon Feb 13, 2012 at 01:44:59 PM EST
    Drugs aren't actually legal in Amsterdam.  Small amounts (personal use) are, but the circus behind the scenes to keep the coffee shops stocked without breaking the law is insane.  A constant flow of small amounts that have to be delivered one at a time as to not exceed the legal limit. And although it is tolerated, selling any drug in Amsterdam is illegal.  

    Mushrooms got put on the Hard Drug list a few years back, when they started cracking down on the harder stuff.

    For personal use, more drugs are legal in Mexico.

    Just thought Tony might want to have his facts straight, and IMO Amsterdam is not the blueprint to follow for decriminalization.