Maybe it was the language that got us goofed up. Perhaps putting too fine a point on drug use made us believe we were successfully dealing with it. So, we had terms like “casual use” or “recreational” (like badminton or croquet). Then we started talking about “gateway” drugs and it felt like we were really sorting things out.
I would argue that these categories are no longer useful. Subdividing the use of drugs has only slowed us down in dealing with the complexities of humans taking drugs for other than medical purposes. This is hardly a bold stance, and it’s certainly not a conservative one. It’s just a way to get through the swamp of any discussion of humans and drugs.
More difficult is embracing a wider, more accurate view of what constitutes “drug use” in the 21st century. Are Cialis and Viagra “medical” drugs? Do they treat a medical problem? Or are they pleasure drugs legitimized by nothing more than their source, the huge pharmaceutical companies that market them not to relieve human suffering but simply to make money. It’s the same corrupt motive we always applied to “drug dealers,” especially in films and television.
In many of those entertainments, the black-hearted “dealer” would eventually justify his role in society with some rationale along the lines of “Hey, I don’t make them overdose or have problems. I just sell a product.” That’s something you might hear when confronting any sharp executive from America’s $57 billion plus a year alcoholic beverage industry. And because it’s a sore point with my generation, yes, according to the AMA, alcoholism is a “drug dependency.”
All of which exacerbates the annoying illogic of the Supreme Court ruling allowing the federal government power to seize and destroy marijuana that is used as pain-relieving medicine by seriously ill patients. Not to mention the flattering portrait it paints of lawmakers investing energy in suppressing pot when more important things might be troubling us right now.
In 1970, Congress classified marijuana as a dangerous and illegal drug that had no benefits. It remains a “controlled substance.” Regardless of the relief that pot brings to someone suffering with a brain tumor, Congress has made no effort to amend marijuana’s position in the pantheon of substances Americans ingest on a regular basis. The Supreme Court takes time out from its important duties to strengthen the fed’s ability to hassle medical marijuana storefronts, while at the same time butyl nitrate “poppers” are easier to order off the Internet than a Craftsman socket wrench set.
Like substance use itself, drug laws are never going to be completely logical, rational, or fair. (Ask a dude doing hard time in Texas for selling coke how he feels about Merck getting Vioxx back on the market.) But the law should be able to learn. It should evolve with the increased sophistication and education of the society it seeks to protect. Of course, “education” can have it folds and ripples. Witness the struggle we’re having right now with the notion that fatty junk foods might be something more akin to a drug dependency than a personal choice. “Hey, I don’t make the kids have diabetes…” argues the ‘dealer’ in the clown costume.
Although the Supreme Court looked at important considerations in the balance of powers between states and fed, there’s no escaping a whiff of that old “devil weed” vibe when you review the decision. This, at roughly the same time the federal government has backed down on gigantic monetary punishments in the historical ruling against big tobacco. And unlike pot, mountains of testing show tobacco to be addictive and deadly. But again, it often seems to matter more who the dealers are.
This Week’s “Know Your News” Quiz
1) A tsumani warning provoked
(a) uneven responses from coastal towns.
(b) panic over asti spumante.
(c) questions about the silent “t.”
2) U.N. watchdogs say Iran has been
(a) dubbing “Sponge Bob” DVDs.
(b) experimenting with plutonium.
(c) pulling those tags off mattresses.
3) The Senate voted to double
(a) stuff in Oreo cookies.
(b) ethanol in gas by 2012.
(c) efforts to find “Waldo.”
1) (a) “Tshould twe trun tinland?”
2) (b) “And their kids have Playdoughium!”3) (b) “Also, make gas low fat…”