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photo above: Professors Carl Hart (left) and Mark Kleiman attend Blunt Talk with Steve DeAngelo, Jodi Gilman, Carl Hart, Mark Kleiman and Kevin Sabet, moderated by Patrick Radden Keefe, on October 11, 2014, in New York City. Bryan Bedder / Getty Images for The New Yorker
WN: The contention discussed in this article has been demonstrated repeatedly in many other countries. See for instance a review of: Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs by Johann Hari. And please see as well more near bottom of my Home page.
I have a son who also has been arguing this for years!
Even as marijuana legalization gains momentum around the country, the U.S. has a deep and abiding problem when it comes to both policy and public consciousness around drugs. In order to approach drug policy rationally and compassionately, we must drop our assumptions and expand our imaginations. That’s what acclaimed neuroscientist Carl Hart does in his new book, Drug Use for Grown-Ups: Chasing Liberty in the Land of Fear. Hart, a leading drug researcher and a professor of psychology and psychiatry at Columbia University, suggests a full-scale reframing: Don’t assume that drugs are bad. He recognizes that pretty much any drug can have benefits, including typically vilified drugs like heroin, cocaine and methamphetamines.
In his book, Hart courageously presents this new framing through the lens of his own experience. He regularly uses illicit drugs, and shares how heroin, methamphetamines, cocaine, MDMA and others have served useful purposes in his life — including just relaxing and having fun. Hart notes that addiction affects “only 10 percent to 30 percent of those who use even the most stigmatized drugs, such as heroin or methamphetamine.”
Yet most U.S. drug policies are constructed with addiction and harm as justifications. In practice, those policies play out as other forms of criminalization do, targeting Black, Brown, poor, trans and disabled people, and other marginalized groups. Meanwhile the real and tragic problem of drug overdose persists — and Hart shows how criminalization makes it impossible to confront that problem, too.
Hart urges us to not only decriminalize drugs but also to legalize them. There are many reasons for legalization — including that decriminalization still comes with fines, civil penalties and stigma. (It should be noted that legalizing drugs equitably would need to come with reparations for communities impacted by the drug war and significant opportunities for people who currently sell illicit drugs.)
But in addition to acknowledging the importance of curbing arrests and incarceration, Hart focuses on how legalization could substantively improve people’s lives by reducing the risk of overdose, reducing interventions of child protective services, and increasing safety and awareness for all.
I chatted with Carl Hart about his book — and about what a life-saving, life-affirming, freedom-affirming set of drug policies could look like in this country. . .
Please click on: Legalizing All Drugs