I'd like to see a prohibitionist play the horn like old Satchmo. And Armstrong isn't alone hundreds if not thousands of artists throughout history have used drugs in one form or another to enhance or alter their perceptions of "reality." Some of these drug users may have contributed more to human evolution than all the prohibitionists put together. While it is true that a few of these artists also struggled through personal hells (sometimes drug-related), it is a lie to assert that any and all drug use always ruins a person's life.
Dishonesty is also evident in the clever phrasing prohibitionists use. It's "war," a simplistic us vs. them, good guys and bad guys. Those in the Prohibition Industry avoid using the word "prohibition" because it recalls the abysmal failure of the past and the violence and corruption that ensued. Even the clever doctrine of "denial" is meant to dismiss a person with a label when they don't buy into the questionable worldview of the prohibitionist, not unlike the Inquisition when disbelief in Satan was considered evidence of his influence. Worse, the "good guys" of prohibition never acknowledge their corrosive effect on freedom and privacy.
The industry regularly distorts statistics to pad its case. Citing exaggerated hospital admissions and using statistics extrapolated to alarming proportions are common tactics. The Drug Policy Alliance (www.lindesmith.org) is a good source for exposing the dishonesty of the Prohibition Industry.
A hidden motive for some of these distortions is clearly profit. The testing industry alone is a $5.9 billion industry, according to Standard & Poor's, and 57 percent of marijuana treatment admissions are court-ordered business is booming. While I know many honest and loving counselors who work honorably to heal those with genuine problems, others who portray themselves as white-hat saviors are actually self-serving propagandists.
It is ironic that this industry, with its supposed zeal for "health and safety," completely ignores Big Pharma and its manipulative practices like TV ad campaigns that encourage us to "ask your doctor" if Drug X is "right for you." If that's not pushing drugs, I don't know what is. Little Johnny isn't allowed to smoke a joint, but he is harassed into taking behavior-controlling drugs like Ritalin. "Just say no to pot, but don't forget to take your Ritalin" is hypocrisy that young people are right to reject.
Perhaps the ghosts of Puritanism haunt us still. I find it strange that our culture distrusts substances that elevate mood and cause pleasure, but we place full confidence in corporate-made, mood-leveling prescription drugs that have many negative side effects. Though they do offer relief to some folks, "legitimate" prescription drugs are sometimes veiled attempts at social control, chemicals meant to encourage conformity, docility and maintain "productivity." It's as if the ultimate value of a human being is as a resource for business.
Those who chant their warnings of "reefer madness" would serve us better if they were active in attacking pollution problems that take an untold toll on everyone's health, but I guess the oil industry is a tougher target than the average stoner.
If "addiction" is the real issue, what about the addiction of government agencies to prohibition money? Or why don't prohibitionists address American addiction to celebrity, materialism and consumer values? What of the compulsion to persecute those who make different lifestyle choices, especially when those choices are essentially harmless? What about corporate addiction to greed? Aren't some politicians addicted to power and the privilege and control that comes with it? What about our national addiction to oil that has caused uncalculated environmental damage and war? These are far more serious addictions. There is more to fear from an ambitious politician or an unregulated corporation consciousness than from any pothead or raver.
Prohibitionists bemoan an increase in the number of teens in addiction treatment facilities, as if this is an indication of a genuine problem rather than the result of their aggressive marketing of these pricey programs. This is another one of the industry's little dishonesties.
While other countries are sensibly decriminalizing marijuana, the United States is stepping up its attack on this ancient and relatively harmless drug. While objective medical analysis has been inconclusive at best, bronchial problems and "possible" cancer risk are mentioned in some studies. Even so, for thousands of years, this plant has been used by religious mystics without disaster, yet our own government and the Prohibition Industry demonize it. Perhaps pot use stays constant because smokers know from personal experience that the propaganda is false.
Ecstasy, another target of the industry, has been used successfully in therapy, yet our legislators are busily working to stamp it out and crush the generally peaceful raves where it can be found. Prohibitionists will say that overdose and impurity pose a danger to ravers, but these are problems caused by a prohibition climate, not the drug itself. Overdose and impurity are usually not a problem for legal drugs that are regulated and taxed. We might as well legalize and tax some of the drugs we now condemn. At least that would generate the revenue to help us maintain our addiction to oil. S
Lee Carleton is a freelance writer who lives in Richmond.
Opinions expressed on the Back Page are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Style Weekly.
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