Pubdate: Fri, 01 Jun 2001
Source: Reason Magazine (US)
Copyright: 2001 The Reason Foundation
Authors: Lloyd Gaarder, Redford Givens, Randy Hoffman, John Chase, 
Mark C. Gribben, Chris Buors


- -----

I agree wholeheartedly with Nick Gillespie's editorial on Traffic
("The Thirteenth Step," March) but would add one additional point.
Most liberal-minded folks agree that the drug war has been a colossal
failure. Nevertheless, these same people still think that "something"
needs to be done about drugs. For liberals, this "something" is
stepping up emphasis on treatment, instead of incarceration. I regard
Traffic as propaganda for this view. The viewer walks away from the
theater with the impression that the only approach that "works" is
treatment, especially 12-step programming, which was working for
Michael Douglas'daughter in the film. Never mind the statistics
showing that treatment doesn't have any better a track record than the
criminal approach. Drug use or abuse is largely a self-contained
problem. Most people outgrow it on their own, and are not harmed by
using drugs, including "hard" drugs like meth, coke, LSD, and heroin.
Meanwhile, forcing young people into abusive mind-control "treatment"
- -- Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, etc. -- will harm a lot
of people.

Lloyd Gaarder, Sioux Falls, SD

- -----

If everybody involved in the drug war debate studied the history of
drug use in the United States, they would quickly discover that there
was never any valid reason to outlaw drugs in the first place.

No one was robbing, whoring, and murdering over drugs when addicts
could buy all the heroin, cocaine, morphine, opium, and anything else
they wanted cheaply and legally at the corner pharmacy. When drugs
were legal, addicts held regular employment, raised decent families,
and were indistinguishable from their teetotaler neighbors. Overdoses
were virtually unheard of when addicts bought cheap, pure Bayer
1-feroin instead of the expensive toxic potions prohibition put on the
streets. (See the Consumers Union Report on Licit and Illicit Drugs at
www. cu/cumenu.htm.)

Drug crime was once unheard of Now we have prisons overflowing with
drug users. The addiction rate is five times greater than when we had
no drug laws at all. These are the consequences of a lunatic drug
prohibition policy, not drug use.

Once we clearly understand that our preposterous drug crusade causes
all of our "drug problems," the wisdom of legalization becomes
apparent. Whatever problems remain will be much easier to deal with
than the chaos we have now.

Redford Givens, San Francisco, CA

- -----

While agreeing with Nick Gillespie's critical assessment of the drug
war, I experienced a strong visceral reaction while reading it. He
goes beyond defending the right to choose intoxication, to outright
championing of the intoxicated state itself. He reveals himself as an
apologist for stupefaction. I find this at odds with REASON's
masthead, which promotes "free minds and free markets," not bad
choices. I believe that we are called to a life of virtue and that the
value of reason is to help sort through all the noise that inhibits
virtuous decisions. If reasoned thinking does not have this practical
application, then it is just so much mental masturbation. Such
thinking is not an easy endeavor, and it requires a disciplined
commitment to intellectual awareness. As a child of the '60s, I have
observed that substance-induced intoxication does not enhance one's
mental acuity. In fact, it invariably dulls the senses, leading to a
state of "comfortable numbness." As Roger Waters of Pink Floyd
passionately pleads, "This is not how I am." Our basic being is
obscured, not revealed, by intoxication. Further, connecting to
reality in receding waves of awareness is the antithesis of reason.
Maybe we can tolerate this mind-altered state in an editor-in-chief,
but I doubt if anyone would encourage it in more critical citizens,
such as doctors, airline pilots, judges, teachers, and parents.

Randy Hoffman, Seaford, VA

- -----

The public is so conditioned -- even brainwashed -- that it cannot
distinguish the danger of a drug's illegality from the danger of a
drug's pharmacology. This is the hand the film producer is dealt. If
he wants to be taken seriously, he cannot deviate far from that
center. Steven Soderberg took a small but necessary step toward
educating the public and regaining sanity. Next year, maybe another

John Chase, Palm Harbor, FL

- -----

As a recovering addict, I am incapable of understanding Nick
Gillespie's assertion that there is such a thing as recreational drug
use. Most people in my position can never comprehend how a social
drinker can have just one glass of wine-it just doesn't compute. But I
do agree that the current approach to fighting drug use is misguided
and largely unsuccessful. I do not support legalization, but rather a
redirection of forces and resources. Arguing from a utilitarian
perspective, decriminalization still does not compute. Sure, most
people who use recreational drugs don't become addicts who burden the
state. But the occasional weekend toke on a joint or dose of Ecstasy
at a rave has

consequences far beyond the brief escape from reality. The economic
costs of drug use, including legal drugs like alcohol and tobacco, are
staggering. The Center for Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia
University recently found that states spent more than $83 billion
"shoveling up" the wreckage of substance abuse. Most of that sum was
devoted to the criminal justice system, foster care, and social
services (not including treatment). More than three-quarters of the
average state's criminal justice spending and 25 percent of health
spending was related to substance abuse. In Colorado, for example, 95
cents out of every dollar spent on substance abuse went toward
cleaning up the mess, while just five cents was allocated to
prevention and education. I will grant that for many, drugs are fun
and harmless. But a drugless society would be a better society. It may
be more enjoyable to sit at home and get stoned or go to a bar to
drink, but doing so means foregoing myriad opportunities for personal
growth, public service, and community-building. I enjoy concerts and

events without ingesting mood-altering chemicals, and I can be
productive the next day instead of nursing a hangover. The rewards I
get from making my community a better place far outweigh any drug
high. We need to demonstrate that it is possible to enjoy a
chemical-free life; there are alternatives to participating in a
drug-based economy. But most importantly, Americans need to redirect
our resources toward prevention and treatment or we will never win
this war.

Mark C. Gribben, Lansing, MI

- -----

Please explain that the "public health" position of some misguided
individuals is false. Typhoid, tuberculosis, polio, and other
"communicable" diseases are public health concerns. Your neighbor
sitting at home overindulging in pot-or alcohol or cheeseburgers, for
that matter-is not. No one ever caught "addiction." Addiction is a
choice. Taking drugs is a vice, not a crime or an illness. Drug use is
a matter of private morals and social values of no concern to "public
health" officials or any other therapeutic state moralizer.

Chris Buors, Winnipeg, Manitoba Canada
- ---
MAP posted-by: Andrew