Drugs Are Bad
In the aftermath of last week’s voting, in which Californians roundly rejected Prop 19, the initiative to decriminalize marijuana, the Los Angeles Times hinted that maybe possibly it was time to have a frank discussion about our nation’s failed drug policy. The paper, which ran editorials denouncing Prop 19, endorsed a “no” vote, and ignored eloquent voices arguing for its passage, wondered in print if perhaps there was a better way to deal with millions of Americans who, for inscrutable reasons, enjoyed marijuana for uses other than medicinal purposes.
For the record, the paper refused to print a single word about my book Reefer Gladness, preferring the strategy of pretending it does not exist, even though it’s penned by a local writer with eight volumes in print. Had they bothered to engage “Reefer” the Times would have discovered that the one premise upon which their prohibition argument rests is fundamentally flawed. The newspaper quoted folks in the rehabilitation industry, the prison business, and the law-enforcement cartel to help promulgate a widely held but decreasingly truthful notion: Drugs are bad.
This assertion is patently untrue. Drugs, most Americans understand, are good, even great! Americans do not grudgingly accept drugs as an uncontrollable evil, like pollution. They make them an integral part of daily life. Drugs, for most people, make life demonstrably better.
Get the day started with a bracing Starbucks (caffeine) and a toasted bagel blissfully free of mold thanks to the anti-microbial preservative (calcium propionate). Assuage the workplace headache with an aspirin or a Tylenol (acetaminophen). Tame the pollen allergy with Claritin (loratadine), a good choice for those prone to depression since the antihistamine’s chemical structure is close to the Prozac or Zoloft (sertraline hydrochloride) that our trusted doctor prescribes. Many of us smoke tobacco (nicotine) and enjoy a Budweiser (alcohol), and even those that don’t are bombarded by corporate-funded imagery that reminds us how much more fun, sexy, and satisfying life would be if only we consumed the right drug-laced concoction. Got digestion problems? There’s a drug for that. Itchy scalp? There’s one for that, too. And for unwanted pimples, and body odors, and every other malady under the sun. If you’re sick, take a drug. If you’re not sick, take a drug. There are drug dealers everywhere, in every city and town in America. I’ve got about 14 in my neighborhood; the biggest one is called Rite-Aid.
The Drug Industry is one of our largest, richest, and most entrenched. And yet some of us can still claim with a straight face that “drugs are bad.”
Let’s stop lying.
Drugs are not bad. What people really mean is: Illegal drugs are bad.
But the difference between acceptable drugs and unacceptable drugs is largely semantic and rooted in prejudice and contempt. Only because we collectively agreed along the way that some of the things we put in our body should be available at the local supermarket and that others should only be available from criminals is there a distinction. They’re all drugs. And if you really truly wish for a “drug-free America” you’re ridiculously out of touch with reality, a condition commonly known as insanity. There’s a drug for that, too.