Thursday, June 20, 2013

The War on Drugs Is Worse Than NSA Spying

The War on Drugs Is Worse Than NSA Spying:
As Americans obsess over NSA spying, abuse by the IRS and other
assaults on our freedom, I can't get my mind off the thousand other
ways politicians abuse us.
In their arrogance, they assume that only they solve social
problems. They will solve them by banning this and that,
subsidizing groups they deem worthy and setting up massive
bureaucracies with a mandate to cure, treat and rescue wayward
souls.
Their programs fail, and so they pass new laws to address the
failures. It's one reason that 22 million people now work for
government.
Some of the things they do seem like bigger assaults on our
freedom than NSA spying, although we've become accustomed to the
older abuses.
Take the drug war.
It's true that some Americans destroy their lives and their
families' lives by using drugs. Others struggle with addiction. But
if illegal drugs are as horrible and addictive as we've been told,
how come the government's own statistics say millions try those
drugs but only a small percentage continue using?
Ninety-five percent of those who have tried what we think of as
"hard drugs" report not using the substances in the past month.
Columbia University psychology professor Dr. Carl Hart, author
of "High Price: A Neuroscientist's Journey of Self-Discovery," says
"hard" drugs are not as dangerous as the media make them out to be.
For 15 years, he's studied the effects of marijuana,
methamphetamine, crack cocaine and more on users.
"The data simply shows that the vast majority of people who use
these drugs don't go on to become addicted," he said on my show.
"In fact, some of these people go on to become president."
He means Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama. "All those guys
used illegal drugs at some point."
Society has grown more accepting of marijuana, but many people
believe crack and meth are far more dangerous and addictive, and
that they quickly lead to violent criminal behavior.
"The same thing was said about marijuana in the 1930s," Hart
cautions. "People said you use this drug, you go on to commit
murder, you go on to use heroin." New drugs always frighten the
authorities.
When the panic over meth passes, we may look back on it with
amusement, much the way people now look back on the anti-marijuana
propaganda film "Reefer Madness."
"That was allowed to happen because few people actually used
marijuana," says Hart. The unknown is scarier than the familiar --
like beer.
To learn what drugs really do, Hart advertises for drug users on
Craigslist, and then, with government approval, he gives users
drugs at his lab at Columbia. He's discovered that drug users'
brains react in similar ways to the brains of alcohol
consumers.
"The vast majority of people who use drugs like cocaine use it
on weekends, monthly or every six months," says Hart. "Most hold
jobs. Pay taxes. They do those things, in a similar way that we use
drugs like alcohol."
Government's anti-drug crusaders think they protect kids by
hyping the threat, but Hart says they actually make it harder for
people like him to educate the public about real dangers. After the
hype over marijuana, young people no longer trust warnings about
other drugs.
Finally, he adds, politicians' futile war kills more people than
the forbidden substances themselves.
The gangs of today, like the Crips and the Bloods, are motivated
by the absurd profits created when legitimate businesses aren't
allowed to sell something -- just as Al Capone's empire and the
violence of his turf wars were created by forbidding mainstream
businesses to sell alcohol.
In fact, Hart says, the drug war
is worse than Prohibition. It costs more, has
lasted longer and doesn't just kill people in the U.S.: From
Afghanistan to Colombia, American helicopters try to destroy drug
crops. Foreigners gain one more reason to hate Yankees.
Arrogant and ignorant politicians do more harm than the social
problems themselves.