In a departure from writing about weight loss and carbohydrate addiction, I was moved to write about drugs in general, by the article that follows this post. Now why would anyone suggest legalization of drugs such as heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, and other drugs? Marijuana is an exception, in my opinion, because it is a natural growing herb on which one cannot lethally overdose, which tends to make people non-violent, and has a plethora of medical uses. How could anyone support legalization of drugs in general. Well, for starters, think back to Prohibition and its dismal failure. And, how is the War on Drugs working for you? Have we eliminated drugs from our society? Not even a bit! Anyone who wants drugs can get them, celebrities die from them, people’s lives are ruined by them, and the best thing our leaders come up with is to imprison users and sellers?
What if refined carbohydrates were made illegal? Eat a potato chip; go to jail. Get caught with a dozen donuts in your vehicle? Clearly you are trafficking, more prison. Get caught baking cakes or cookies, now your manufacturing, and get even more prison time. Ridiculous, isn’t it? Well, if you think about it, so is the drug war. We’re spending $BILLIONS on law enforcement and what has this gotten us? We’re making powerful drug cartels that may make the Mafia look like amateurs. In Mexico, some of these drug cartels are almost as powerful as the military. Drug use is rampant and we continue our absurd practices? It is said that “only an idiot repeats the same behavior over and over again, yet expects different results”. Are we a nation of idiots? We must be, because we keep supporting ridiculous drug laws and focus on plants, powders, and pills instead of the reasons people abuse them.
Should we be jailed for being fat? For eating sweets? Should we go to prison for succumbing to the urge to eat a chocolate bar? For baking a cake? Why not jail smokers or alcoholics, too? Absurd! And so is the drug war!
Portugal changed their focus on their drug problem a decade ago and decriminalized drug use, and instead focused on treatment. Instead of drug use rising as a result, it fell! Yes, drug use declined! Not only that, but $Billions were saved on failed interdiction and those with drug abuse problems were treated medically. If you think about it, this is SO apropos that it amazes me that it hasn’t been adopted here, long ago. Regardless of your position on drugs– and I include caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, and any other physiologically or psychologically-active substance or plant– shouldn’t people who have problems with them be offered help instead of prison? Billions of people use “legal” drugs. We don’t even think of coffee being a drug, but it is. We don’t jail a person for being foolish enough to smoke a cigarette. We don’t put wine drinkers in prison. Yet, we do for people who use marijuana– a plant which is not lethal. If someone tried to OD on marijuana, they would just fall asleep. Yet, people can and do die from drinking too much alcohol and the long-term effects of cigarettes are well known. And, refined carbohydrates may be even more lethal than cigarettes, but they are ubiquitous and no one is jailed for buying, using, or making them.
Think of the $Billions that would be saved by eliminating the drug raids, the SWAT teams, the DEA, and instead spending a fraction of that money on drug education and treatment. If you do not use drugs, it is NOT because you can’t get them, but because you are educated as to their effects, their addictive potential, so you choose not to consume them. You may enjoy an occasional glass of wine without fear of being jailed. If you are one of the few that gets addicted to alcohol, you are not jailed but can choose to go into rehab and break the addiction. If you endanger others by driving under the influence or other irresponsible behavior that endangers others, then YES– that is criminal behavior and you SHOULD be jailed. But, if you drink too much at home and pass out, that’s YOUR problem and your family’s– not something to justify putting you in prison.
I have never been addicted to any illegal drug. I’ve never been addicted to alcohol, legal drugs except for nicotine for a short time, long ago. My addiction nowadays is towards carbohydrates. I, alone, chose to break my addiction to nicotine and to carbohydrates– no threat of jail, no fear of being busted for a cookie or a cigarette. I educated myself, educational information is abundant from television shows like Doctor Oz, to material created by the American Cancer Society, Center for Science in the Public Interest, The American Diabetes Association, and countless others. We, as adults, are free to choose what we ingest. Shouldn’t this be universal? Why make ado about marijuana when it, essentially, makes a person sleepy? People on marijuana are rarely violent, so what is our fear of it? People who drink alcohol to excess often tend to become violent, yet we don’t jail people for alcohol? Why not? Because we focus on irresponsible behavior instead. And shouldn’t that be the metric by which we should treat ALL drug users? If you are an adult and want to screw up your life, go ahead and smoke, drink, snort cocaine, take meth, shoot heroin, etc. It would be cheaper and MUCH less harmful for society, and MUCH more effective to provide treatment and rehab for those that ignore the common wisdom that keeps you and me from abusing these drugs.
Drug use, alcohol use, carbohydrate use, overeating, etc are medical problems. Police’s job should be only to protect lives and property. If someone consumes a drug and gets violent and injures lives or property, then the person should be jailed for their irresponsible behavior, NOT what they chose to ingest. Have a drink? A cup of coffee? A cigarette? A joint? A cookie? You know what those do to you. But, if you have to steal to support your donut habit, you should be jailed for theft or burglary, NOT for eating a damned donut! If you drive under the influence of alcohol or other drugs, you should be jailed for endangering others, NOT for having a drink or smoking a joint.
We have the highest number of people in prisons of any civilized country in the world, and most are there for drugs. The number of otherwise decent human beings who are in prison for marijuana is unconscionable. Prohibition was a dismal failure in 1920, hurting countless lives and creating the Mafia, and nearly a hundred years later, we haven’t learned a damned thing! Our current drug prohibition is insane, ineffective, causing FAR more harm than good, destroying more lives than drug abuse itself, AND costing us $Billions. For what? The people who benefit from our ridiculous drug laws are:
- DEA employees – loss of jobs
- Law enforcement – loss of jobs
- The liquor industry – possible loss of revenue
- The pharmaceutical industry – loss of sales and control
- The drug cartels – loss of profits
- Prison guards – loss of jobs
So, if we legalize all drugs, will all drug-related problems go away? Hardly! But, a lot of them will, as Portugal has shown. Crime will go down. Society’s cost, both in terms of dollars and in lost lives will go down. By focusing on honest education, more and more young people will avoid going down the dangerous path of drug us. Those that are too stupid to heed the dangers will indeed get themselves addicted and many will find their lives adversely affected. For those, there would be treatment centers to help them break their addictions. EVERYONE will be better off.
So why is the Weight Agency writing about drugs? Because refined carbohydrates ARE drugs! They are the crack cocaine of the food world! If you’re going to outlaw drugs on the pretense that you are doing so because drugs are harmful, then we should all go to prison for eating donuts. And the companies that make the sugary, fatty, salty snacks should be imprisoned for “pushing” these drugs on us through their fast-food commercials and ads. More people have died from eating cookies than from smoking marijuana! If you don’t believe me, look it up. If we, as a society, are going to meddle in others’ lives on the pretense of doing it for their best interest, then why the HELL are you not in an uproar over high fructose corn syrup or partially hydrogenated oils???? These are known killers and cause much illness and suffering, yet this is OK but marijuana isn’t? WTF, people?
This country was founded on the principles of freedom. If we are free to eat harmful foods, why should we not be free to eat marijuana? If you believe that drugs should be illegal, why not include tobacco, alcohol, sugar, white flour, white rice, and partially hydrogenated oils? We seem to have a penchant for meddling in OTHER people’s lives. If WE don’t like something, we’re going to legislate against YOUR right to it, but never against our OWN vices or activities. Legislation is always about restricting others. Isn’t it time to MYOB? If you don’t believe in tobacco or alcohol, educate others and convince them to eschew it, but don’t legislate against it as any laws will be doomed to failure as long as people choose to use these drugs. All you will succeed in doing is jailing innocent people, costing society a LOT of money, empowering the sellers of the drugs, and the root problem will remain, if not be intensified.
When are we going to learn from history? When are we going to stop being idiots and repeating failed policies over and over and over again at a devastation to society?
The following is what inspired this rant:
Tony Bennett Is Right That Legalizing Drugs Would Save Lives
by Neill Franklin on 2012-02-14 16:18:37
“First it was Michael Jackson, then it was Amy Winehouse and now the magnificent Whitney Houston. I’d like to have every gentleman and lady in this room commit themselves to get our government to legalize drugs. So they have to get it through a doctor, not just some gangsters that sell it under the table.”
That’s what Tony Bennett said at a pre-Grammy Awards party on Saturday night, shortly after learning of the tragic death of Whitney Houston, and he’s exactly right. One of us (Neill) is a former police officer who fought — and lost friends — on the front lines of the failed “war on drugs.” One of us (Katharine) learned about the commonality of human pain in another difficult way, spending two years in a residential facility (“rehab”). She wasn’t there for drugs, but many of those struggling alongside her were.
There has been some confusion and criticism over Bennett’s remarks and, because of our experience dealing with the pain and heartbreak of drug abuse and harmful drug laws, we feel compelled to expand upon his heartfelt remarks in the hopes that we can help break through some of the misunderstanding underlying the reaction to what Bennett said.
Bennett is an addict in long-term recovery in his own right — once nearly dying from an overdose. Regardless of whether Houston’s death ends up being shown to be caused by drugs, it’s understandable he would be moved by her long-term struggle with drugs and by the recent series of other drug-related celebrity deaths.
Some of those criticizing Bennett’s remarks don’t seem to understand the role that prohibition of some drugs plays in stigmatizing all people battling addiction — whether to legal or illegal drugs — and how punitive drug laws create roadblocks to recovery.
For example: “Bennett’s remarks were misleading because in every case he mentioned we are talking about legal prescription drugs or alcohol,” addiction specialist Marty Ferrero told Fox News.
“No, sorry. She got legal drugs from her doctor,” said songwriter Diane Warren. “So that was inappropriate,” she told the Los Angeles Times.
These well-meaning folks sadly miss the point. It doesn’t matter if you’re hooked on alcohol, Xanax or illegal drugs like heroin and cocaine — prohibition for some drugs stigmatizes all people struggling with addiction. Period. Addicts are not defined simply by their drug of choice nor the drug that is or is not their ultimate cause of death. Their entire lives are tragically plagued by the stigma that criminalization heaps upon them, and the marginalized underworld prohibition thrusts them into.
That is a painful and deadly component of the experience of anyone unlucky enough to live with a disease that, unlike cancer, our government tries to battle with handcuffs.
Maer Roshan of TheFix.com — a great news source on addiction and recovery issues — rightly explains, “We can’t tackle this epidemic in a piecemeal kind of way. At detoxes and rehabs across the country, prescription pill addicts and alcoholics and meth-heads are coke-heads all share the same plight, and suffer from the same scatter-shot treatment.”
We wonder how easy it is for others to understand the isolating nature of living with any mental illness, much less addiction. Katharine watched a presidential election and inauguration from inside a rehab facility. Through the window of Facebook, she watched her high school class mature into adulthood, making friends at college, holding new nieces. She stopped receiving mail from all but a select few friends. She questioned her compatibility with a world that viewed her to be so foreign.
One day, a friend of Katharine’s with a decent chunk of clean and sober time received a call about the relapse of a family member. Despite his recent success in working his program and making amends, he was labeled as blameworthy, his influence criminal. It seemed that his confidence faltered under the weight of such hurtful words. That is the moment when efforts to overcome and all the clean and sober time in the world still can never be enough to wash away the stigma of “criminal.” This blame-directing and stigmatization is a significant obstacle in recovery. Many addicts come to view themselves as innately “criminal.” That label limits their perception of not only their practical options, but their fundamental worth as human beings.
So there we were. In the shadowy underworld of stigma.
These sorts of flashes of memory circulating in the collective consciousness of the recovery community haunt us. They linger just below the surface, and that’s why when Tony Bennett cried out in catharsis, we were already right there with him. That anguished exasperation is why we care, and why we want no more of our loved ones to succumb to the weight of that word. The “criminal” label makes addiction, a deadly disease, ever more fatal. For all Katharine’s isolation, the addicts had it worse. At least her illness, her existence, wasn’t illegal. A mess of laws divided her from her peers, both conceptually and — upon arrest — literally. Even addicts themselves were fragmented into illegal addicts or legal addicts, or for those who used cocaine and alcohol, both.
The people we’ve lost were not monsters. They were and are worthy of love and respect. They still remain central inspirations to us, encouraging us to excel and be better human beings. They are our hearts, not our tormentors. Prohibition is our tormentor.
When Tony Bennett pleaded for legalization in a moment of grief, he took his influence and effectively celebrated the dignity of the ghosts that so many others live with, of the mothers, daughters, fathers, sons, brothers, sisters and friends of millions of Americans who are our first kisses, parents, friends and heartbreaks. He confirmed their humanity and reminded us it’s worth fighting for.
And he reminded us that recovery is possible. That recovery is about hope, not demonization. And that sadly, an addict committed to procuring drugs — legal or illegal — will find a way.
Thinking otherwise is simply trying to exert control over things that we cannot change. He asked for our courage. And I think we’d be wise to listen.
It’s heartening to hear drug policy officials in the Obama administration proclaim that drug abuse is a health problem that requires a balanced strategy and that “we cannot arrest or incarcerate our way out of a problem this complex.”
But let’s do and not just say it.
We appreciate that in President Obama’s just-released 2013 budget request, the administration appears to finally be shifting some resources away from punishment and towards treatment and recovery. But it’s not happening fast enough, and the fact that far more resources are still being devoted to supply-side strategies like arrest, incarceration and interdiction, as compared to demand reduction strategies like access to treatment, is simply unconscionable. Despite Obama officials’ rhetoric about transforming our drug control strategy into one that recognizes addiction as the disease it is, this administration is spending more money on failed law enforcement approaches to drug control than the Bush administration ever did.
So, despite what Obama drug czar Gil Kerlikowske says, this is still a war. And it always will be as long as there’s a gaping hole between glowing rhetoric and the harsh reality of the drug control budget.
So how do we move forward?
Tony Bennett, during his emotional remarks, suggested we should look to Amsterdam for answers: “Let’s legalize drugs like they did in Amsterdam. No one’s hiding or sneaking around corners to get it. They go to a doctor to get it.”
While it is true that in the Netherlands, like in much of Europe, drugs are treated as much more of a health than a crime issue, no country has yet “legalized” these drugs. In Amsterdam, the government does tolerate storefront sales of marijuana, but they don’t in any way actually control and regulate its production, and they don’t control the other “drugs of abuse” either.
There is a growing call by leaders across Europe and in Latin America for a move away from prohibition and toward regulation, but many countries are afraid to move ahead of the United States on this issue.
So here in America we must continue to speak out and slowly but surely change the debate surrounding this issue. As Russell Brand did after we lost Amy Winehouse, Tony Bennett has shown that it is possible to speak about reforming drug laws in a way that resonates with people. With their help, and hopefully with the help of all the other ladies and gentlemen in the room at the pre-Grammys party, we can and will remove the criminal stigmatization for people struggling with addiction.
Neill Franklin, a former Baltimore narcotics cop, is executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (www.CopsSayLegalizeDrugs.com). Katharine Celentano is president of Columbia University Students for Sensible Drug Policy (www.SchoolsNotPrisons.com).