Decriminalization is the key for cannabis to other harder drugs

REVIEW: From Marijuana to Harder ‘Drugs,’ Decriminalization Is Key

I have always laughed at people who believe marijuana should be illegal because, they say, it’s bad for you.

Then I read Dr. Carl Hart’s latest book, “Drug Use for Grown-Ups: Chasing Liberty in the Land of Fear,” and I found myself in a similar position as those I mocked. The noted researcher of drug use and abuse admits coming home to his family after work and unwinding with a little heroin. He and his wife also use cocaine for sexual pleasure. 

“My heroin use is as recreational as my alcohol use,” Hart writes. “Like vacation, sex, and the arts, heroin is one of the tools that I use to maintain my work-life balance.”

“Huh?” was my initial reaction. 

Then I realized I had become what I always laughed about in others.

Knowledge is power, and America’s current anti-drug laws leave many consumers flying blind, hence the huge spike in overdoses in recent decades. It might just save some lives and money.

the author writes

Admitting my own bias to myself made me wince. Cocaine and heroin. They’re bad, right?

Like most Americans, it’s just what we were taught. From DARE in the 1980s and 1990s to people who are now in their 80s and 90s being told there’s something wrong with pot, which dates back to the 1930s, when Harry Anslinger began an anti-marijuana campaign still living on today.

It’s always in the back of many American’s minds.

I’ve always considered cocaine stupid, after watching too many people snorting lines and talking about everything they’re going to do, when the only thing they end up doing is another line. And heroin? I’ll admit it was tempting, but I always felt just one needleful would turn me into an addict. 

Of course my preconceived notions aren’t what Hart’s talking about. His book carefully details one of the legacies of ‘the drug war’ — one I’ve fallen for — is the notion those substances are, in and of themselves, dangerous and harmful.

Hart uses pharmaceutical cocaine and heroin. He knows the dosage. He only does it under certain circumstances. Set and setting are as important elements of the experience as the drugs themselves.

When people do these drugs illegally, they purchase a product with little knowledge of what and how much they’re getting, how it was made, who made it or what it was made with. Who in America checks with a chemist before injecting a needle into their veins? 

That’s Hart’s point. 

“This notion that people are not going to use drugs, that’s silly and adolescent. That’s what this book is about: being grown up.” 

Dr. Carl Hart

No one should be in prison for any kind of drug use. It’s just that simple. It’s not a legal problem. People consume stimulants — whether marijuana, coffee, heroin, cocaine, Diet Coke, methamphetamine, sugar, anything, really — to feel better. All the substances we’ve culturally referred to as ‘drugs,’ at their simplest, provide users enjoyment

Throwing millions of Americans in prisons and jails for selling such substances hasn’t worked and is foolish. Yes, they’re illegal — but only because some politicians declared them so a half century ago.

Far too many people have been imprisoned for consuming or selling these substances that people obviously like, hence the war on ‘drugs’ is ultimately unwinnable.  

Were we to make drugs legal, as has already happened in Oregon and being debated around the country, we could redirect the hundreds of billions of dollars spent over the decades on the ‘war on drugs’ — from overcrowded prisons to militarized police forces, both locally and nationally — into mental-health and needle exchange programs or even making testing strips available to the public so addicts can know if, say, their heroin or cocaine is laced with the deadly fentanyl.

Knowledge is power, and America’s current anti-drug laws leave many consumers flying blind, hence the huge spike in overdoses in recent decades. It might just save some lives and money. 

And I can finally rid myself of outmoded beliefs.

“Drug Use for Grown-Ups: Chasing Liberty in the Land of Fear,” Dr. Carl Hart (Penguin Books)

Leland Rucker is a journalist who has been covering the cannabis industry culture since Amendment 64 legalized adult-use in Colorado, for Boulder Weekly, Sensi and now TheNewsStation.com. His full bio is here.

Leland Rucker is a journalist who has been covering the cannabis industry culture since Amendment 64 legalized adult-use in Colorado, for Boulder Weekly, Sensi and now TheNewsStation.com. His full bio is here.

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