Who We Are and Why We Fight: "People Who Do Drugs, and People Who Don't, Will End the War on Drugs"
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Whether we like it or not, our children and our grandchildren are going live in world with far more psychoactive drugs than we have today. We are going to have Prozac generation 12 and Viagra generation 4 and Ritalin generation 23 and maybe little combinations of all of them, right? We can choose for our own selves to be pharmacological Ludites and abstain from all these things, but w cannot mandate the the government require all of us to abstain from all these things or else we are replicating and continuing the War on Drugs into the future with a new threat. We have to understand that when we fight against the War on Drugs, we have to be clear about our principles and not, all of a sudden, be caught by surprise when something comes out of nowhere and abandon our core principles and apply the same horrific values of the War on Drugs to this new threat.
Sometimes I think about what happened to the inner-cities in America in the 1980s, when crack cocaine came along, right? The crack craze and the fear of the people who were poor and black and oppressed, and they saw this stuff coming. And what did they do? The leaders -- the Jesse Jacksons, the Charlie Rangels, the church leaders, but even the average people -- what did they do? They said we need more treatment. Yeah, we need more treatment. We need more investment in our communities. But you know what else we need? We need more police. We’ve got to arrest those people selling those drugs. We’ve got to arrest those people using those drugs. Even if they are us, we have to do that. They called for more law enforcement and prisons. And what happened was an unprecedented incarceration of people of color in our society that made incarceration rates in South Africa look petty in comparison; that the War on Drugs makes incarceration rates of the Soviet Gulags in the 30s, 40s, and 50s look petty in comparison. We built prisons to house millions of Americans, mostly people of color. We shifted from inner-cities to upstate. The largest housing program in America became, not building housing for families in the inner-cities, but building upstate prisons, and employing undereducated white prison guards to guard undereducated black convicts. The lesson of that is, it is always a mistake to call in our oppressors to save ourselves from ourselves. It is always a mistake to call in our oppressors to save ourselves from ourselves.
Why are we here? I know some of you may disagree. Some of you say, “Let’s legalize everything.” And some of may say, “Legalize nothing. Let’s just treat addiction as a health issue.” The way I see it, we’re just trying to move the public consciousness and public policy down the spectrum. We are trying to move it down the spectrum from this side of the War on Drugs in Singapore, Malaysia, China, Indonesia and the standard American policy of locking up and drug tests and torture over here, down this end. Now what’s down in this end? Well, at the far end, of course, is the free market. It is Milton Friedman’s wet dream. It is the way of dealing with drugs and, you know, true freedom. But where the debates need to move, where the policies need to move, is down this spectrum. I look forward to the day when the most vicious fights -- the ones that are most consequential for drug policy in America -- are the ones that happen among ourselves, when we are fighting at this part of the spectrum, between those who are saying make it all legal except for K2 and those that are saying harm reduction, harm reduction, harm reduction, we can’t let go of all prohibitionist controls, too many addictions to officially decriminalize, but do not allow the Marlboro-ization or the Budweiser-ization of drugs in America. Those are the fights we need to have. Those are the fights we know, based on all the science, the evidence, that history suggests, that the best drug policies are the ones that lay at this end of the spectrum.