Trey Radel's Coke Arrest: What's So Bad About Casual Drug Use?

I’ve got
a new column up at
. It’s about the recent arrest of Rep. Trey Radel
(R-Fla.) for possession of cocaine. Radel has already pleaded
guilty and has pledged to go to rehab. His arrest should make us
think twice about the arbitrary distinctions between legal and
illegal drugs and the social stigma that attaches to the latter.
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford was well-known for being a drunken lout, but
it took evidence of him smoking crack for him to lose many of his
powers. Similarly, Radel’s drinking didn’t raise eyebrows even as
his buying a few grams of coke did.

In an age in which we are expected to use legal drugs (such as
beer) and prescription medications (Adderall) responsibly, it’s
time to extend that same notion to currently illegal substances
whose effects and properties are widely misunderstood. Indeed, the
effects of coke, heroin, and the rest are a mystery partly because
their outlaw status makes it difficult both to research them and
have honest discussions about them.

Trey Radel has announced that he’ll be taking a leave of
absence from Congress while he enters rehab. Perhaps he does need
to sober up – that’s really for him and his family to decide – but
it’s far from clear that his problem is particular to cocaine or
illegal drugs. Indeed, in announcing his plans, he didn’t blame
cocaine for his troubles but “
disease of alcoholism
,” which he says led him to make
really bad decisions. And alcohol, after all, is perfectly

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from Hit & Run

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