Tony Bennett's Response to Whitney Houston's Death: Legalize It


Can we chalk this one up to the grieving process affecting his judgment? In the wake of Whitney Houston's death, Tony Bennett performed in tribute to her at Clive Davis' pre-Grammy gala. And while I believe his heart was in the right place, he had some baffling things to say about the way we treat drugs in this country.

"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."

OK, let's break this down. Michael Jackson did die from a drug overdose — one that was prescribed by his doctor. He wasn't "sneaking around" so much as asking his shady physician to write a prescription. And Amy Winehouse, while she did struggle with drugs, was largely an alcoholic. You don't need a doctor's permission to purchase booze, and you don't need a prescription to drink yourself to death.

As for Houston, her drug use included marijuana (a non-lethal drug which, yes, should be legalized) and cocaine (a highly dangerous, addictive drug which, no, probably should not). I'm not sure what Bennett was getting at here. I don't think Houston's problem was having to be discreet about procuring drugs: in fact, her various addictions were widely documented. How would a legal prescription for crack have helped matters exactly?

I'm not saying Bennett's remarks were malicious — they were just poorly thought out, to say the least. If his point was that we need to have a more open dialogue about drug use and addiction, then I'd agree with him. Legalizing hard drugs isn't the answer, but raising awareness about the reality of drug abuse and removing some of the stigma addicts face would be a step in the right direction. We could certainly use an attitude adjustment when it comes to the way we treat people with this illness — but again, that's not what Bennett said.

I guess I'm just trying to find some rationale behind statements I otherwise find confounding. After his bizarre appeal, Bennett went on to sing "How Do You Keep the Music Playing," which was far less controversial.

[Image via AP]