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July 08, 2007

Why the Drug War is Still in Charge (Political)

For over ten years, drug policy reformers have been betting that a single rhetorical argument would turn the political tide in their favor; in other words, they think that if the American Electorate can be sufficiently enlightened about the drug war’s many failures it will demand that it be abandoned as policy.  Their basic argument, “drugs are bad, but drug prohibition is worse”  is catchy and, to some extent, true. The problem is that it hasn’t worked; for reasons the reform brain trust simply refuses to acknowledge or discuss openly.

The public knows the drug war is a failure; but for a variety of understandable reasons, has been unwilling to “legalize” drugs. First among those reasons is that although neither drug use itself, nor its presumed principle risk of “addiction” have never been objectively studied, they have been so successfully misrepresented that fear of addiction still provides our cruel and futile policy with all the support it needs.

Two good examples of how policy advocates wage their propaganda war were just published; one was a nasty little unsigned editorial in The Dallas Morning News; the other is the cover story in this week’s Time Magazine. While it contains several nuggets of truth, its important conclusions are completely without foundation and could have been written by the Director of NIDA.

The main reason Reform’s efforts at educating the public aren’t working is that by agreeing that “drugs are bad,” they’re necessarily blind to what would be their best argument: present policy significantly increases the likelihood vulnerable teens will use alcohol and tobacco and will also try other, more harmful, drugs.

That’s an argument they can’t make because of their commitment to the idea that, “kids shouldn’t try drugs.” The main problem with that statement is that it’s pious nonsense. Martin Lee put it very well on page 129 of Acid Dreams when he observed that,” authorities either did not tell the truth (about marijuana), or did not know what they were talking about...when young people get high, they know this existentially from the inside out." Lee goes on to another telling observation, one with particular reference to the pivotal Summer of 1967 and helps explain the loathing that era inspires in modern fascists, themselves too young to have been there:"young people saw... through the great hoax, the cover story for ...the entire system. Smoking dope was thus a political catalyst, for it enabled many a budding radical to begin questioning the official mythology of the governing class."

Lee wrote those words over twenty years ago; you would think Reform might have figured it out by now.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at July 8, 2007 11:13 PM