Saturday, December 31, 2011

Doesn't Anyone Remember Prohibition Didn't Work?

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The New York Times journalist Nicholas Kristof posts on Facebook regularly. He reports quite often about slavery, famine, forced prostitution, and other human rights issues. Last week he asked readers for suggestions about subjects to be covered in the coming year. Here is his response after several hundred proposals.
Two topics came up that particularly appeal to me: first, the environment and the food system, and, second, Native American issues here in the US. Both are good suggestions. Climate change could overwhelm everything, and Native Americans represent a domestic challenge that rarely gets adequate attention (and that I don't know anything about, but should). And of course lots of other great reader suggestions that I'm onto. For example, some mentioned domestic violence ...
Never one to roll around without an opinion, my own suggestion was to write in support of the campaign to end the war on drugs.

I am a poorly educated person. As the great Will Rogers supposedly said, "All I know is what I read in the papers," not that I compare myself to Rogers. And what I have read over the years is that the US has transferred immeasurable wealth from the pockets of its citizens to people and governments of drug-producing countries. Secondly, we have created a vast law enforcement apparatus to fight the so-called war when those resources could be employed to fight real crime rather than police personal choices; additionally, we are paying to incarcerate and support a significant prison population whose only crimes involved ingesting the wrong substance; and we are increasing true criminal activity by forcing addicts and users to rob or steal or prostitute themselves to secure drugs. Thirdly, we have destabilized our borders.


I know people whose lives have been damaged by drugs, either directly or indirectly, but I think those people understand that what has happened to them or their family member is neither a sin nor a crime. Addiction is a medical issue and should be treated as such.

And speaking of medical issues, the draconian restrictions against the medical use of marijuana fly in the face of simple logic, especially when derivatives of heroin are prescribed every day.

Addiction to marijuana or cocaine or heroin or any other illegal substance is no different from addiction to alcohol, and yet those addicted to alcohol are live their lives unfettered unless they violate the law, whether or not they are under the influence at the time. 

I grieve for the addicted to drugs--or alcohol, food, or any other substance. I believe that addiction, in general, is not a sin but a deviation from normal brain chemistry. Neither should it be a violation of the law, unless of course like alcohol a person commits a crime while under the influence.

Alcohol prohibition lasted in the US from 1920 to 1933. It was social insanity. 

Prohibition of other assorted other mood altering substances has lasted for decades longer. It is also social insanity, but it is one that too many people seem to accept as rational.


Bob Sanchez said...

As a corollary to what Will Rogers said, Mark Twain is reputed to have said that everyone is ignorant, just on different subjects. If you are poorly educated, Gary, it doesn't show. Your comments seem wise to me. Imprisoning drug users makes no sense. Perhaps certain drugs could be legalized but tightly regulated. Sin or sickness, an explosion of drug addiction would have major consequences for our society.

Gary Presley said...

I think the consequences would be different but perhaps less damaging to society than arresting and incarcerating drug users. It would move the problem from the criminal system to the medical system. I agree that drugs would need regulation, and perhaps the first step would be the legalization and regulation of marijuana.

I realize social mores have changed over the last 125 years, but it was only post-Industrial Revolution that drugs began to be criminalized. Many medicines and "tonics" in the late 1800s contained cocaine or morphine derivatives.

I think the parallel with alcohol prohibition, though, is a valid one, and I'm surprised it isn't recognized.

Ruth D~ said...

Confusion reigns when we call addiction a disease of neurochemistry and at the same time criminalize it. I agree with your thoughtful post...

Carter said...

You couldn't be more right!

ny rehab center said...

It all started with that prohibition and I think that they should still continue to fight the war on drugs.