I agree wholeheartedly with Nick Gillespie's editorial on Traffic ("The Thirteenth Step," March) but would add one additional point. Most liberal-minded folks agree that the drug war has been a colossal failure. Nevertheless, these same people still think that "something" needs to be done about drugs. For liberals, this "something" is stepping up emphasis on treatment, instead of incarceration.
I regard Traffic as propaganda for this view. The viewer walks away from the theater with the impression that the only approach that "works" is treatment, especially 12-step programming, which was working for Michael Douglas' daughter in the film. Never mind the statistics showing that treatment doesn't have any better a track record than the criminal approach. Drug use or abuse is largely a self-contained problem. Most people outgrow it on their own, and are not harmed by using drugs, including "hard" drugs like meth, coke, LSD, and heroin. Meanwhile, forcing young people into abusive mind-control "treatment" -- Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, etc. -- will harm a lot of people.
Sioux Falls, SD
If everybody involved in the drug war debate studied the history of drug use in the United States, they would quickly discover that there was never any valid reason to outlaw drugs in the first place.
No one was robbing, whoring, and murdering over drugs when addicts could buy all the heroin, cocaine, morphine, opium, and anything else they wanted cheaply and legally at the corner pharmacy. When drugs were legal, addicts held regular employment, raised decent families, and were indistinguishable from their teetotaler neighbors. Overdoses were virtually unheard of when addicts bought cheap, pure Bayer Heroin instead of the expensive toxic potions prohibition put on the streets. (See the Consumers Union Report on Licit and Illicit Drugs at www.druglibrary.org/schaffer/library/studies/cu/cumenu.htm.)
Drug crime was once unheard of. Now we have prisons overflowing with drug users. The addiction rate is five times greater than when we had no drug laws at all. These are the consequences of a lunatic drug prohibition policy, not drug use.
Once we clearly understand that our preposterous drug crusade causes all of our "drug problems," the wisdom of legalization becomes apparent. Whatever problems remain will be much easier to deal with than the chaos we have now.
San Francisco, CA
While agreeing with Nick Gillespie's critical assessment of the drug war, I experienced a strong visceral reaction while reading it. He goes beyond defending the right to choose intoxication, to outright championing of the intoxicated state itself. He reveals himself as an apologist for stupefaction. I find this at odds with REASON's masthead, which promotes "free minds and free markets," not bad choices. I believe that we are called to a life of virtue and that the value of reason is to help sort through all the noise that inhibits virtuous decisions. If reasoned thinking does not have this practical application, then it is just so much mental masturbation.
Such thinking is not an easy endeavor, and it requires a disciplined commitment to intellectual awareness. As a child of the '60s, I have observed that substance-induced intoxication does not enhance one's mental acuity. In fact, it invariably dulls the senses, leading to a state of "comfortable numbness." As Roger Waters of Pink Floyd passionately pleads, "This is not how I am." Our basic being is obscured, not revealed, by intoxication. Further, connecting to reality in receding waves of awareness is the antithesis of reason. Maybe we can tolerate this mind-altered state in an editor-in-chief, but I doubt if anyone would encourage it in more critical citizens, such as doctors, airline pilots, judges, teachers, and parents.
The public is so conditioned -- even brainwashed -- that it cannot distinguish the danger of a drug's illegality from the danger of a drug's pharmacology. This is the hand the film producer is dealt. If he wants to be taken seriously, he cannot deviate far from that center. Steven Soderberg took a small but necessary step toward educating the public and regaining sanity. Next year, maybe another step.
Palm Harbor, FL
As a recovering addict, I am incapable of understanding Nick Gillespie's assertion that there is such a thing as recreational drug use. Most people in my position can never comprehend how a social drinker can have just one glass of wine -- it just doesn't compute. But I do agree that the current approach to fighting drug use is misguided and largely unsuccessful. I do not support legalization, but rather a redirection of forces and resources.