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The drug wars are more harmful than drugs

Sep 06, 2009 The drug wars are more harmful than drugs

Having finished high school before the D.A.R.E. program, how did I stay away from using illegal drugs other than ultimately smoking marijuana literally a handful of times? It did not hurt that I always found tobacco-cigarette smoking gross, and joint-smoking even uglier, since joints looked uglier than tobacco cigarettes, especially when smoked. I found the smell of marijuana smoke to be no picnic. Up until college graduation, good quality marijuana was imported, which raised questions both about how much blood figuratively was on the pot, and also how much impurities were inside, especially after the paraquat scandal.

Even uglier than images of people smoking marijuana joints were images of people cooking heroin on spoons, using their mouths to tie rubber hoses around their biceps to stick out their veins, and jabbing themselves with heroin-filled needles, particularly when I had the heebie-jeebies about needles until I started donating blood in high school.  

The remaining popular drugs included blood-drenched cocaine and a bunch of chemicals, when chemical additives in food already turned me off in my adolescence.

Television images going back to Adam-12 and such powerful movies as Serpico further turned me off from recreational use of any drugs other than alcohol, but now I feel that we would have a much better society if plenty of people turned to marijuana rather than alcohol as an inebriant. This image from Dragnet — thanks, Ken Lammers, for the posting — is a prime example of how Hollywood in the 1960’s, for instance, frequently jumped on the government’s anti-drug bandwagon, trying to portray a deeply complex and shades-of-grey situation in black and white.

Just because I have had little interest in using drugs aside from the alcohol that I rarely ever drink any longer — to the point that I refused to take the percocet and percodan prescribed when I had teeth pulled, lest I be ingesting codeine, derived from opium — that is different from my strong opposition to the drug wars. With drugs, the focus needs to be on harm reduction, not only on all of us giving people the moral support for them to reduce abuse of legal and illegal drugs (which include alcohol, pharmaceuticals, marijuana, cocaine, opiate-based drugs, nicotine and caffeine), but also on reducing the harm caused to people in the criminal justice system — including those forced into no-bond status through draconian Supreme Court-approved bail laws — in drug prosecutions and with the rampant privacy-invasive drug testing of criminal defendants at the pretrial stage, incarceration stage, and parole and probation stage.

Marijuana must be legalized. All other currently controlled substances must be heavily decriminalized. Employers must severely narrow rampant drug testing that is now even required to get retail jobs with big companies. Sports fans should learn whether players of their favorite sports are being drug-tested, and decide whether it is worth supporting a drug testing culture by pumping in money to those sports. Do not just remain silent about this critical issue. Jon Katz.

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