LONDON, England (AP) -- George Michael praised marijuana and apparently smoked a joint during a recently taped television interview, prompting criticism from anti-drug campaigners Friday. British television network ITV said the singer lit up while being interviewed for the arts program "The South Bank Show." The interview is due to be broadcast October 31.
"This stuff keeps me sane and happy," Michael, 43, told the program.
"I'd say it's a great drug -- but obviously it's not very healthy. You can't afford to smoke it if you've got anything to do." A spokeswoman for "The South Bank Show" said the interview had been conducted in Madrid, Spain, where marijuana consumption is legal. In September, Michael launched his "25 Live" tour -- his first in 15 years -- in Spain. Earlier this month, the former Wham! singer was given a formal warning for possessing marijuana after police found him slumped over the steering wheel of his car in north London. He was also cautioned for possession of the drug in February. Marijuana users can be sentenced to up to two years in jail for possession in Britain, though in practice, most people found with small amounts are given a warning.
Paul Corry, a spokesman for mental health charity Rethink, said Michael's comments were "stupid and naive." William Butler, spokesman for drug treatment charity Addaction, said he was "concerned about the message this can send out to young people." "Cannabis is illegal because it can be harmful, as can all drugs," he said.
Michael's publicist said the singer had no comment.
Okay. So should George be smoking pot on TV? I'm thinking not. But here's where the majority of anti-drug people get it wrong on two fronts. First: it's not who is taking drugs, it's why. People don't take drugs because Jerry Garcia does; they do it for their own reasons on a more micro level. Second: anti-drug programs don't work if the people running them are clueless about those micro-level factors that support and encourage drug use. Mr. Butler ought not to be concerned about the message George Michael's pot smoking will send to young people for the simple reason that "young people" don't know who the hell George Michael is. George is the butt-shakin' icon of MY generation, the Wham! frontman most girlies like myself (and boyies) swooned over in the 80's and 90's. "Young people," I assure Mr. Butler, will not give a rodent's posterior whether some aging, botoxed former pop idol who might as well be Fabian or Dion (or Paul McCartney?) in their minds lights up a little during an interview none of them will see. Besides, if George Michael really is, inexplicably, a reason some "kids" will think its fine to take drugs, they'll see the same photos we do, think "What a mess" and then go back to doing whatever it is that "young people" these days do: