Monday, March 2, 2020

Make Drugs Boring Again

There's something to the forbidden fruit theory.  You know the one:  forbidden fruit is more enticing to people--kids in particular (and women, if you're a Bible-thumper).  Banning drugs & running high-profile anti-drug campaigns that push zero tolerance "Just Say No" themes is an example of this.  By making drugs off-limits, you unintentionally make them more alluring to rebellious teens & tweens looking to strike out against their parents & society, make a statement, proclaim their maturity/individuality, etc.  What better way to say 'eff authority' than by breaking the law?

Image result for reefer madness propaganda
Is this a warning...or an advertisement?

Don't believe me?  Just look what's happened with weed.  Since Colorado legalized in 2014, attitudes have gradually relaxed nationwide and, simultaneously, the overall excitement associated with the long-verbotten "marijuana" plant has decreased.  Cannabis is now everywhere & is sold by CEOs in business suits to moms, elderly folks with medical problems & others who just want an alternative to booze to unwind.  With its ubiquity has come almost a sense of boredom or even annoyance with the discussion of 'should we or shouldn't we legalize' nationwide.  When Bernie Sanders announced he'd issue an executive order to legalize weed in all 50 states if elected president, it barely made a ripple in the national news.  If a candidate had said that 15 years ago?  They would be roundly mocked on both sides of the aisle & their campaign would be in jeopardy.  FOX News would be in an uproar.  But not a peep from the talking heads in 2020. 

Indeed, we're now at the point where talk of decriminalizing psychedelics like psilocybin mushrooms or even rescheduling "club drugs" such as MDMA or ketamine isn't generating much more than a "wow, cool."  To be perfectly clear, this is what we want & have been fighting for all these years.  It's a huge victory.  Drugs should be mundane & de-stigmatized so we can view their risks & benefits objectively & without hysteria.  Laws governing their use should be made by medical professionals, sociologists & scientists, not politicians who know nothing of the health effects.  While they can be used recreationally, street drugs ought to be viewed through the same lens as blood pressure or depression medications because they are all part of the same pharmacopoeia, having both positive & negative effects on the mind & body.  Bored yet? 

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The drug war has a VERY racist history...and present.

So why do I say make drugs boring AGAIN?  Because for most of human history, most drugs were perfectly legal.  The concept of drug prohibition is fairly new, beginning in the 1920's with alcohol prohibition and sliding into the 1930's with Harry Anslinger's war on marijuana then spreading out to include many other drugs in the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 during the Nixon era.  Tricky Dick declared drugs "public enemy #1" and it's been all downhill from there, with illegal drugs now being more plentiful, potent & affordable than at any time in American history despite their illegality. 

Ronald Reagan cracked down even harder (pun intended) and together with first lady Nancy & her 'Just Say No' campaign, they set the stage for the crack cocaine epidemic of the 1980's.  Bill Clinton often gets a pass but his 3 Strikes Law is responsible for the unsightly prison population we have today, incarcerating more Black men than were slaves at the height of slavery in 1850.  A majority of those prisoners were & are sentenced for non-violent drug crimes like dealing or possession.  Thanks to him & other like-minded zealots, America locks up more of its citizens than any nation on Earth. 

And for those released from prison on said drug charges, voting rights are often stripped along with the ability to find a decent paying job, leading to high recidivism rates & endless returns to prison.  The system is set up not to reform prisoners but to create returning customers, so to speak.  This is unacceptable.  Poor children grow up without fathers, ensuring that the cycle of poverty, crime & incarceration is repeated on a loop for generations.  Meanwhile, drug abuse is just as prevalent in rich suburban neighborhoods but police rarely target those neighborhoods.  To quote Van Jones, "I've never seen as many substances snorted off so many surfaces as I did at Yale, but I never saw the cops drive through once." [paraphrased]  To be clear:  The answer isn't to arrest MORE rich white kids; it's to stop arresting people for drugs across the board. 

Legal heroin from pre-prohibition days (Eli Lilly)

It's safe to say drugs have won the war on drugs.  That means We The People have lost.  It's time to try a radically new, yet boring & old, tactic.  One that places harm reduction, affordable rehabilitation & human dignity above stigmatization, criminalization & punishment.  The consequences of being a drug addict are already punishment enough.  It's time to start talking about drugs like adults, not whispering about them like gossiping kids in detention hall.  It's the only way forward in a world of fentanyl, fake weed & fatal addiction. 

We've focused on the supply side long enough.  It's not working.  Now it's time to examine why the demand for drugs is so damn high in one of the wealthiest nations on Earth.  Addiction will always exist at some level.  There will never be an easy silver bullet cure, but we can alleviate much of the death, disease & suffering that come with addiction & drug prohibition if we put our minds to it.     

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