Conservative radio and TV personality Mark Levin had former Secretary of Education, and former Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, Bill Bennett, on his “Life Liberty and Levin” television show on Fox News on Sunday night. The two spoke on many topics, including one that is of interest to our audience – opioids, marijuana and the differences between legal and illegal use of the drugs.
The following is a transcript from part of their conversation. The full transcript can be found here.
Note: Emphasis added.
LEVIN: We have this horrific opioid epidemic and it is an epidemic, isn’t it?
BENNETT: Yes, it is. We were right. We — President George Herbert Walker Bush took this one really seriously back to me when I needed him to and the country took it seriously. It was the number one issue and we focused on it and one of the most widely circulating myths and lies is that we lost that war. We didn’t —
Drug use in the United States, illegal drug use from 1979 to 1992 went down by more than 50%. We pushed back and when we pushed back, it went down. It went down dramatically. This was a push by government, by the administration and I was happy to be there. This was a push in Colombia, thanks to Delta Force and some other folks, the brave Colombian people. The media was actually good and cooperative. You’re old enough to remember the ads jumping off the diving board into an empty swimming pool, this is your brain on drugs. Fried eggs. And the country took it seriously.
What we’re in now is worse by the numbers. The number of people who died from cocaine crack maybe 10,000. Last year, we lost 70,000 people to illegal drugs and another myth, people think most of this is because doctors are over prescribing. It’s not true. There are some over subscribing, obviously, there are some pill mills, but three-quarters of the deaths are from fentanyl, street stuff heroin and of the people who die from overdoses from OxyContin and other prescribed drugs, these are people who get them illegally or by stealing them from people who were prescribed.
So it’s the illegal problem we have got to deal with and we’ve got to attack it head-on and it’s now very much as I’ve said to folks in the administration, a lot of this is Trump country. You know, the people who supported Donald Trump, rural America, West Virginia, rural Ohio — it’s not just there, but it’s a more serious problem than what we had in the late 80s and we took that very seriously front and center. We’ve got to do the same and what doesn’t help, Mark is this effort to get marijuana everywhere. It’s just crazy.
C.S. Lewis says, you know, when the boat is sinking from water, don’t grab for the fire hoses and we are — not everybody who smokes marijuana goes on to other things, but very few people who get into these other drugs — fentanyl or other stuff — didn’t start with marijuana. That’s where it starts.
Take a look at Colorado. Take a look at the driving deaths. Take a look at the scores, I believe in a few years, the academic scores. Take a look at the quality of life in Denver and this is what we’re pushing and we’ve had some Republicans pushing this, too.
LEVIN: The former Speaker of the House.
BENNETT: Yes, sir, John Boehner signed that.
LEVIN: Did that surprise you when he left Congress and then joined that organization promoting?
BENNETT: I’m happy to say it did surprise me in the sense that I thought I’d lost the capacity to be surprised anymore or shocked, you know, but yes, it did. It really did. There’s a lot of money in that, a lot of money in this stuff.
And by the way, the marijuana that people are smoking today in Colorado is not the marijuana of the late 60s. Three, two, three percent tetrahydrocannabinol. In the late 60s early 70s, today average in Colorado maybe 20% to 25%. It’s a difference between a light beer and a slug of much —
LEVIN: So it’s much more potent.
BENNETT: Much more potent, much more powerful. Maureen Dowd of the “New York Times” wrote a column about going to Colorado and chewing a marijuana candy bar and wrote in her column, “I thought I had died after a couple of bites.” She had to then apologize with a couple of subsequent columns because they got on her, but the stuff is potent and dangerous.
And one thing we know for sure from the science, my former drug czar, my former Secretary of Education speaking here, for young people, it harms and can destroy focus, attention and memory. Are they important in school? Are they important in growing up? Focus and attention? Are they important on the job?
LEVIN: Not if you’re going into journalism.
LEVIN: Let me ask you this — it is spreading and it’s becoming popular even among Republican politicians.
BENNETT: It’s popular in public opinion polls, people favor it. Can I tell you why? The medical marijuana thing was very smart. I have the pictures of these children who are having bouts of epilepsy and the cannabinol helps them calm down. True in a few cases. True in some cases. You can do that without administering a cigarette, a marijuana cigarette.
As a doctor said to me, just step back from it and think about it. Does anybody really believe that he’d get a bunch of dry leaves, light them on fire, inhale them and that’s good for you? Can anybody seriously believe that? So the medical marijuana, Trojan horse. It brought out everybody’s sympathy and from that, we’ve gone to this general recreational marijuana.
But you know, the final argument is do you want to live in a country where half the people around you are buzzed all the time? And if you sat with people who are stoned, you can’t really have a conversation with them because they’re laughing all the time or you know, they are somewhere else.
LEVIN: Well, luckily I don’t live in that world, at least not yet.
End of transcript.