Philip Seymour Hoffman's Death Is Government's Fault, Says Congressman

cTm Designs / Foter / CC BY-NC-NDcTm Designs / Foter / CC BY-NC-NDWhat killed Philip Seymour Hoffman? During a congressional hearing yesterday, Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) suggested that it wasn't just heroin. Another factor was complicit in the death of the 46-year-old actor: the federal government's war on drugs.

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform convened to discuss the Obama Administration's marijuana policy. Cohen asserted:

It is ludicrous, absurd, crazy, to have marijuana on the same level as heroin. Ask the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, if you could. Nobody dies from marijuana. People die from heroin. And, every second that we spend in this country trying to enforce marijuana laws is a second that we're not enforcing heroin laws... Every death, including Mr. Hoffman's, is partly the responsibility of the federal government's drug priorities for not putting total emphasis on the drugs that kill.

The representative also criticized Republicans for being “schizophrenic” in their calls for limited government while simultaneously approving of federal meddling in state legalization efforts as well as a prison system bloated by the costs of the drug war.

Though, one could say that Cohen, who understands the relative harmlessness of marijuana and the futility of trying to stop people from consuming it, is schizophrenic for not following through with this line of logic when considering other substances.

Why not give up on the laws that keep it listed as a Schedule I drug as well?

As Reason's Jacob Sullum and Matthew Feeney have explained, prohibition actually makes heroin more dangerous. The drug war ensures that users have to rely on the opaque black market, where the risk of buying contaminated and potentially deadly products increases. This isn't just a libertarian position, though.

Dr. Stanton Peele points out, pure, unadulterated heroin is not particularly dangerous. Likewise, studies have confirmed, it is a safer and cheaper alternative to government-approved methadone. 

“Our drug policy of prohibition and interdiction makes it difficult and dangerous for people like Hoffman to get high, but not impossible — and it makes these tragic overdose deaths more common than they have to be,” argues Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post and MSNBC.

Few politicians would outright say, “legalize heroin.” The majority of Americans believe that recreational marijuana should be legal, but they remain wary of ending the prohibition of harder drugs. Perhaps, as Cohen advocates, government should put as much focus on heroin as it has on marijuana. Then people would see that the drug war fails regardless of the substance.

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  • GILMORE||

    "What killed Philip Seymour Hoffman?"

    DEATH

  • GILMORE||

  • ||

  • GILMORE||

    Somewhere in the universe there's some idiot who thinks

    'Hawkwind was better'

    THAT PERSON WILL ALSO BE KILLED BY DEATH

  • ||

    Hawkwind was better...with Lemmy still in it.

  • Killaz||

    Ladyhawke was better. Though the accompanying soundtrack is awful and terribly mixed.

  • Square||

    Ladyhawke is my go-to example of an otherwise great movie that is completely destroyed by its awful soundtrack.

  • Archduke von Pantsfan||

    What's the count?

  • Hugh Akston||

    Guys, PSH's death was PSH's fault. Nobody else. He was a big boy. He knew the risks of using heroin and he proceeded anyway. Let's all of us take a step back and stop trying to dress his corpse up as a political prop.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    It's no fun blaming the dead guy.

  • ||

    You're right. I'm sure everyone will cool down and this will be treated with the restraint and class that Newtown was treated with.

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    stop trying to dress his corpse up

    Stop being a party pooper.

  • kinnath||

    Weekend at Philip's

  • CampingInYourPark||

    I read somewhere that there were 5 empty bags at the scene. Maybe he just took himself out?

  • GILMORE||

    And then there were the 50-70 other bags of unused heroin on the side.

    Which I'm sure he purchased so he could be embalmed with the stuff. Who says you can't take it with you?!

  • CampingInYourPark||

    Because a junkie would never decide to off himself with that much heroin left, right?

  • Square||

    That was my thought, too - the guy was found with a needle actually sticking out of his arm. This was an experienced heroin user who bought enough heroin to kill a herd of elephants and then kept shooting up until he was too wasted to get the needle out of his arm before he passed out.

    That, to me, sounds like suicide.

  • GILMORE||

    "Every death, including Mr. Hoffman's, is partly the responsibility of the federal government's drug priorities for not putting total emphasis on the drugs that kill."

    And here we see the natural evolution of the statist when addressing the enormity of the failure of their own policies =

    The problem isn't the policy - the problem is lack of FOCUS.

    No, its not the Drug War itself.... its the priorities. The budget for 'heroin'? Not enough. Money was spent, but that money should have gone to stopping X instead of X and Y and Z... WHERE OH WHERE ARE THE TOP MEN??

    Its ne

  • sarcasmic||

    prohibition actually makes heroin more dangerous

    Feature, not a bug. Using drugs is as morally reprehensible as murder or rape. Drug users are better off dead.

  • ||

    I for one have had it up to here with all this Death and someone should do something about it.

  • kinnath||

    Susan is not any easier to negotiate with.

  • wareagle||

    right...because he would be alive if heroin were only legal. Jesus fucking Christ on a biscuit, these political hacks and their belief that all actions stems from or is somehow related to govt action. No, no, no, fucking no.

    Hoffman stuck a needle in his arm; there was no bureaucrat involved in any part of that. And someone using heroin is not likely to turn to weed over legalities.

  • kinnath||

    PSH chose to inject a mind-altering substance into his veins and paid the price for screwing that up.

    Yet, if pharmaceutical grade substances with similar characteristics had been readily available in the commercial marketplace, the odds that he would have accidentally killed himself would have been reduced by at least a couple of orders of magnitude.

    The war on drugs puts risk-takers at higher probabilities of having catastrophic outcomes than they would be if the war on drugs did not exist.

    Many drug warriors are pleased that negative outcomes happen to those risk-takers that break the rules. That makes them evil fucks.

  • wareagle||

    you may well be neglecting that the illegality was part of the lure for him. This is a grown man who was well aware of his own weakness for certain things but he chose to indulge it anyway.

    I have no quarrel with legalization and Hoffman's death in itself does not make me happy, but damn, we're supposed to be about free individuals making decisions for themselves around here.

  • kinnath||

    three felonies a day . . .

  • Square||

    As I mentioned above, my personal gut says this particular case was suicide-by-favorite-deadly-narcotic, which no amount of legalization could prevent.

    On the other hand, yes prohibition absolutely leads to needless deaths.

    A good solid heroin overdose takes about four hours to kill you. Plenty of time to get to a hospital, as long as you're not alone.

    If you're not alone, however, and were in fact in someone else's house, that person can be held criminally responsible for murder as one of many "get tough on drugs" measures that have been passed over the years, not to mention their property can be confiscated, etc.

    I worked with a guy years ago whose brother OD'd on heroin at a party, and the guy whose apartment it was threw him out the window so as not to get caught. He died from the fall.

  • kinnath||

    If you're not alone, however, and were in fact in someone else's house, that person can be held criminally responsible for murder as one of many "get tough on drugs"

    A cynic might argue that laws are specifically intended to increase the odds of catastrophic outcomes for those people the refuse to conform "society's" norms.

  • kinnath||

    As I mentioned above, my personal gut says this particular case was suicide-by-favorite-deadly-narcotic,

    I think it is as simple as depression crossed with wealth -- self-destructive behavior isn't always intentional.

  • CE||

    We ought to outlaw throwing people out the window then.

  • Yet another Kevin||

    Let's form a committee to study this problem.

    For instance, repeat offenders. If you throw yourself out the window once, are you likely to do it again? Should we encourage people to start from lower windows? Or should we focus on prevention instead? What type of window has the most defenestrators: casement, double-hung or French windows? Should we encourage liberals to toss themselves out or is this considered improper?

    Not enough money is spent on this problem and frankly I want some.

  • Gahan||

    But in a sense, didn't we all kill Phillip Seymour Hoffman? Didn't we?

  • Almanian!||

    +1 dead actor

  • Yet another Kevin||

    We didn't kill PSH. Society did.

    I don't consider myself part of any fit society. My wife says I'm a typical libertarian.

  • CE||

    Well, he's right, but for the wrong reason. Outlawing any drug drives it underground, putting it in the province of gangs and cartels, instead of peaceful enterprises. The artificial absence of legality means there is no redress in the courts for bad product quality that kills consumers. Make them all legal, watch drug use drop, and watch it become much safer, and the overall violent crime rate go down.

  • Paul Pot||

    The drug war does nothing to stop people getting drugs for recreational purposes but it does stop those drugs from getting to the people who really need them for medical purposes.
    The economics of the drug war forces concentrates on the world and makes the natural, original forms impossible to find.
    It is very difficult to OD from smoking opium.
    In the opium dens of old, the staff were on hand to keep an eye on the customers.
    In Cambodia there was a travellers hostel with public signs that said 'please don't do drugs in your room. Do them in the public lounge so we can keep an eye on you'.
    The unwritten line being 'because people die in their rooms where we can't see them'.
    The drug war forced stigma and therefore secrecy and danger onto the community by denying people support when they were in need.
    The drug war kills people in their most vulnerable state.
    Time to end the callous, failed drug war.

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