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

I've got a new column up at Time.com. 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 “the disease of alcoholism,” which he says led him to make really bad decisions. And alcohol, after all, is perfectly legal.

Read more.

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  • sarcasmic||

    Alcohol is the gateway to cocaine! Ban it! We must ban it for the children!

  • Libertymike||

    The prohibitionist pontificates!

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    Yeah, I used to like coke and meth because you could really power drink when you were high. Now, I'm just a mellow guy who likes a drink or three.

  • Libertymike||

    What's wrong with a brew and blueberry diesel combo? Its great while driving.

  • sarcasmic||

    I used to do a line or two before hitting the bars on the weekend. Now I wonder how I could afford it, though my income has quadrupled. Then again I didn't have a car, student loans, cable, internet, cell phone, mortgage, wife, kid, pets...

  • Libertymike||

    Even though offered on several occasions, including one instance by a bodacious babe, I never even tried blow.

    The high I get from smoking a few hits of good weed combined with say, two or three beers, is better than the buzz from straight alcohol and different, though not necessarily better, than the high from just weed.

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    Nothing is wrong with casual coke use - but the GOP House is not punishing him.

    Anthony Weiner must feel like switching parties today.

  • sarcasmic||

    *cough* *cough* *squirt*

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    Get some Depends.

  • Libertymike||

    You have to admit that sarc is not a republican in libertarian camouflage. If you can just admit that, then, just maybe, you will have earned some badly needed credibility.

  • misthiocracy||

    As long as cocaine possession is a criminal offense, elected officials should not be given a free pass when they are caught using the stuff.

    When kids can get long prison sentences for simple possession of small quantities of cocaine, it is high hypocrisy for elected officials to not receive the same harsh judicial treatment.

    If elected officials believe that casual cocaine use is "no big deal" then they should CHANGE THE LAW so that it applies equally to all Americans, not just privileged elected officials.

  • John C. Randolph||

    He shouldn't be in trouble for being a cokehead. He should be behind bars for multiple counts of egregious hypocrisy.

    -jcr

  • BakedPenguin||

    He introduced a bill to lower minimum penalties for drug possession.

  • ||

    He's still apparently okay with putting people in jail for it though.

  • Faceless Commenter||

    He supported legislation forcing food stamp recipients to pass a drug test before receiving taxpayer-funded benefits.

    Isn't that what he receives?

  • sarcasmic||

    When kids can get long prison sentences for simple possession of small quantities of cocaine, it is high hypocrisy for elected officials to not receive the same harsh judicial treatment.

    People who can afford decent defense attorneys don't get harsh sentences compared with people who get stuck with public pretenders. Public office has little to do with it.

  • Aresen||

    "Public office has little to do with it."

    What color is the sky on your planet?

    If Sacha Obama gets caught with 20 kilos of coke after BHO leaves office, do you think she will do more than "community service?"

  • np||

    Regarding Trey Radel, he was already punished with a misdemeanor where he was caught in D.C. It would have been a felony in Florida.

    Now whether or not he would've gotten or been able to bargain for reduced punishment is a different question. The problem is also that discretion in enforcement and in punishment is also part of the law. This is why nearly all criminal cases are plea bargained.

    Although I suppose if we change the law to have zero tolerance in everything, if we actually started down the list of laws to execute on 3-felonies-a-day, then that would probably be a very effective way of changing them.

  • Jquip||

    I don't know which American you're referring to. As in the United States of America, it's all about writing in caste based exemptions to crimes. So if they forgot to do it with some dark corner, like sniffing coke off an underage Thaiboi, then it's quite certainly outside the spirit of the law to expect that it applies to the King's men.

  • misthiocracy||

    Regarding Rob Ford: For me personally, I don't really care if he smoked crack, per se.

    HOWEVER, the police department of Toronto is accountable (to some degree anyway) to the mayor.

    It is a massive conflict of interest for the mayor of Toronto to associate with known criminals and to purchase illegal substances while also being in an oversight position of the police department.

  • Lord Humungus||

    What's so bad about feeling good?

  • misthiocracy||

    Regarding Rob Ford: For me personally, I don't really care if he smoked crack, per se.

    HOWEVER, the police department of Toronto is accountable (to some degree anyway) to the mayor.

    It is a massive conflict of interest for the mayor of Toronto to associate with known criminals and to purchase illegal substances while also being in an oversight position of the police department.

    Maybe casual cocaine use shouldn't be a criminal offense, but in Canada the criminal code is written at the federal level. A mayor does not get to decide that some laws do not apply to him.

  • Tonio||

    The server squirrels claim another N00b.

  • sarcasmic||

    Three o'clock. Right on time.

  • Invisible Finger||

    I prefer the opposite approach: since the mayor of Toronto did crack, crack is therefore legal in Toronto for at least the remainder of his term.

  • misthiocracy||

    Sorry for the double-post. Computer glitch.

  • Tonio||

    Server squirrels, misthi. They strike every day at 3:00 PM ET, and they eat or delay posts. Consider if the first step in your long road to full commentatorer. Many are called, few are chosen.

  • misthiocracy||

    Why doesn't the government DO something about this?!

  • ||

    I fully expect him to come out of rehab totally 'cured' and he will then attempt to make a comeback as a drug prohibitionist that wants to protect the children from making his mistakes.

  • Tonio||

    That is the standard script.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    I would say he's getting what he deserves based on his party affiliation, but the GOP doesn't hold a monopoly on waging the War on Drug Users. They all need to get busted for any of the illegal (but victimless) crap they do.

  • Tonio||

    No, if he were getting what he deserved he'd get the federal mandatory minimum sentence. No special treatment.

  • Acosmist||

    A market evenly divided between Red and Blue does, indeed, not seem to be a monopoly.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    Trey Radel for Congress - he gets drugs off the street and up his nose!

    Vote Radel - I'm on drugs, what's my opponent's excuse?

    Vote Radel - I snorted the entire baggie and I *still* am not high enough to think Obamacare is a good idea!

  • AlmightyJB||

    All drugs should be legal and sold OTC.

  • ||

    Hear, hear.

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