Gary Anderson

Gary Anderson

So many Americans take drugs. Frequently, they are self prescribed or illegal. Most are purchased over the counter at a drug store or permitted by medical prescription. Sometimes they are narcotics quite effective in analgesia and compromised function. With any and all, warnings of “use caution when driving or when operating machinery” should be observed, but, if not, there is no illegality in that being ignored.

Many medications come with noticeable side effects: Flushed face, lethargy, dizziness, drowsiness, memory difficulty, confusion — impairments that one learns to accommodate as these are medicines taken daily, weekly, monthly, possibly forever. Operating under such influence is totally OK. Within our social contract, medical drug users are upstanding, if not always fully cognitive, citizens whose behavior is expected, accepted, allowed. Whatever diminished capacity, legal drug use is legal.

At one time all drugs were legal. The name Coca Cola was derived from the source of its two prime initial ingredients: cocaine, from the coca leaf, and caffeine, from the Kola nut. Formulated at Pemberton’s Eagle Drug & Chemical House, that 1880s iconic libation is example of what has been America’s roller coaster ride of on-againoffagain prohibition of what is really an uncontrollable social demand for the pursuit-of-happiness as-I-see-it.

Sugar, coffee, cigarettes, porn, alcohol, marijuana, prostitution, gambling — whatever — some have remained legal, everywhere or selectively, and others have had to continue underground in a shadow America. Unlike the original Coca Cola, they have never gone away. Their departure might be to our betterment, but our Union has never been perfected, nor has any way of imposing temporary moralistic sentiment through political punishment.

Our “war on drugs” makes the war in Afghanistan seem so short lived. While losing the war in Vietnam,

Richard Nixon, in 1971, thought additional treasure should be thrown away on another improbable and doomed use of physical force to intercede in that which only hearts and minds, and free will, can likely find a solution.

Forty-three years later, that war finds our increasingly for-profit penal system choked with POWs. Lives broken by draconian sentencing, whole areas of our population blighted by a downward spiral brought about by a criminalization that chiefly targets those already marginalized, we are always back to square one. Our allies in that war, those who simultaneously depend on our addiction to finance their national cash crops, have all come to the realization that the war has been lost long ago. Legalization of drugs is on all lips but our own. America, rarely the victor anymore, is certainly not a quitter, no matter how plainly futility presents itself.

If American businesses didn’t hire “illegals” there would be far less “porous” borders. If Americans didn’t continue to procure illegal “pharm” products that others farm so productively because of our insatiable demand, drug lords might put down their guns. If all drugs were legalized, our borders wouldn’t face such a desperate neighbor or so tempt its refugees. Legalization wouldn’t solve all problems, but drug crime’s menacing practices would greatly lose motivation.

Colorado and Washington state are already proving that the Netherlands’ model of legalization is a far more civilizing approach to what will be a capitalist correction, assuring purity and safety of product and providing revenues of social benefit rather than harm. Legal commerce will likely encourage maximum drug consumption, but that is a disappointing free market trade off.

Prohibition just doesn’t work, never has. Like any war, no matter how righteous one side sees itself, it often fails to target the root cause driving the aberrant behavior. Counseling, reasoned influence brought to bear — exhibiting respect and providing convincing logic of the benefit of change — will more likely bring about a lasting solution rather than an endless cyclical repetition of defiance.

Is this understood by those in charge of the status quo? Quite likely, if it could occur to me years ago. But, when war’s continuance is more profitable, when filling our prisons is a growth industry and drug interdiction is another lucrative market for weapons manufacturers and law enforcement interests, one might suspect some conflict in truly seeking a victory. If drugs are a way of subjugating those of our population which we refuse to equitably integrate, and those drugs preferred by the elite are deemed less punishable, socially inconsequential, how much change is really desired? Bring in corporate self interest and everything takes on a even more lopsided orientation.

Cigarettes, as addictive and deadly as heroin, though restricted, have never been criminalized. Never. Cell phones’ impairment while driving is equivalent to legal intoxication, yet Maine adults are still permitted such behavior. Internet Addiction Disorder is likened to any drug dependency, yet, unlike tobacco, alcohol or drugs, children remain unrestrained in using what public educators now consider a technological “necessity.” Violent films and video games, marketed for a susceptible youth market, are linked to aggression disorders and worse. Sadly, such economic addictions remain far too lucrative to address such concerns. Where is the prohibition here, and who should go to jail if there is still enough room?


Gary Anderson is a resident of Bath.

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