Weed Salvaged the Lost Year


onsite-medical-services-south-dakota

The last time I was out at a dive bar was March 6, 2020. The SXSW music and cultural festival was canceled, wrecking Austin’s tourism economy. A sense of chaos and impending doom hung in the air. I went home somewhat aware of how the world was about to change. 

And, for the next month, all I did was smoke weed, cook Italian food, and watch The Sopranos. My social life evaporated. I spent a lot of time on my back porch, dogs and chickens frolicking in the distance, rolling joints, listening to Blondie and Destroyer, refreshing the New York Times “coronavirus live updates” tab, as if that would do much of anything.

I wasn’t the only one. At the beginning of the pandemic, the City of L.A. declared dispensaries essential businesses. Actor Seth Rogen announced to the world that he was smoking “truly ungodly” amounts of weed to endure quarantine, prompting headlines aplenty. Leafly reported that national pot sales boomed throughout 2020.

Amid an impressive amount of worldly despair, smoking weed made our lost pandemic year not good exactly, but more joyful for many people—myself included. Minimizing the role weed played in helping people endure the pandemic would be letting the drug warriors win.

Weed wasn’t just part of a smorgasbord of things I looked forward to; it was sometimes the only weekend plan I had. As any devoted stoner will tell you, it’s not just about watching Pineapple Express or The Big Lebowski or any of the other great movies in our esteemed canon; getting really stoned is a way of exploring your own mind when other forms of adventure are verboten. People need play, and when that’s been taken away from you, you must make do with the plaything of your own mind.

I was able to easily smoke with little fear of consequences because the two places I lived during the pandemic (Austin, Texas, and Brooklyn, New York) have chosen not to lock people up for possession of small amounts—a trend even conservative places like South Dakota and Mississippi have embraced.

When I first moved to Austin, this wasn’t the case; in fact, City Council unanimously voted to end arrests for possession of small amounts of weed in January 2020. If I’d chosen to live a few miles south, in Hays County, the risk of severe consequences would have been much higher: Hays still technically treats marijuana possession under two ounces as a misdemeanor that carries the threat of up to six months of jail time, though the county has announced plans to experiment with a “cite-and-divert” program for low-level offenses.

In the short time I’ve lived in New York, weed possession has gone from a tolerated but not technically permissible act to one that’s finally legal, signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on March 31. Soon I will be able to grow up to 12 cannabis plants in my house; visit dispensaries to buy and cafes to imbibe; and have the peace of knowing I live in a place where the authorities have decided I ought to have more ownership over my body and mind.

For those who don’t get high, it’s hard to understand why others do. Some people have eaten an edible before and had a Maureen Dowd-esque encounter with the gates of hell, scaring them off for good. Others have tried but nothing’s happened, and they haven’t persisted in their pursuit. Others are understandably too content with booze to experiment with the range of possible delights.

But smoke a joint and taste a lime curd tart or my famous goat milk pie; it will taste 30 times better than it did before. Turn on a Frank Ocean album. Lounge in chairs in the yard, on a crisp fall night, passing a joint around with friends. Marvel at the stars, noticing the cold air sliding across your nose and cheeks.

Some people toke because they enjoy becoming more attuned to sensory joys. Others do it for the heightened relaxation—a little block of time at the end of your day when you can truly calm down and forget about the mounting to-do lists. And, for those with social anxiety, who may have to work a little harder to enjoy even small gatherings, smoking with others can give you a deeper appreciation of other people’s weird quirks, vulnerability, humor, and fascinating backstories.

The pandemic brought personal, social, and economic pain. Some people lost family members and weren’t able to attend their funerals. Others found themselves facing job loss, credit card debt, debt, dashed dreams, and stalled careers. For families spread across the globe, border restrictions and the unpredictability of travel have taken an enormous toll.

But throughout that heaviness, my ability to roll a joint and go out onto my patio and gaze out at other people’s fire escapes and newly minted home-office spaces and planes landing at LaGuardia, increasing in volume as the months skate by, has added happiness where it felt like there was none.

For just a few minutes of the day, I would allow myself to forget about the pandemic and the lockdowns, the pace of vaccinations, the uncertainty of when I would see my family again. I’d allow myself to really enjoy that Blaze Foley song I’d heard years ago. Reclining into the comfort and dimensions of my own mind always felt like a restorative function, a good use of my time—time that seemed to stretch on and on with very little to distinguish it from what had come before.

For decades, drug warriors not only denied people this escape and enjoyment, but they patted people down, locked them up, and separated them from their families over pot offenses. President Joe Biden, who opposes federal legalization (unlike much of the rest of the country), still can’t quite wrap his head around the idea that actually, weed has enormous benefits that people ought to be free to reap.

I could write a paean to my bike or to cocktails, both of which made the pandemic less awful. But a paean to the act of getting high feels more fitting since this private, peaceful, solitary act is still one that some people still seek to condemn, as if this little bit of respite in a time of hardship is any business of theirs at all.

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Canadian National Sparks Bidding War With $30 Billion Offer For Kansas City Southern

Canadian National Sparks Bidding War With $30 Billion Offer For Kansas City Southern

As worries about fragile global supply chains stoke fears about rising prices and inflationary pressures, Canadian National Railway is planning to make a $30 billion bid for Kansas City Southern, which had already agreed to sell itself to Canadian Pacific. The bid will likely kick off a bidding war amid another wave of consolidation in the freight.

Canadian National plans to offer $325 for each Kansas City Southern share Tuesday, including $200 a share in cash and 1.059 Canadian National shares, the people said. Shares of KSU surged 20% on the news, as the Canadian National offer represents a 20% premium over the previous offer made by Canadian Pacific.

Canadian Pacific, meanwhile, offered shareholders $90 and 0.489 share of Canadian Pacific stock for each share of Kansas City Southern, which would give KC Southern shareholders 25% ownership of Canadian Pacific’s outstanding stock.Their formula values KC Southern stock at $275 a share, a 23% premium from Friday’s closing price. Under those terms, the Canadian railroad also said it would assume $3.8 billion in outstanding Kansas City Southern debt. The companies said the transaction has an enterprise value of roughly $29 billion.

Kansas City Southern is the smallest of the five major freight railroads in the US, and plays a key role in US-Mexico trade, with a network across both countries. Its trains bring autos and other industrial products up from factories south of the border into Texas and the Midwest and haul American farm goods back to Mexico. It also runs a rail link along the Panama Canal. But a merger with either rival will create a massive firm with operations sprawling across North America.

Either deal would create the first freight-rail network linking the US, Mexico and Canada by connecting ports in all three countries.

Tyler Durden
Tue, 04/20/2021 – 07:13

via ZeroHedge News https://ift.tt/2QAxj0C Tyler Durden

Weed Salvaged the Lost Year


onsite-medical-services-south-dakota

The last time I was out at a dive bar was March 6, 2020. The SXSW music and cultural festival was canceled, wrecking Austin’s tourism economy. A sense of chaos and impending doom hung in the air. I went home somewhat aware of how the world was about to change. 

And, for the next month, all I did was smoke weed, cook Italian food, and watch The Sopranos. My social life evaporated. I spent a lot of time on my back porch, dogs and chickens frolicking in the distance, rolling joints, listening to Blondie and Destroyer, refreshing the New York Times “coronavirus live updates” tab, as if that would do much of anything.

I wasn’t the only one. At the beginning of the pandemic, the City of L.A. declared dispensaries essential businesses. Actor Seth Rogen announced to the world that he was smoking “truly ungodly” amounts of weed to endure quarantine, prompting headlines aplenty. Leafly reported that national pot sales boomed throughout 2020.

Amid an impressive amount of worldly despair, smoking weed made our lost pandemic year not good exactly, but more joyful for many people—myself included. Minimizing the role weed played in helping people endure the pandemic would be letting the drug warriors win.

Weed wasn’t just part of a smorgasbord of things I looked forward to; it was sometimes the only weekend plan I had. As any devoted stoner will tell you, it’s not just about watching Pineapple Express or The Big Lebowski or any of the other great movies in our esteemed canon; getting really stoned is a way of exploring your own mind when other forms of adventure are verboten. People need play, and when that’s been taken away from you, you must make do with the plaything of your own mind.

I was able to easily smoke with little fear of consequences because the two places I lived during the pandemic (Austin, Texas, and Brooklyn, New York) have chosen not to lock people up for possession of small amounts—a trend even conservative places like South Dakota and Mississippi have embraced.

When I first moved to Austin, this wasn’t the case; in fact, City Council unanimously voted to end arrests for possession of small amounts of weed in January 2020. If I’d chosen to live a few miles south, in Hays County, the risk of severe consequences would have been much higher: Hays still technically treats marijuana possession under two ounces as a misdemeanor that carries the threat of up to six months of jail time, though the county has announced plans to experiment with a “cite-and-divert” program for low-level offenses.

In the short time I’ve lived in New York, weed possession has gone from a tolerated but not technically permissible act to one that’s finally legal, signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on March 31. Soon I will be able to grow up to 12 cannabis plants in my house; visit dispensaries to buy and cafes to imbibe; and have the peace of knowing I live in a place where the authorities have decided I ought to have more ownership over my body and mind.

For those who don’t get high, it’s hard to understand why others do. Some people have eaten an edible before and had a Maureen Dowd-esque encounter with the gates of hell, scaring them off for good. Others have tried but nothing’s happened, and they haven’t persisted in their pursuit. Others are understandably too content with booze to experiment with the range of possible delights.

But smoke a joint and taste a lime curd tart or my famous goat milk pie; it will taste 30 times better than it did before. Turn on a Frank Ocean album. Lounge in chairs in the yard, on a crisp fall night, passing a joint around with friends. Marvel at the stars, noticing the cold air sliding across your nose and cheeks.

Some people toke because they enjoy becoming more attuned to sensory joys. Others do it for the heightened relaxation—a little block of time at the end of your day when you can truly calm down and forget about the mounting to-do lists. And, for those with social anxiety, who may have to work a little harder to enjoy even small gatherings, smoking with others can give you a deeper appreciation of other people’s weird quirks, vulnerability, humor, and fascinating backstories.

The pandemic brought personal, social, and economic pain. Some people lost family members and weren’t able to attend their funerals. Others found themselves facing job loss, credit card debt, debt, dashed dreams, and stalled careers. For families spread across the globe, border restrictions and the unpredictability of travel have taken an enormous toll.

But throughout that heaviness, my ability to roll a joint and go out onto my patio and gaze out at other people’s fire escapes and newly minted home-office spaces and planes landing at LaGuardia, increasing in volume as the months skate by, has added happiness where it felt like there was none.

For just a few minutes of the day, I would allow myself to forget about the pandemic and the lockdowns, the pace of vaccinations, the uncertainty of when I would see my family again. I’d allow myself to really enjoy that Blaze Foley song I’d heard years ago. Reclining into the comfort and dimensions of my own mind always felt like a restorative function, a good use of my time—time that seemed to stretch on and on with very little to distinguish it from what had come before.

For decades, drug warriors not only denied people this escape and enjoyment, but they patted people down, locked them up, and separated them from their families over pot offenses. President Joe Biden, who opposes federal legalization (unlike much of the rest of the country), still can’t quite wrap his head around the idea that actually, weed has enormous benefits that people ought to be free to reap.

I could write a paean to my bike or to cocktails, both of which made the pandemic less awful. But a paean to the act of getting high feels more fitting since this private, peaceful, solitary act is still one that some people still seek to condemn, as if this little bit of respite in a time of hardship is any business of theirs at all.

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Quarter Of UK Population Wants To Work At Home Forever, New Survey Finds

Quarter Of UK Population Wants To Work At Home Forever, New Survey Finds

Authored by Steve Watson via Summit News,

Almost a quarter of the UK workforce wants to stay at home FOREVER, according to a survey conducted by Deloitte.

The London Telegraph reports that around 25% never want to go back to their place of work ever again, noting that the figure equates to 7.5 million people who would be happy to stay at home and work on their own for the rest of their lives.

Only slightly more, 28% say they do not want to work at home any more and want to get back to their offices or other work environments as soon as possible.

Most people, 42% said they want to see some sort of balance, spending at least two days a week working at home.

The reasoning behind the desire for one in four to stay at home for good was being ‘more efficient’ and ‘more relaxed’, as well as not having to commute and saving time.

In other words, 25% can’t be bothered moving and interacting with other people, and are perfectly happy staying at home alone in their jogging pants until they retire and then stay at home in their jogging pants until they die.

As we have previously highlighted, almost half of Brits, including a majority of women, say they will struggle to revert back to normal life after lockdown, with only 37 per cent saying they would not miss anything about lockdown.

similar poll conducted by the London Times found that a “significant proportion” of Brits enjoyed lockdown.

Another separate opinion poll conducted last month by YouGov found that over half of Brits said they would miss “many” or “some” aspects of the lockdown.

The figures once again underscore how a majority of people appear to be utterly oblivious to the precedent that lockdown has created, handing government the power to completely restrict basic civil liberties on a whim.

*  *  *

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In the age of mass Silicon Valley censorship It is crucial that we stay in touch. We need you to sign up for our free newsletter here. Support our sponsor – Turbo Force – a supercharged boost of clean energy without the comedown. Also, we urgently need your financial support here.

Tyler Durden
Tue, 04/20/2021 – 07:04

via ZeroHedge News https://ift.tt/2QFlBSm Tyler Durden

Arbitrary THC Limits Could Wipe Out Much of the Cannabis Industry


thumb2 (1)

Several years ago in Colorado, during a tour of marijuana dispensaries in the ski towns near Denver, my host offered me a pipe that contained a cannabis strain he called Buddaface or Buttaface—or maybe even Butter Face, which is an actual thing. He said it had a THC content somewhere between 20 and 30 percent.

For reasons that will soon be clear, I cannot vouch for the spelling or the exact strength. But the audio record of that ride revealed what happened after I took a puff or two: What had been an interview, or at least a conversation, lapsed into long silences punctuated by random remarks about the sights we were passing. I was not really working anymore, and I did not care.

The marijuana in that pipe was quite different from the black-market stuff I had smoked during college, when I could go through a whole bowl without experiencing the same effect. From my perspective, the Colorado cannabis was better, delivering a more pleasant experience in exchange for less effort and less exposure to combustion products. In that sense, it was also healthier.

Many politicians, by contrast, view stronger marijuana as ipso facto worse. Unimpressed by the minimization of respiratory hazards, they focus on contentious claims about the psychological impact of potent pot: It is more addictive, they say, or more likely to trigger psychotic reactions. They therefore want to legally restrict the potency of cannabis products sold by state-licensed retailers, which they claim will protect public health and safety.

To some extent, the recent concern about THC levels rehashes warnings we have heard repeatedly since the 1980s. Drug warriors faced the challenge of persuading baby boomers who had smoked pot in high school or college with no ill effects that similar experimentation by their own offspring was cause for serious alarm. Among other things, they claimed there was no comparison between modern marijuana and the pot of the 1960s and ’70s because average potency had increased dramatically thanks to the ingenuity of black-market growers.

Many of those claims were exaggerated. Prohibitionists presented misleading comparisons between nonrepresentative samples and implied that everybody in the old days was essentially smoking ditchweed, which made you wonder what the appeal was. Furthermore, higher-potency cannabis preparations have been available for centuries in the form of hashish, which has a THC content as high as 60 percent.

Still, there is no denying that the average state-licensed pot shop today offers a much wider range of potencies than was ever commonly available on the black market. Medicine Man in Denver, for instance, sells flower with THC levels ranging from about 5 percent to 24 percent. It also offers concentrates such as wax and shatter, which can contain up to 90 percent THC.

Is this a problem? As long as consumers understand what they are getting, you might think, they can decide for themselves which products meet their tastes and preferences, and they can adjust their consumption accordingly: Just as drinkers tend to consume smaller volumes when they drink liquor than they do when they drink beer, cannabis consumers tend to stop when they achieve the effect they want, which means they take fewer puffs of stronger pot. But politicians who favor THC limits do not trust consumers to make those decisions.

So far, according to a recent roundup in Marijuana Business Daily, Vermont is the only state with a legal cap on THC content. Recreational stores have not opened there yet, but when they do they will not be allowed to sell flower that exceeds 30 percent THC or concentrates that exceed 60 percent.

A proposed limit in Florida, where marijuana is legal only for medical use, is far more onerous. It also would cap the THC content of concentrates at 60 percent, but it would limit flower to 10 percent. A bill to that effect was approved by a state House committee on a party-line vote last month; a similar Senate bill has not advanced yet.

“This is an existential threat, not just to the industry but to the whole idea of medical marijuana in Florida,” Ben Pollara, executive director of Florida for Care, a nonprofit that supports medical marijuana, told Marijuana Business Daily. This month Gov. Ron DeSantis said he has “not endorsed” the caps. But at the same time, he expressed concern about rising potency. “If you look at some of the stuff that’s now coming down, there’s a lot of really bad things in it,” he said. “It’s not necessarily what you would’ve had 30 years ago, when someone’s in college and they’re doing something.”

In Massachusetts, HD 2841 would likewise limit THC in flower to 10 percent, while SD 465 would charge the Cannabis Control Commission with setting “reasonable potency limits for each type of marijuana product.” A Washington bill that looks dead for now would have banned THC concentrates containing more than 30 percent THC. A Montana bill described as “probably dead” would establish a 15 percent cap for all cannabis products.

In Colorado, state Rep. Yadira Caraveo (D–Adams County) this year wrote a bill that would have imposed the same 15-percent rule but shelved it in response to the uproar it provoked. Caraveo, a pediatrician, said she wanted to stop children, who are not legally allowed to buy marijuana, from “getting their hands on products they should really not be getting their hands on.” A spokesman for the dispensary chain Terrapin Care Station estimated that Caraveo’s bill would have banned 65 percent of the marijuana products currently available in Colorado.

Legislators who support such limits think potent pot appeals to many consumers, which is why they want to ban it. But if they are right, their proposals will invite a resurgence of the black market that legalization aims to displace. “Consumer demand for these products is not going to go away,” observes Paul Armentano, deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, “and re-criminalizing them will only push this consumer base to seek out similar products in the unregulated illicit market.”

Since 1985, Armentano notes, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has allowed medical use of dronabinol (a.k.a. Marinol), “a pill containing 100 percent THC.” In 1999, the FDA moved dronabinol from Schedule II of the Controlled Substances Act to Schedule III “because of its remarkable safety profile.” While alcohol is commonly sold in lethal quantities, Armentano says, cannabis, “regardless of potency or quantity, cannot cause death by lethal overdose.”

The alcohol comparison is instructive since paternalists have long worried that drinkers, if left to their own devices, will be inclined to choose the beverages that give them the most bang for their buck. Hence all the concern about “strength wars” among brewers, which led to a federal rule that banned statements of alcoholic strength from beer labels (unless required by state law) until the Supreme Court overturned it on First Amendment grounds in 1995.

The idea that drinkers always favor the most potent products they can afford is demonstrably wrong. By volume, malt beverages account for four-fifths of the U.S. alcohol market; wine and distilled spirits split the rest, with the latter almost always in third place. The popularity of products like hard seltzer and light beer shows that drinkers do not necessarily prioritize potency even within the same category. The wide range of marijuana products likewise shows that cannabis consumers are not all bent on getting as stoned as possible as quickly as possible.

Some states set potency limits for beer, but only a few have comparable rules for distilled spirits, and the distinctions they draw can be puzzling. California, for example, caps the potency of “grain alcohol” at 120 proof (60 percent), which covers the stronger versions of Everclear, but sets no limit for other kinds of liquor (allowing 151-proof rum, for example). Nevada, by contrast, has a consistent 160-proof (80 percent) limit.

If states generally do not see the need to cap the potency of distilled spirits, it is hard to figure why cannabis, a far less hazardous product, requires such a safeguard. But the legal treatment of marijuana has long been anomalous, and evidently some of that irrationality lingers in the minds of politicians even when they are happy to legalize the industry and reap the resulting tax revenue.

from Latest – Reason.com https://ift.tt/3tDeYys
via IFTTT

Arbitrary THC Limits Could Wipe Out Much of the Cannabis Industry


thumb2 (1)

Several years ago in Colorado, during a tour of marijuana dispensaries in the ski towns near Denver, my host offered me a pipe that contained a cannabis strain he called Buddaface or Buttaface—or maybe even Butter Face, which is an actual thing. He said it had a THC content somewhere between 20 and 30 percent.

For reasons that will soon be clear, I cannot vouch for the spelling or the exact strength. But the audio record of that ride revealed what happened after I took a puff or two: What had been an interview, or at least a conversation, lapsed into long silences punctuated by random remarks about the sights we were passing. I was not really working anymore, and I did not care.

The marijuana in that pipe was quite different from the black-market stuff I had smoked during college, when I could go through a whole bowl without experiencing the same effect. From my perspective, the Colorado cannabis was better, delivering a more pleasant experience in exchange for less effort and less exposure to combustion products. In that sense, it was also healthier.

Many politicians, by contrast, view stronger marijuana as ipso facto worse. Unimpressed by the minimization of respiratory hazards, they focus on contentious claims about the psychological impact of potent pot: It is more addictive, they say, or more likely to trigger psychotic reactions. They therefore want to legally restrict the potency of cannabis products sold by state-licensed retailers, which they claim will protect public health and safety.

To some extent, the recent concern about THC levels rehashes warnings we have heard repeatedly since the 1980s. Drug warriors faced the challenge of persuading baby boomers who had smoked pot in high school or college with no ill effects that similar experimentation by their own offspring was cause for serious alarm. Among other things, they claimed there was no comparison between modern marijuana and the pot of the 1960s and ’70s because average potency had increased dramatically thanks to the ingenuity of black-market growers.

Many of those claims were exaggerated. Prohibitionists presented misleading comparisons between nonrepresentative samples and implied that everybody in the old days was essentially smoking ditchweed, which made you wonder what the appeal was. Furthermore, higher-potency cannabis preparations have been available for centuries in the form of hashish, which has a THC content as high as 60 percent.

Still, there is no denying that the average state-licensed pot shop today offers a much wider range of potencies than was ever commonly available on the black market. Medicine Man in Denver, for instance, sells flower with THC levels ranging from about 5 percent to 24 percent. It also offers concentrates such as wax and shatter, which can contain up to 90 percent THC.

Is this a problem? As long as consumers understand what they are getting, you might think, they can decide for themselves which products meet their tastes and preferences, and they can adjust their consumption accordingly: Just as drinkers tend to consume smaller volumes when they drink liquor than they do when they drink beer, cannabis consumers tend to stop when they achieve the effect they want, which means they take fewer puffs of stronger pot. But politicians who favor THC limits do not trust consumers to make those decisions.

So far, according to a recent roundup in Marijuana Business Daily, Vermont is the only state with a legal cap on THC content. Recreational stores have not opened there yet, but when they do they will not be allowed to sell flower that exceeds 30 percent THC or concentrates that exceed 60 percent.

A proposed limit in Florida, where marijuana is legal only for medical use, is far more onerous. It also would cap the THC content of concentrates at 60 percent, but it would limit flower to 10 percent. A bill to that effect was approved by a state House committee on a party-line vote last month; a similar Senate bill has not advanced yet.

“This is an existential threat, not just to the industry but to the whole idea of medical marijuana in Florida,” Ben Pollara, executive director of Florida for Care, a nonprofit that supports medical marijuana, told Marijuana Business Daily. This month Gov. Ron DeSantis said he has “not endorsed” the caps. But at the same time, he expressed concern about rising potency. “If you look at some of the stuff that’s now coming down, there’s a lot of really bad things in it,” he said. “It’s not necessarily what you would’ve had 30 years ago, when someone’s in college and they’re doing something.”

In Massachusetts, HD 2841 would likewise limit THC in flower to 10 percent, while SD 465 would charge the Cannabis Control Commission with setting “reasonable potency limits for each type of marijuana product.” A Washington bill that looks dead for now would have banned THC concentrates containing more than 30 percent THC. A Montana bill described as “probably dead” would establish a 15 percent cap for all cannabis products.

In Colorado, state Rep. Yadira Caraveo (D–Adams County) this year wrote a bill that would have imposed the same 15-percent rule but shelved it in response to the uproar it provoked. Caraveo, a pediatrician, said she wanted to stop children, who are not legally allowed to buy marijuana, from “getting their hands on products they should really not be getting their hands on.” A spokesman for the dispensary chain Terrapin Care Station estimated that Caraveo’s bill would have banned 65 percent of the marijuana products currently available in Colorado.

Legislators who support such limits think potent pot appeals to many consumers, which is why they want to ban it. But if they are right, their proposals will invite a resurgence of the black market that legalization aims to displace. “Consumer demand for these products is not going to go away,” observes Paul Armentano, deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, “and re-criminalizing them will only push this consumer base to seek out similar products in the unregulated illicit market.”

Since 1985, Armentano notes, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has allowed medical use of dronabinol (a.k.a. Marinol), “a pill containing 100 percent THC.” In 1999, the FDA moved dronabinol from Schedule II of the Controlled Substances Act to Schedule III “because of its remarkable safety profile.” While alcohol is commonly sold in lethal quantities, Armentano says, cannabis, “regardless of potency or quantity, cannot cause death by lethal overdose.”

The alcohol comparison is instructive since paternalists have long worried that drinkers, if left to their own devices, will be inclined to choose the beverages that give them the most bang for their buck. Hence all the concern about “strength wars” among brewers, which led to a federal rule that banned statements of alcoholic strength from beer labels (unless required by state law) until the Supreme Court overturned it on First Amendment grounds in 1995.

The idea that drinkers always favor the most potent products they can afford is demonstrably wrong. By volume, malt beverages account for four-fifths of the U.S. alcohol market; wine and distilled spirits split the rest, with the latter almost always in third place. The popularity of products like hard seltzer and light beer shows that drinkers do not necessarily prioritize potency even within the same category. The wide range of marijuana products likewise shows that cannabis consumers are not all bent on getting as stoned as possible as quickly as possible.

Some states set potency limits for beer, but only a few have comparable rules for distilled spirits, and the distinctions they draw can be puzzling. California, for example, caps the potency of “grain alcohol” at 120 proof (60 percent), which covers the stronger versions of Everclear, but sets no limit for other kinds of liquor (allowing 151-proof rum, for example). Nevada, by contrast, has a consistent 160-proof (80 percent) limit.

If states generally do not see the need to cap the potency of distilled spirits, it is hard to figure why cannabis, a far less hazardous product, requires such a safeguard. But the legal treatment of marijuana has long been anomalous, and evidently some of that irrationality lingers in the minds of politicians even when they are happy to legalize the industry and reap the resulting tax revenue.

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Coming Out of the Chemical Closet


interview1

Carl Hart is a professor of neuroscience and psychology at Columbia University. He served in the United States Air Force, earned a Ph.D., and raised three children to adulthood. As he writes in his new book: “Each day, I meet my parental, personal, and professional responsibilities. I pay my taxes, serve as a volunteer in my community…and contribute to the global community as an informed and engaged citizen.”

So it may surprise some people to learn that not only has Hart been responsibly using heroin regularly for more than five years but he’s willing to tell people about it. He says his experiences with heroin make him a more forgiving and empathetic person, partner, and father.

Hart’s path to drug use started in Miami in the 1980s—not by taking drugs but by trying to get people off them. When the media blamed crack for unemployment and murder in the community where he grew up, Hart decided to study neurobiology to develop medications to help people with drug addictions. Now he realizes that was naive: The crisis wasn’t really about crack.

In his new book, Drug Use for Grown-Ups: Chasing Liberty in the Land of Fear (Penguin Press), Hart writes about being one of the millions of Americans who use drugs regularly and lead normal lives. “The vast majority of them are middle-class, responsible folks” who are in the chemical closet, he says. Hart hopes to reach these people and those who already know and love them. Perhaps politicians will eventually come along for the trip. But for now, Hart says, President Joe Biden “doesn’t know this issue, doesn’t care about this issue.”

In January, Reason‘s Nick Gillespie spoke with Hart via Zoom about the science of drug use and how the media flub their coverage of addiction and overdose deaths.

Reason: Give me the elevator pitch of your new book.

Hart: Well, the elevator pitch is found in the subtitle: Chasing Liberty in the Land of Fear. What I’m trying to do is ask Americans to think about their own liberty, and not in this jingoistic false patriotic sense, but in terms of what the Declaration of Independence guaranteed: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all of us, as long as we don’t disrupt anybody else’s ability to do the same. That means we get to live our life as we see fit. Taking drugs can be a part of that. It is a part of that for a lot of Americans.

I’m trying to show people that our promise, of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, is inconsistent with our practice, this banning of drugs—drugs that people use in their pursuit of happiness as an expression of their liberty.

You point out in the book that we’re using drugs all the time, whether it’s caffeine, alcohol, or tobacco. Then we have what the government calls illicit drugs. Are there any drugs that you would say are bad that should be banned?

There are some drugs which we try to identify that are toxic. There was a drug called MPTP that we banned in the 1980s because we found out that it destroyed specific brain cells. That’s good to ban those kinds of drugs that no one’s seeking for their effects. Even when people accidentally made MPTP, they were seeking heroin. If heroin was available, nobody would be interested in MPTP. So sure, there are drugs that we learned are so toxic that we have to ban them. But certainly drugs like cocaine, heroin, MDMA [a.k.a. ecstasy], none of those drugs are anywhere near that category.

As you were writing the book, you were in your fifth year of using heroin. That just blows people’s minds, the idea that you could be a heroin user and something other than a homeless person. But define “drug use for grown-ups.” What is a grown-up?

I lay out in the prologue that this book is for grown-ups: people who are responsible, they handle their responsibilities, they are members of their community. This book is not for people who are immature, who are not handling their responsibilities. If they are not handling their responsibilities before drug use, they will be irresponsible after drug use. But what will happen is that people will blame drugs, when in fact drugs had nothing to do with it. You just have an irresponsible person.

You write early on that “it has taken me more than two decades to come out of the closet about my personal drug use.” A question for you: What took so long?

Frankly, what took so long is that I was a coward. I was afraid of the blowback that would occur if I said, “Oh yeah, of course I do a little cocaine, MDMA, heroin.” Having traveled around the world for this book—I went to multiple countries and five continents—one of the things that was clear is that there are millions of people using these drugs, but they’re in the closet. Not only that, the vast majority of them are middle-class, responsible folks. We have this caricatured image of the drug user as being some irresponsible degenerate, which is not the case for most drug users.

Let’s talk about heroin. You come out of the chemical closet not simply as somebody who smokes weed but as a regular heroin user. Heroin conjures up all kinds of alarms for people. They think that if you even talk about heroin too much, you will become addicted to it. Media reports always say it’s like having 10,000 orgasms and you’ll never want to do anything else. So talk about your use of heroin. Isn’t this a dangerous, dangerous substance?

When I talk about my drug use, whether it’s heroin, MDMA, or cocaine, I have to be careful. Because for so long in this country, we have been accustomed to talking about drugs like we were adolescents. We make jokes and so forth. I want to be clear that my heroin use is just like taking time out to go to a club, to see a comedian perform, or to go see a concert. I set aside that time for that activity, and I enjoy that activity in that moment. And when that moment is over, I’m done. I have to go back and do whatever other responsibilities I have. That’s how I want people to understand my heroin use.

People say, “Why do you use heroin?” Why do people do alcohol? To unwind, to relax. The same is true with my heroin use.

I use heroin in part because it’s really good at helping me to be more forgiving of other people—to look at my own behavior and see where I need to modify in order to be a better person. I have to constantly evaluate the impact of my behavior on that of other people, especially people who are subordinate. I don’t want to ever be the source of their anxiety, such that it impacts negatively on their loved ones. I think about all of these things during those times when I use heroin. And so hopefully it helps to make me a better person, because I can forget about some of the petty things that I may have had in my mind. Instead, I learn how to be more forgiving and more magnanimous.

Let’s push this a little bit. You have kids. You have a partner. Does it help with those relationships?

Absolutely. Oftentimes, my drug use is with my partner, and so we have discussions about our kids. Our youngest kid is 20, but we’re just like any other parents. We can be pains in the asses to our children. So how can we be better parents? How can we support them in a more loving way, in a way that is more effective, in a way that is more acceptable, in a way that they find more helpful? All of these things. I think about my parenting and I think about my role as a partner when I’m using.

Have you done drugs with your kids?

No, no, no, no. I haven’t done that.

You don’t want to ruin it for them—because, I mean, would anything be worse than doing drugs with your parents?

It might be, but I’m not going to assume that my kids want to do drugs with me. I recognize that I’m 54. My kids are in their 20s and 30s, and I may be unhip to them. What is considered hip today is not their father, and that’s their thing. I give them their space and they give me mine.

How do you take heroin? And where do you get it? I don’t want you to out your dealer. But how do you get it and how do you consume it?

People oftentimes make this mistake in interviews—they say, “Oh, you shoot heroin?” Because we have connected heroin use with intravenous use only. And not that there’s anything wrong with intravenous use, but I’ve never shot a drug. I understand that many people are seeking to get the immediate, rapid effect by putting a drug in their bloodstream. That’s fine. I do heroin intranasally. There are blood vessels that go to the brain, so it gets there fast enough for me.

I like to have a drug intranasal or orally, because the onset of effects are slightly delayed, but they last longer. I like to pace myself, and I like to time it out so that I am psychoactively altered for a certain amount of time, the time that I like to be altered. But that’s part of knowing pharmacology and being a fan of pharmacology.

We’re in an age now where one of the phrases you hear almost every day is, “We need to follow the science.” Part of what your book does spectacularly well is point out that even among scientists—and this includes a younger, anti-drug version of yourself—science oftentimes pushes the idea that “drugs are bad” and “a drug like heroin automatically leads to addiction.” Where does that come from? Because science is supposed to be impartial. Scientists are supposed to check their biases at the door. Why does that not happen more in discussions of the effects of drugs, much less drug policy?

The first thing we have to recognize is that science and scientists are not the same. When we say science, we’re talking about the data. Follow the data. Follow the evidence. Not the scientists. The scientists are just like Thomas Jefferson, just like me: We’re all flawed and we have our own biases.

The scientists in terms of the war on drugs, their role is that they—and I include myself here—have made out like bandits. As long as we are exaggerating the harmful effects of drugs, that means that there’s more money for grants investigating the harmful effects of drugs. And so we are incentivized to put our hands on the scale in a way that exaggerates the harmful effects associated with drugs. You give somebody an incentive to behave a certain way, guess what? They’re going to behave a certain way.

What do you do with the irresponsible drug users? We have people who drink and who drink problematically. I myself don’t drink anymore because I’m a bad drinker. How do you deal with that 10 percent to 30 percent of people who develop substance abuse issues with a given substance?

In the same way we deal with people who develop problems with alcohol. Actually, I hope we would do a better job. Our treatment in this country is horrible. I’m an expert in this area, and I don’t know where I would send a loved one in this country for drug treatment. I’d probably send them to Switzerland.

It would be nice if we just simply treated the problem. That means that we have to look beyond the drug, because we know the majority of people who use that substance are not addicted. We know that for sure. You have to look at what’s going on in that person’s environment, what’s going on with the person’s biology. Is the person in pain? Physical pain? Emotional pain? Does the person have a co-occurring psychiatric illness? Has the person recently been rendered unemployed or underemployed? What’s going on in a person’s life?

We often don’t do that. Instead, we focus on the drug, and we say, “Yeah, this is what heroin would do to you.” That’s not heroin. That’s the economy doing that to people. But we never say that. We never blame G.M. for all the carnage that we see in some of these communities. It’s much more appetizing to blame heroin.

Joe Biden is president. He is one of the architects of the drug war. When he was a senator, he pushed a lot of drug-prohibitionist legislation. He helped create the drug czar’s office and things like that. He’s also an architect of mass incarceration in the United States. Are you optimistic that he’ll be a good president when it comes to questions about drug legality?

Am I optimistic about Joe Biden being good on drug policy and so forth? Not no, but hell no. Joe Biden, he doesn’t know this issue, doesn’t care about this issue. That’s why my attention is focused on the people. This is a book written for the general population, and the general population will dictate what position the politician takes publicly. As you know, Vice President Kamala Harris advocated for legalizing cannabis nationwide. She didn’t always have that opinion, but she’s like any other smart politician. They understand the mood, and so she’s going with the flow. My goal is to educate the public so that they will bring the politicians along with them. The politicians will follow the public on this.

Compared to 50 years ago, or even 20 years ago, people in America are now using more legal drugs. Everybody’s medicine chest is filled with prescriptions that just weren’t as widespread before. Do you think our cultural comfort level with taking licit substances has a positive effect in prompting people to think, “Maybe if a legal opioid helps me get through some pain, maybe the illegal cognate is not so bad”? What role do you think the expansion of pharmaceuticals in everyday life has had on the drug war and attitudes toward drugs?

I think it has helped with the education of people. People didn’t realize that morphine and heroin are essentially the same drug. Now people understand this a little better.

Or Adderall and amphetamine, right?

Exactly. Adderall, the major ingredient is amphetamine. People understand this now a lot better. I think that’s a good thing in terms of increasing public education around these substances.

One of the ways that we vilify a drug is by linking it to an out-group. It could be blacks and cocaine, Mexicans and marijuana, or youth culture and LSD in the 1960s. You had cases like the Diane Linkletter story, where she was supposedly taking LSD and jumped out a window (which turned out not to be the case). Or Len Bias, the University of Maryland basketball player who was drafted by the Boston Celtics and then died from a cocaine overdose. Could situations like these derail a rethinking of drug prohibition?

Those situations are going to happen. There are going to be people who get in trouble with substances. The real point is that we can’t take that anecdote, that outlier, and let that influence what’s going on with the larger public movement. The whole Len Bias thing—I still don’t know what happened there. We give cocaine in our laboratory here at Columbia, thousands of doses a year, and never have seen these kinds of problems.

The problem is that we don’t really demand a comprehensive autopsy or chemical analysis about what was in the person’s system. We test for a certain number of drugs and that’s it. We don’t know about the adulterants. We don’t know what was going on there. I’ve been trying to really investigate this. I get parents who send me their children’s toxicology [reports] who have died from what was labeled a drug overdose. I look at the levels that they’re talking about as inducing or causing this overdose, and they’re nowhere near the levels that would be expected to produce an overdose—but there it is on the death certificate. I think there might be other compounds there that we don’t know about, or something else is going on.

We read drug scare stories all the time. Somebody dies or some new drug of choice is announced in the press: It’s methamphetamine, then it’s heroin, then it’s a prescription opioid, then it’s marijuana, which is stronger than your father’s marijuana, etc. What are the kinds of things that people who want to be critical readers of drug prohibitionist accounts should be looking for?

Whenever something says, “We have never seen anything like this. This is more addictive than anything we’ve seen,” get ready to be told some bullshit. If you see some story about “one hit, you’re addicted” or “a few hits, you’re addicted,” bullshit. Addiction by definition requires that the person put in work. That means multiple occasions. When people say that this person died from a drug overdose, the question you should ask is, “How many drugs were in the person’s system and what were the levels?”

You’ve lived a patriot’s life. You’re speaking now in the name of liberty for all, and that is a recurring theme with you. You also served in the military. Why did you join the service?

I joined the service originally because I didn’t get a basketball scholarship that I thought I would get. So I thought, “I’ll go to the military, and I’ll complete some college courses there, and that way I can get a degree without having to pay much money for it.” But just like many Americans, I was brought up on those patriotic, jingoistic sort-of phrases. At the core, I want to be a proponent of liberty and justice for all. I really believe in it, because it’s the only thing I really have to believe in.

The world is watching us. All of these countries look at our Declaration of Independence. I understand how fragile this democracy and any democracy is. I really understand it now. That’s why I really hope that people reevaluate what the Declaration of Independence means. It’s such a brilliant document. I wish we taught it at the college level more. It’s wasted on those young people in school. It needs to be taught on Capitol Hill. I don’t think they understand what it means.

A year from now, what do you hope Drug Use for Grown-Ups has accomplished?

I hope that it spurred a conversation in every American home, whether they agree or disagree. I hope it spurred some people to go and read about drugs who otherwise would not have. And once Americans actually read something, once they read this book, they will see, “Hold up. Something’s very wrong. This [drug prohibition regime] is very inconsistent with what our idea of being an American is.” So that’s what I hope. I hope every American household is having this conversation.

This interview has been edited for clarity and style. For a podcast version, subscribe to The Reason Interview With Nick Gillespie.

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Coming Out of the Chemical Closet


interview1

Carl Hart is a professor of neuroscience and psychology at Columbia University. He served in the United States Air Force, earned a Ph.D., and raised three children to adulthood. As he writes in his new book: “Each day, I meet my parental, personal, and professional responsibilities. I pay my taxes, serve as a volunteer in my community…and contribute to the global community as an informed and engaged citizen.”

So it may surprise some people to learn that not only has Hart been responsibly using heroin regularly for more than five years but he’s willing to tell people about it. He says his experiences with heroin make him a more forgiving and empathetic person, partner, and father.

Hart’s path to drug use started in Miami in the 1980s—not by taking drugs but by trying to get people off them. When the media blamed crack for unemployment and murder in the community where he grew up, Hart decided to study neurobiology to develop medications to help people with drug addictions. Now he realizes that was naive: The crisis wasn’t really about crack.

In his new book, Drug Use for Grown-Ups: Chasing Liberty in the Land of Fear (Penguin Press), Hart writes about being one of the millions of Americans who use drugs regularly and lead normal lives. “The vast majority of them are middle-class, responsible folks” who are in the chemical closet, he says. Hart hopes to reach these people and those who already know and love them. Perhaps politicians will eventually come along for the trip. But for now, Hart says, President Joe Biden “doesn’t know this issue, doesn’t care about this issue.”

In January, Reason‘s Nick Gillespie spoke with Hart via Zoom about the science of drug use and how the media flub their coverage of addiction and overdose deaths.

Reason: Give me the elevator pitch of your new book.

Hart: Well, the elevator pitch is found in the subtitle: Chasing Liberty in the Land of Fear. What I’m trying to do is ask Americans to think about their own liberty, and not in this jingoistic false patriotic sense, but in terms of what the Declaration of Independence guaranteed: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all of us, as long as we don’t disrupt anybody else’s ability to do the same. That means we get to live our life as we see fit. Taking drugs can be a part of that. It is a part of that for a lot of Americans.

I’m trying to show people that our promise, of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, is inconsistent with our practice, this banning of drugs—drugs that people use in their pursuit of happiness as an expression of their liberty.

You point out in the book that we’re using drugs all the time, whether it’s caffeine, alcohol, or tobacco. Then we have what the government calls illicit drugs. Are there any drugs that you would say are bad that should be banned?

There are some drugs which we try to identify that are toxic. There was a drug called MPTP that we banned in the 1980s because we found out that it destroyed specific brain cells. That’s good to ban those kinds of drugs that no one’s seeking for their effects. Even when people accidentally made MPTP, they were seeking heroin. If heroin was available, nobody would be interested in MPTP. So sure, there are drugs that we learned are so toxic that we have to ban them. But certainly drugs like cocaine, heroin, MDMA [a.k.a. ecstasy], none of those drugs are anywhere near that category.

As you were writing the book, you were in your fifth year of using heroin. That just blows people’s minds, the idea that you could be a heroin user and something other than a homeless person. But define “drug use for grown-ups.” What is a grown-up?

I lay out in the prologue that this book is for grown-ups: people who are responsible, they handle their responsibilities, they are members of their community. This book is not for people who are immature, who are not handling their responsibilities. If they are not handling their responsibilities before drug use, they will be irresponsible after drug use. But what will happen is that people will blame drugs, when in fact drugs had nothing to do with it. You just have an irresponsible person.

You write early on that “it has taken me more than two decades to come out of the closet about my personal drug use.” A question for you: What took so long?

Frankly, what took so long is that I was a coward. I was afraid of the blowback that would occur if I said, “Oh yeah, of course I do a little cocaine, MDMA, heroin.” Having traveled around the world for this book—I went to multiple countries and five continents—one of the things that was clear is that there are millions of people using these drugs, but they’re in the closet. Not only that, the vast majority of them are middle-class, responsible folks. We have this caricatured image of the drug user as being some irresponsible degenerate, which is not the case for most drug users.

Let’s talk about heroin. You come out of the chemical closet not simply as somebody who smokes weed but as a regular heroin user. Heroin conjures up all kinds of alarms for people. They think that if you even talk about heroin too much, you will become addicted to it. Media reports always say it’s like having 10,000 orgasms and you’ll never want to do anything else. So talk about your use of heroin. Isn’t this a dangerous, dangerous substance?

When I talk about my drug use, whether it’s heroin, MDMA, or cocaine, I have to be careful. Because for so long in this country, we have been accustomed to talking about drugs like we were adolescents. We make jokes and so forth. I want to be clear that my heroin use is just like taking time out to go to a club, to see a comedian perform, or to go see a concert. I set aside that time for that activity, and I enjoy that activity in that moment. And when that moment is over, I’m done. I have to go back and do whatever other responsibilities I have. That’s how I want people to understand my heroin use.

People say, “Why do you use heroin?” Why do people do alcohol? To unwind, to relax. The same is true with my heroin use.

I use heroin in part because it’s really good at helping me to be more forgiving of other people—to look at my own behavior and see where I need to modify in order to be a better person. I have to constantly evaluate the impact of my behavior on that of other people, especially people who are subordinate. I don’t want to ever be the source of their anxiety, such that it impacts negatively on their loved ones. I think about all of these things during those times when I use heroin. And so hopefully it helps to make me a better person, because I can forget about some of the petty things that I may have had in my mind. Instead, I learn how to be more forgiving and more magnanimous.

Let’s push this a little bit. You have kids. You have a partner. Does it help with those relationships?

Absolutely. Oftentimes, my drug use is with my partner, and so we have discussions about our kids. Our youngest kid is 20, but we’re just like any other parents. We can be pains in the asses to our children. So how can we be better parents? How can we support them in a more loving way, in a way that is more effective, in a way that is more acceptable, in a way that they find more helpful? All of these things. I think about my parenting and I think about my role as a partner when I’m using.

Have you done drugs with your kids?

No, no, no, no. I haven’t done that.

You don’t want to ruin it for them—because, I mean, would anything be worse than doing drugs with your parents?

It might be, but I’m not going to assume that my kids want to do drugs with me. I recognize that I’m 54. My kids are in their 20s and 30s, and I may be unhip to them. What is considered hip today is not their father, and that’s their thing. I give them their space and they give me mine.

How do you take heroin? And where do you get it? I don’t want you to out your dealer. But how do you get it and how do you consume it?

People oftentimes make this mistake in interviews—they say, “Oh, you shoot heroin?” Because we have connected heroin use with intravenous use only. And not that there’s anything wrong with intravenous use, but I’ve never shot a drug. I understand that many people are seeking to get the immediate, rapid effect by putting a drug in their bloodstream. That’s fine. I do heroin intranasally. There are blood vessels that go to the brain, so it gets there fast enough for me.

I like to have a drug intranasal or orally, because the onset of effects are slightly delayed, but they last longer. I like to pace myself, and I like to time it out so that I am psychoactively altered for a certain amount of time, the time that I like to be altered. But that’s part of knowing pharmacology and being a fan of pharmacology.

We’re in an age now where one of the phrases you hear almost every day is, “We need to follow the science.” Part of what your book does spectacularly well is point out that even among scientists—and this includes a younger, anti-drug version of yourself—science oftentimes pushes the idea that “drugs are bad” and “a drug like heroin automatically leads to addiction.” Where does that come from? Because science is supposed to be impartial. Scientists are supposed to check their biases at the door. Why does that not happen more in discussions of the effects of drugs, much less drug policy?

The first thing we have to recognize is that science and scientists are not the same. When we say science, we’re talking about the data. Follow the data. Follow the evidence. Not the scientists. The scientists are just like Thomas Jefferson, just like me: We’re all flawed and we have our own biases.

The scientists in terms of the war on drugs, their role is that they—and I include myself here—have made out like bandits. As long as we are exaggerating the harmful effects of drugs, that means that there’s more money for grants investigating the harmful effects of drugs. And so we are incentivized to put our hands on the scale in a way that exaggerates the harmful effects associated with drugs. You give somebody an incentive to behave a certain way, guess what? They’re going to behave a certain way.

What do you do with the irresponsible drug users? We have people who drink and who drink problematically. I myself don’t drink anymore because I’m a bad drinker. How do you deal with that 10 percent to 30 percent of people who develop substance abuse issues with a given substance?

In the same way we deal with people who develop problems with alcohol. Actually, I hope we would do a better job. Our treatment in this country is horrible. I’m an expert in this area, and I don’t know where I would send a loved one in this country for drug treatment. I’d probably send them to Switzerland.

It would be nice if we just simply treated the problem. That means that we have to look beyond the drug, because we know the majority of people who use that substance are not addicted. We know that for sure. You have to look at what’s going on in that person’s environment, what’s going on with the person’s biology. Is the person in pain? Physical pain? Emotional pain? Does the person have a co-occurring psychiatric illness? Has the person recently been rendered unemployed or underemployed? What’s going on in a person’s life?

We often don’t do that. Instead, we focus on the drug, and we say, “Yeah, this is what heroin would do to you.” That’s not heroin. That’s the economy doing that to people. But we never say that. We never blame G.M. for all the carnage that we see in some of these communities. It’s much more appetizing to blame heroin.

Joe Biden is president. He is one of the architects of the drug war. When he was a senator, he pushed a lot of drug-prohibitionist legislation. He helped create the drug czar’s office and things like that. He’s also an architect of mass incarceration in the United States. Are you optimistic that he’ll be a good president when it comes to questions about drug legality?

Am I optimistic about Joe Biden being good on drug policy and so forth? Not no, but hell no. Joe Biden, he doesn’t know this issue, doesn’t care about this issue. That’s why my attention is focused on the people. This is a book written for the general population, and the general population will dictate what position the politician takes publicly. As you know, Vice President Kamala Harris advocated for legalizing cannabis nationwide. She didn’t always have that opinion, but she’s like any other smart politician. They understand the mood, and so she’s going with the flow. My goal is to educate the public so that they will bring the politicians along with them. The politicians will follow the public on this.

Compared to 50 years ago, or even 20 years ago, people in America are now using more legal drugs. Everybody’s medicine chest is filled with prescriptions that just weren’t as widespread before. Do you think our cultural comfort level with taking licit substances has a positive effect in prompting people to think, “Maybe if a legal opioid helps me get through some pain, maybe the illegal cognate is not so bad”? What role do you think the expansion of pharmaceuticals in everyday life has had on the drug war and attitudes toward drugs?

I think it has helped with the education of people. People didn’t realize that morphine and heroin are essentially the same drug. Now people understand this a little better.

Or Adderall and amphetamine, right?

Exactly. Adderall, the major ingredient is amphetamine. People understand this now a lot better. I think that’s a good thing in terms of increasing public education around these substances.

One of the ways that we vilify a drug is by linking it to an out-group. It could be blacks and cocaine, Mexicans and marijuana, or youth culture and LSD in the 1960s. You had cases like the Diane Linkletter story, where she was supposedly taking LSD and jumped out a window (which turned out not to be the case). Or Len Bias, the University of Maryland basketball player who was drafted by the Boston Celtics and then died from a cocaine overdose. Could situations like these derail a rethinking of drug prohibition?

Those situations are going to happen. There are going to be people who get in trouble with substances. The real point is that we can’t take that anecdote, that outlier, and let that influence what’s going on with the larger public movement. The whole Len Bias thing—I still don’t know what happened there. We give cocaine in our laboratory here at Columbia, thousands of doses a year, and never have seen these kinds of problems.

The problem is that we don’t really demand a comprehensive autopsy or chemical analysis about what was in the person’s system. We test for a certain number of drugs and that’s it. We don’t know about the adulterants. We don’t know what was going on there. I’ve been trying to really investigate this. I get parents who send me their children’s toxicology [reports] who have died from what was labeled a drug overdose. I look at the levels that they’re talking about as inducing or causing this overdose, and they’re nowhere near the levels that would be expected to produce an overdose—but there it is on the death certificate. I think there might be other compounds there that we don’t know about, or something else is going on.

We read drug scare stories all the time. Somebody dies or some new drug of choice is announced in the press: It’s methamphetamine, then it’s heroin, then it’s a prescription opioid, then it’s marijuana, which is stronger than your father’s marijuana, etc. What are the kinds of things that people who want to be critical readers of drug prohibitionist accounts should be looking for?

Whenever something says, “We have never seen anything like this. This is more addictive than anything we’ve seen,” get ready to be told some bullshit. If you see some story about “one hit, you’re addicted” or “a few hits, you’re addicted,” bullshit. Addiction by definition requires that the person put in work. That means multiple occasions. When people say that this person died from a drug overdose, the question you should ask is, “How many drugs were in the person’s system and what were the levels?”

You’ve lived a patriot’s life. You’re speaking now in the name of liberty for all, and that is a recurring theme with you. You also served in the military. Why did you join the service?

I joined the service originally because I didn’t get a basketball scholarship that I thought I would get. So I thought, “I’ll go to the military, and I’ll complete some college courses there, and that way I can get a degree without having to pay much money for it.” But just like many Americans, I was brought up on those patriotic, jingoistic sort-of phrases. At the core, I want to be a proponent of liberty and justice for all. I really believe in it, because it’s the only thing I really have to believe in.

The world is watching us. All of these countries look at our Declaration of Independence. I understand how fragile this democracy and any democracy is. I really understand it now. That’s why I really hope that people reevaluate what the Declaration of Independence means. It’s such a brilliant document. I wish we taught it at the college level more. It’s wasted on those young people in school. It needs to be taught on Capitol Hill. I don’t think they understand what it means.

A year from now, what do you hope Drug Use for Grown-Ups has accomplished?

I hope that it spurred a conversation in every American home, whether they agree or disagree. I hope it spurred some people to go and read about drugs who otherwise would not have. And once Americans actually read something, once they read this book, they will see, “Hold up. Something’s very wrong. This [drug prohibition regime] is very inconsistent with what our idea of being an American is.” So that’s what I hope. I hope every American household is having this conversation.

This interview has been edited for clarity and style. For a podcast version, subscribe to The Reason Interview With Nick Gillespie.

from Latest – Reason.com https://ift.tt/3syB583
via IFTTT