The oldest son of slain Sen. Robert Kennedy and recovering addict wants to decriminalize marijuana and use tax revenue to fund better treatment programs.
The Kennedy name is both historic and tragic in the story of America. As we come together this week to celebrate the nation's 247th birthday, many Americans pause and look back at the pivotal moments and influential people that helped shape this still very young and, at times, struggling democratic experiment known as the United States of America.
It's impossible to understand the direction and development of this country without evaluating and appreciating the efforts of the Kennedy family. From the patriarch, Joe Kennedy, who served as ambassador to the United Kingdom, to his second oldest, President John F. Kennedy, who led the nation as its 35th president, the name Kennedy blanketed much of the 20th century with the family's dedicated attention to public service.
Sadly, that civic duty came at a devastating cost for several family members. During World War II, the family's oldest son Joseph Jr. died in 1944 when the plane he was piloting exploded over Suffolk, England. Tragically, just four years later, his sister, Kathleen, also perished in a plane crash over France in 1948.
Despite the overwhelming losses, the large Catholic family from Massachusetts rallied and, throughout the 1950s and 1960s, began building a political empire that resulted in John rising to the ultimate position of power and prestige in America - the President of the United States. At his side was his quiet but resolute younger brother Robert holding the position of Attorney General.
The two helped lead America into the exciting, tumultuous, and violent decade of the 1960s. The pair were inseparable and worked closely on issues ranging from the Cold War, the Civil Rights Movement, America's initial involvement in Vietnam, and the race with the Soviet Union to get to the moon. Dashing and charismatic, the siblings became a dream fulfilled for their Irish-American father, who orchestrated their rise to power from behind the scenes.
However, on November 22, 1963, that dream became a nightmare when Lee Harvey Oswald fired three shots from the Texas School Book Repository, killing President Kennedy and shattering the vision of a new "Camelot" in Washington. However, the suffering and loss would not end there for the Kennedy clan.
In an attempt to continue his brother's work, Robert ran for the Senate seat in New York in 1964 and won. Four years later, as President Johnson's administration languished under the weight of a failed war effort in Southeast Asia, Sen. Kennedy announced his intentions to run for President of the United States in 1968.
His campaign was viewed as a beacon of hope for the young, the poor, people of color, and other disaffected communities desperate for strong leadership to assume the helm and right the listing American ship. His campaign was dynamic, youthful, and optimistic, much like the man himself. However, following a triumphant victory in the California primary on June 5, 1968, Robert F. Kennedy was also horrifically gunned down by Sirhan Sirhan at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles.
In less than 24 years, Joe Kennedy had lost four children and the dream of a political dynasty. In the wake of his death, Robert left behind eleven children, including his eldest son, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Earlier this year, the controversial and outspoken Kennedy announced his intentions to challenge President Biden for the Democratic nomination in a long-shot bid for the White House.
While not viewed as a serious challenge to the current sitting President, his name and his views, particularly concerning legalizing marijuana and other psychedelics, have garnered significant attention among voters, particularly young and minority ones.
According to numerous media outlets, in an interview last week with Reason TV, the presidential hopeful said he would make significant drug reform a reality if elected President.
Kennedy said, "I would decriminalize marijuana on a federal basis and allow the states to regulate it. I would impose a federal tax on it. The revenue generated from this tax would be used to build rehabilitation centers across the country and provide drug rehabilitation programs."
"I would decriminalize marijuana on a federal basis and allow the states to regulate it. I would impose a federal tax on it. The revenue generated from this tax would be used to build rehabilitation centers across the country and provide drug rehabilitation programs."
- Democratic Presidential Candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
Earlier in the day, he spoke at a town hall meeting where he further outlined his vision for ending the federal prohibition on marijuana. During that meeting, he discussed his own addiction struggles from his youth and the powerful lessons he's learned from his decades of recovery.
"What I would do as President is I would decriminalize marijuana. I will make safe banking laws for people who are selling it, I will tax it federally, and I will use that money to build these healing centers in rural areas—depressed rural areas—all over the country, where kids can grow organic food and eat well and heal themselves spiritually, physically and emotionally," he said.
"What I would do as President is I would decriminalize marijuana. I will make safe banking laws for people who are selling it, I will tax it federally, and I will use that money to build these healing centers in rural areas—depressed rural areas—all over the country, where kids can grow organic food and eat well and heal themselves spiritually, physically and emotionally."
- Democratic Presidential Candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
While still a beloved member of the massive Kennedy family, he has recently come under fire from some family members, particularly for his stance opposing vaccines. He has made claims linking vaccines to causing autism in children and infamously compared the government's efforts to impose COVID-19 vaccine mandates to "Hitler's Germany."
Following his announcement to throw his hat in the presidential primary ring officially, his sister Kerry was quoted by the New York Times saying, "I love my brother Bobby, but I do not share or endorse his opinions on many issues, including the Covid pandemic, vaccinations and the role of social media platforms in policing false information."
"I love my brother Bobby, but I do not share or endorse his opinions on many issues, including the Covid pandemic, vaccinations and the role of social media platforms in policing false information."
- Kerry Kennedy, sister of Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
Undeterred by his own family's lack of faith in his principles and genuine desire to become President and effect real change, like his uncle before him, Robert Kennedy Jr. appears committed to taking on the almost insurmountable task of defeating a current President from his own party.
Recent polls have shown Kennedy capturing almost 20% support from potential Democratic primary voters. Still, other polls indicate that he currently has a higher favorability rating than either Biden or Donald Trump, with Kennedy garnering a 49% rating over the 44% given to the President and former President.
While most political experts do not give Robert Kennedy Jr. much chance to succeed in his almost quixotic quest to defeat Biden and win the presidency, those same pundits held similar and steadfast views in 2016 when an equally polarizing candidate shocked the world and became President.
One thing is for sure. Kennedy's views on cannabis legalization and ending prohibition will definitely strike a chord with most American voters during the upcoming primary season. Whether that translates into overcoming a 40-point deficit in the polls remains to be determined.
However, American Politics as a "no holds barred," "take no prisoners," and "just win, baby" reality game show is now the new normal. And as the man famous for his red hat-wearing devotees continues to demonstrate, predicting a winner in this game is not for the faint of heart. Happy Birthday, America!