The most politically encouraging event on the horizon — which is a very bleak one politically — is the possibility of fusion or synthesis of some of the positions of what is to be called left and some of what is to be called libertarian. The critical junction could be, and in some ways already is, the War on Drugs.
The War on Drugs is an attempt by force, by the state, at mass behavior modification. Among other things, it is a denial of medical rights, and certainly a denial of all civil and political rights. It involves a collusion with the most gruesome possible allies in the Third World. It’s very hard for me to say that there’s an issue more important than that at the moment.
I have felt negatively about people who seem like they are bragging about drug use in order to be perceived a certain way, but generally I feel more irritated by people who brag about their sobriety.
If I left drug use out of my writing, I would be hiding something about myself so that people wouldn’t judge me.
I also don’t feel like there is anything particularly “cool” about the way I do drugs. Most of the time I am taking various pills alone in my room. I like pills because they aren’t demanding or inconsistent. I usually spend the first half of my drug binges desperately trying to become motivated enough to be productive, but eventually resign to staring at porn for three hours and feeling good about my inevitable death.
- Maia Szalavitz: What drugs really are the most harmful?
- Dr. David Nutt: There are two dimensions: harm to society and harm to the individual. Our most recent research report was published in the Lancet in 2010. Basically, it adds the two together. Overall, the most harmful drug is alcohol and that’s largely because it’s far and away the most harmful drug to society. Then it’s crack and then heroin and crystal meth.
The trailer for a new anti-drug war documentary, Breaking the Taboo, advertises interviews with Jimmy Carter (implied though not seen in the trailer) and Bill Clinton that presumably feature the former Presidents criticizing the drug policies that they, to one degree or another, enforced. While I appreciate any effort to criticize our ineffective, racist, and torturous drug laws, this film’s trailer (which may or may not accurately reflect the content of the film itself) praises President Clinton for courageously “breaking the taboo” by admitting the obvious: our drug policies don’t effectively reduce drug-related violence, deaths, or even the use of illicit substances. It’s better of course that Clinton condemns rather than praises our drug laws, but it seems like another public relations effort by the former President to revise his political legacy by embracing far more liberal views than the ones he held while in office.
Clinton, though he made Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and the Defense of Marriage Act laws of the land, now presents himself as a crusader for gay rights. Again, it’s preferable that he support gay marriage, but it’s an entirely symbolic act. While in office, his policies were aggressively anti-gay. Similarly, Clinton appeared in campaign ads for Obama’s re-election lamenting the same old deregulatory policies that caused the financial crisis. One of the worst of these policies, repealing the Glass-Steagall Act, was enacted by Clinton. It helped create the Too-Big-To-Fail banks that are now, thanks to taxpayer funds, bigger than ever.
Shortly before exiting the White House, Clinton encouraged the decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana in an interview with Rolling Stone. Sadly, this sentiment meant next to nothing as Clinton spent his two terms in office aggressively prosecuting marijuana users:
The Clinton presidency has been marked by ever-increasing anti- drug budgets, huge increases in the number of people sent to prison on drug charges, and three consecutive years of record marijuana arrests. During Clinton’s two terms in office, the annual number of marijuana arrests rose from 250,000 to more than 700,000.
His record on medical marijuana was no better:
When Clinton was first elected, medical-marijuana advocates thought that he would at least be sympathetic. He did, after all, appoint Dr. Joycelyn Elders as Surgeon General, and she was outspoken in favor of debating medical marijuana’s potential. Unfortunately, the Clinton camp quickly saw her as a problematic political lightning rod-she was also in favor of sex education, AIDS education and the rights of high-schoolers to acquire condoms-and got rid of her before a serious nationwide medical-marijuana debate could even begin.
Subsequently, the Clinton years saw a grass-roots upsurge demanding the right of the seriously ill to medicate themselves with marijuana. California, Arizona, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Hawaii, Maine, Nevada and the District of Columbia all passed referendums or legislation to legalize the medicinal use of cannabis, but the Clinton Administration refuses to recognize these laws as legitimate. Moreover, it has instructed the Justice Department to go after medicinal growers and distributors in those states. It has told doctors that their licenses to prescribe other drugs could be revoked if they give patients the documentation necessary to acquire medical marijuana, and said that patients using medical marijuana in federally funded housing will be evicted.
Furthermore, Clinton refused to fund needle exchange programs, which have been shown to reduce the spread of AIDS:
The inability of needle-using drug addicts to acquire clean needles legally has long been identified as a key factor in the spread of AIDS, hepatitis and a host of other debilitating diseases. Junkies sharing used needles are microbe distributors. If they have clean needles, they won’t spread those microbes. Dozens of major studies, including several paid for by the federal government during Clinton’s years, have confirmed that needle exchange not only works, but does not increase drug use. Still, the Clinton Administration, at the behest of Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey, refused to allow federal funding for needle-exchange programs, saying that ( in McCaffrey’s words ) this “would send a message to our nation’s children that doing drugs is not wrong.” That intransigence in the face of science has caused thousands of drug addicts and their lovers to die needlessly.
To his credit, shortly before leaving office, Clinton called for sentencing disparities between powder and crack cocaine (which unjustly target poor black people) to be reevaluated. President Obama did just that, and reduced the disparity from 100-to-1 to 18-to-1.
But much like President Obama’s criticisms of the drug war in 2004, Clinton’s “taboo breaking” doesn’t amount to much of anything. Both Presidents Clinton and Obama pretend that because certain laws are in place, there is nothing they can do to prevent them from being aggressively enforced. This is a convenient excuse that serves a political purpose: liberals can be perceived as tough on crime while abdicating their responsibility to reform drug laws that they know are counter-productive. Our nation’s drug policy could be radically altered by simply respecting state laws that legalize either medical or recreational marijuana.
Instead, the drug war goes on and on, despite numerous states voting to defy federal drug laws. There have been many admissions of failure but very little actual progress has been achieved at the federal level. Now that the majority of Americans support legalizing marijuana, it’s time to stop pretending that timid and vague calls for reform are in any sense “courageous.” There are no more excuses for continuing to imprison hundreds of thousands of people for mere possession. No more excuses for the genocidal war zones created by cartels in other countries; countries that we demand “crack down” on drug sales. No more excuses for our collective failure to eradicate addiction to deadly substances. And no more excuses for those who oversee these terrible policies.
Americans make up less than 5% of the global population but consume 80% of the world’s supply of opioid prescription pills. Sales of the drugs have increased more than fourfold in the past 10 years, grossing $11 [billion] annually.
…about 15,000 Americans are dying every year from prescription pill overdoses – triple the rate of a decade ago, according to the US government body the Centres for Disease Control, which has declared the problem an epidemic. The death toll exceeds that caused by heroin and cocaine combined, and in 17 states has become the No 1 killer, surpassing even car crashes.