Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds or “How did our drug laws get so crazy?”

Picture yourself in a boat on a river
With tangerine trees and marmalade skies
Somebody calls you, you answer quite slowly
A girl with kaleidoscope eyes  —- (From the Beatles) (Click here to listen)

lucy_in_sky_with_diamonds_by_weirdplushie-d5r2kziHave you ever wondered why we do not arrest obese people?  What if we treated people who abused food like we treated people who abused drugs?  We could argue “Why don’t we arrest obese people since we arrest drug addicts?”  Do not both of them abuse their bodies?  If you look at the five most common reasons given for drug control policy:  Morality, Health, Profit, Discrimination and Social Control, it could be argued that obesity violates at least four of these principles.  As yet, we do not see too many obese people running amok, but who knows, maybe cases of “Crazed” obese people are just being under-reported.

It seems unfair to me that obese people are not treated the same as drug abusers.  Obese people are making a choice to the same extent that most drug users are.  Obese people cause a huge drain on our medical system.  Obesity is an offense to morality (sloth) if not aesthetics.  A large portion of the increase in medical expenses over the last twenty years can be blamed on lifestyle choices of which obesity is one of the primary negative factors.  Thus obesity directly impacts our national productivity.  What if obesity was subject to a series of “obesity laws” that made obesity illegal?

Consider the following court scenario in a system where obesity was illegal.    Jane Doe has just been arrested on charges of obesity and is brought to court for a pre-trial hearing. 

Prosecutor:  I am going to bring five charges against the defendant for gross and negligent obesity.

Defense Attorney:  We are not going to argue that the defendant is not fat or grossly obese.  We are going to argue that the defendant posed no threat to society.

Prosecutor:  The defendant was found in a Mc Donald’s eating a Big Mac in clear violation of the 2017 Obesity Act (OA) which states that “No obese person may partake of high fat foods found in fast food restaurants.”   A DOP agent (Department of Obese Patrol) found the defendant eating a Big Mac, fries and a shake.  The defendant tried to conceal the food and when confronted by the DOP agent, she attacked the agent and tried to resist arrest.

Judge:  What are your five charges?

ProsecutorThe five charges are as follows:

  1. Gross obesity in violation of the 2017 Obesity Act, article 1
  2. Posing a hazard to the national health in violation of Article 6 of the OA
  3. Hiding the presence of fattening foods in violation of Article 27 of the OA
  4. Contributing to the deterioration of the military readiness statute as specified in Article 29 of the OA
  5. Presenting a negative image of Americans to the world in violation of Article 31 of the OA

Prosecutor:  Each of these charges carries a minimum felony sentence of two years.  However, because this is the defendant’s third offense, the minimum sentence would be life.  We would be willing to plea bargain this to forty years without parole if the defendant agrees.

Defense Attorney:  Your honor this is a travesty of justice and a mockery of everything the judicial system was established for.  I have already noted that my defendant posed no threat to society.  We expect a jury to hear this case and we will not plea bargain.  This law is wrong, unfair and does not help protect or prevent the rest of the population from gross obesity.

Judge:  You are entitled to a trial if you so desire it, but I warn you.  You will not be allowed to challenge the validity of the Obesity law.  The law is the law and the legislative and judicial functions are clearly separated by the US constitution.  This law has been duly authorized and approved by the government of the United States of America.  The only question here is was the defendant guilty as charged.  We will not question the validity, fairness or equitability of the law.

Cellophane flowers of yellow and green
Towering over your head
Look for the girl with the sun in her eyes
And she’s gone

Now consider the criminal justice system as it applies to drugs.  By the term “drug” I am defining as anything that is either a: Hallucinogen, opiate, stimulant, or depressant.  See also the list for Schedule II drugs which includes many more than the following list:

  • Alcohol is legal if you are over 21 in most states.  Alcohol is a depressant.
  • The sale of marijuana for recreational use is a felony in nine states and illegal in a dozen others.
  • Coffee and caffeine is legal in all States in coffee, tea, soft drinks and energy drinks.  Caffeine is a stimulant.
  • LSD, Peyote, Hashish and Mescaline are illegal in all 50 states unless you have a permit to use for experimental or religious reasons.    These are all hallucinogens.
  • Nicotine in cigarettes is legal in all 50 states.   Nicotine is a stimulant.
  • Vicodin, Percocet, Oxycodone must have a doctor’s prescription in all fifty states.  Buying controlled substances online without a valid prescription may be punishable by imprisonment under Federal law.  These are all opiates.
  • Cocaine and Methamphetamines are classed as Schedule II drugs and both are illegal without medical authorization in all 50 states. Both are classed as stimulants.

If you look at the list you may wonder what the criteria for banning some drugs are and legalizing other drugs.  If you can figure this out, you are either an anti-drug zealot or you live in Wonderland along with the Red Queen and the Mad Hatter.  Consider the following possible drugs and some criteria which might impact their legality:

Drug

Health Hazards

Addictiveness

Incapacitation Capacity for Violence
Alcohol

High

Moderate

High

Moderate

Caffeine

Low

Moderate

Low

Low

Nicotine

High

High

Low

Low

Hallucinogens

Moderate

Low

High

Moderate

Opiates

Low

Moderate

Low

Low

Marijuana

Low

Low

Low

Low

Lucy in the sky with diamonds
Lucy in the sky with diamonds
Lucy in the sky with diamonds

If after looking at this chart, you conclude that alcohol and nicotine should be added to the list of illegal substances, you would not be alone.  Conversely, you might wonder why opiates and Marijuana are illegal (a situation which is finally beginning to change with Marijuana).   The fact is there is no rhyme or reason.  Prejudice, bias, stupidity, ignorance and politics govern the legality of drugs in all fifty states and the Federal government.  The results of this irrational and ignorant policy are as follows:  (These facts are from the Drug Policy Alliance)

  • Amount spent annually in the U.S. on the war on drugs: More than $51,000,000,000
  • Number of people arrested in 2012 in the U.S. on nonviolent drug charges: 1.55 million
  • Number of people arrested for a marijuana law violation in 2012: 749,825
  • Number of those charged with marijuana law violations who were arrested for possession only: 658,231 (88 percent)
  • Number of Americans incarcerated in 2012 in federal, state and local prisons and  jails: 2,228,400 or 1 in every 108 adults, the highest incarceration rate in the world
  • Proportion of people incarcerated for a drug offense in state prison that are black or Hispanic, although these groups use and sell drugs at similar rates as whites: 61 percent
  • Number of states that allow the medical use of marijuana: 20 + District of Columbia
  • Estimated annual revenue that California would raise if it taxed and regulated the sale of marijuana: $1,400,000,000
  • Number of people killed in Mexico’s drug war since 2006: 70,000+
  • Number of students who have lost federal financial aid eligibility because of a drug conviction: 200,000+
  • Number of people in the U.S. that died from a drug overdose in 2010: 38,329
  • Tax revenue that drug legalization would yield annually, if currently-illegal drugs were taxed at rates comparable to those on alcohol and tobacco: $46.7 billion
  • One-third of all AIDS cases in the U.S. have been caused by syringe sharing: 354,000 people
  • U.S. federal government support for syringe access programs: $0.00, thanks to a federal ban reinstated by Congress in 2011 that prohibits any federal assistance for them

Follow her down to a bridge by a fountain
Where rocking horse people eat marshmallow pies
Everyone smiles as you drift past the flowers
That grow so incredibly high

The above statistics do not talk about the human toll that our so-called drug policy exacts.  What about the thousands of people labeled as ex-cons and felons who may never be able to find a legitimate job again?  What about the thousands of families destroyed by taking a parent away from their children?  What about the inability or unwillingness to help treat people with an addiction?  What about the wasted lives and productivity of the men and women that we incarcerate under our present drug laws?

Again, you may wonder if something has been left unsaid.  Surely there must be a good reason or even several good reasons for our current drug policy.  Could anyone want to spend billions of dollars without some underlying rationale?  Indeed, several possible reasons for our present drug policy have been advanced.  Let us take a brief look at how each of the following reasons impact drug policy.

  • Morality
  • Health
  • Profit
  • Discrimination
  • Lack of social control and violence

Morality:  Some people think that they should be able to dictate what the rest of us can do, think, wear, feel or put in our bodies.  It is immoral to have sex.  It is immoral to dance.  It is immoral to sing.  It is immoral to play.  It is immoral to get high.  “An idle mind is the devils workshop.”  The Moral Majority wants to dictate parsimony in terms of who can be idle and who cannot.  Drug laws are made to prevent us from having too much fun.  That would be a sin.

HealthWe need to protect the public health.  The logic here is that drugs are harmful and can do damage to the human body.  The problem with this reason is the lack of consistency in its application.  While it is undoubtedly true that many drugs if taken to excess can kill, it is also true that many legal drugs (Alcohol and nicotine) are very dangerous to the body over a period of time.  The decision as to which drugs are harmful and which are not seems to be purely a matter of popular preference.   As far as I know, there is little interest in banning cigarettes, despite the fact that they do much more harm.  According to the Centers for Disease Control, tobacco kills more people than HIV, illegal drugs, car accidents, suicides and murder combined.  Drug laws are made to protect our health.  God forbid anyone would overdose on drugs.

Profit:  This reason concerns the profit motive with the drug trade.  If drugs were legal and cheap, who would benefit?  The answer would be the larger population.  This cannot be permitted to happen until there is a profit to be made.  Thus, it is more beneficial to wage a war on drugs until drugs can be commercialized and like cigarettes mass produced at a considerable profit to a select few.  It will not do to allow people to grow pot in their back yards or synthesize meth in a kitchen lab.  We have a game here and the game is called MONEY.  Until the powerful with money can figure out how to control the means and modes of production, drugs will remain illegal.  There is presently a great deal more profit in illegal drugs than legal drugs.  Drug laws are made to protect commercial interests and to insure profits for a few.  You cannot have drugs without taxes.

Discrimination:  One reason that has been advanced is a blatant discrimination against minorities and poor.   It is more often the poor and minorities who turn to illicit drugs to escape the lack of opportunities and frustration with an economic system that seems like no win for them.  The data on incarceration for drug use shows a disproportionate number of minorities arrested and convicted for drugs.  (See statistics above from the Drug Policy Alliance)

Do you dig it Man?  If you are rich or a celebrity or powerful, you can get high and no one will care or bother you.  But if you are poor, ebony, amber, ruby or chestnut, the fates will not be so kind to you.  Politics and not reason rule drug policy and the drug war.  More Americans use drugs of one kind or another than at any point in history.  Prisons are so full; they have to release many convicts before their time is up.  What if all the people misusing prescription narcotics were suddenly arrested?  What if the doctors who are over prescribing these drugs were arrested?  We would have to change the name of this country from the USA to the UPA or United Prisons of America.  Drug laws are made to keep the poor and minorities in their place.  You cannot allow the underprivileged to have any escape from a reality that haunts and torments them daily.

Lack of Social Control and Violence:  Another reason is the idea that drugs lead to wanton violence and lowering of criminal inhibitions.  Examples abound of outlandish portrayals of drug maniacs and drug users’ gone lunatic.  One popular one was a movie called “Reefer Madness” in which drug crazed people descend into scenes of rape, suicide and murder.

An interesting study conducted in Great Britain on drug use and its portrayal in the press (Representations of Drug Use and Drug Users in the British Press, 2010) concluded that

  • Drug users were more likely to be condemned than empathized with in all newspapers, but were most likely to be condemned in the tabloid press, where around a fifth of users were condemned.
  • Where the effects of drug use were mentioned in news items for either the community or the individual, these were overwhelmingly negative.
  • Over the sample period, stories that mainly focused on recovery and rehabilitation were few and far between. When they did surface they mainly concerned the appropriateness of government proposals to rehabilitate heroin users.

yellowsubmarine-130438The media needs to sell papers.  Titillating stories of drug abuse and drug addicts run amok sell more papers and get more watchers then stories of drug use that have more positive outcomes.  The hypocrisy here is beyond imagination.  The majority of Americans use drugs every day to treat low energy, pains, headaches, depression and simply for recreation.  Drug laws are made to insure that drug use does not get out of hand.  Out of hand drug use is an oxymoron if there ever was one.

“In June 2011, the Global Commission on Drug Policy soberly proclaimed: “The global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world.” In its report, the commission — members of which include economists, policy experts, and several former world leaders — argued that, 40 years after President Richard Nixon launched the U.S. War on Drugs, circumstances today demand a new approach. Among the commissioners’ recommendations, two stand out: to “end the criminalization, marginalization and stigmatization of people who use drugs but who do no harm to others,” and to “encourage experimentation by governments with models of legal regulation of drugs,” particularly cannabis, “to undermine the power of organized crime and safeguard the health and security of their citizens.”   National Affairs

To paraphrase Patrick Henry, what are we waiting for?  What are we procrastinating for?  What are we afraid of?  What will it take for us to change these barbaric laws?  How many more lives will we damage?  How much more money will we waste?  How many more people will we allow to die?  Shall we argue? Shall we entreat?  Shall we equivocate?  Are we blind to the truth?  Will we wait until it is too late?  What more arguments need be made before we are convinced?  What evidence needs to be produced that has not already been made evident?  What research is left to find regarding the failure of our drug policy?  What is stopping us from seeing the truth?  How many more people will be arrested before we decide to act?

Newspaper taxis appear on the shore
Waiting to take you away
Climb in the back with your head in the clouds
And you’re gone

You say well “Marijuana will slowly become legal as the tide is starting to shift and public opinion is being exerted on our political leaders.”  This is simply the first step.  It is not nearly enough.  The discrimination and stupidity that is behind most of our drug policy must be completely routed out and eradicated.  It will not solve the problem if we only legalize or decriminalize Marijuana.  The focus on drugs must be shifted from seeing drug use or drug abuse as a crime to seeing it as a treatable medical or emotional problem.  Putting people in jail for drug abuse is cynical where no crimes are committed and no one is hurt.  It is like the old debtors prison where poor people were thrown in jail until they could pay their bills.

It is time for us to speak out against a political leadership that refuses to accept the truth.  The truth is that our national drug policy is a failure.  Those who have the power are afraid of an environment in which the populace can find alternatives to such profitable mass produced narcotics such as television, shopping malls, video games, sports and movies.  They are afraid of a population that can make its own decision concerning what drugs it uses and what it uses drugs for.  They are afraid of an environment where decisions on drug use are taken away from the “authorities” and given back to the citizen.  It is time we “take back our rights.”  Prohibition was a massive failure and simply caused alcohol to become more expensive, more crime and more criminals.  Our current drug war has had the same disastrous effects.  When will we learn?

Lucy in the sky with diamonds
Lucy in the sky with diamonds
Lucy in the sky with diamonds

Time for Questions: 

What drugs have you taken this morning?  Do you consider pills drugs?  What about coffee and alcohol, how much of these do you use weekly?  Do you think that our present drug policy is effective? Why?  What would you change if you could?  Do you know any drug addicts?  Are they criminals?  Do you think they should be arrested and jailed?  Why or why not?  What would you do to someone who broke into your house to steal your pills or to steal money to buy drugs?  Should we arrest them, shoot them or treat them?

Life is just beginning.

I would like to make it clear that while I find some merit in each of the five reasons most often given to ban drugs or to control the sale of drugs, I also find a great deal of hypocrisy and politics in each of these reasons. You may ask: “If someone broke into your house to steal or buy drugs, what would you do?”  My answer:  I would probably shoot them.  I am not condoning criminal behavior or the argument that so and so was drunk or high and was not responsible.  Drug addicts and alcoholics should not be exempt from the responsibility for crimes they commit while under the influence.   You do the crime, you serve the time.

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jeanine
    Mar 29, 2014 @ 15:19:30

    I enjoyed your blog. It brought to mind a support group i had to attend to quit cigarettes back in my late 30s. You could not buy nicotine patches over the counter. You were prescribed the patches by a doctor, and referred to a 10 week class to monitor your progress. The woman that headed the class never smoked a cigarette, cigar, tiparillo or pipe a day in her life, ….but she explained that she could relate to addiction as hers was food. As someone with a very addictive personality I so wish I was one of those people who could moderate the use of tobacco, alcohol, etc. but for us who cannot control, we must abstain all together. How unfair. LOL.
    Thanks for the good read.

    Reply

  2. Jeanine
    Mar 29, 2014 @ 15:30:05

    I meant to address your question regarding how we should treat the addict who breaks into homes to steal to support their habit. I have ZERO tolerance for them and another person may have an argument that they are not in their right mind. I’ve been there, and I know what it is like to suffer for over weeks without sleep, loss of appetite, sweating profusely, skin crawling, and I would never think of knocking over a pharmacy, or stealing someone prized possessions to support an addiction that I was 100% responsible for creating. If anything, this society has shown too much lenience for this criminal behavior and I think tougher laws should be enforced.

    Reply

  3. johnpersico
    Mar 30, 2014 @ 22:19:18

    Thanks for the comments Jeanine. You have been there and your comments are very illustrative of what many drug addicts face.

    Reply

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