Drug Policy

Crystal Smear

Meth joke backlash

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CITY PAGES, an alternative weekly serving St. Paul and Minneapolis, is known for its satiric bite, and the paper's annual "Best of the Twin Cities" issue always includes a joke entry among the actual raves and reviews. That doesn't ordinarily provoke an uproar, but it did when the paper took a knock at the war on drugs.

The problem was the award for "Best Cheap Thrill," an honor the editors gave to crystal meth. The blurb described the real damage done by meth, but it also mocked the "blizzard of scare stories in the media" about the drug. "It would have been best had meth not been invented," it read. "But remember this as well: In terms of overall social harm, meth still pales in comparison to the perfectly legal (and very lethal) drug of choice for most Minnesotans, alcohol."

The presses were still hot when the attacks starting coming. One Twin Cities call-in show called the state's Health Department for comment, and one of its employees slammed City Pages on the air. Rep. Mark Kennedy, a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate who inserted revisions into the PATRIOT Act that increased penalties for meth making, sprinted to his fax machine. "Comparing the harrowing experience of meth addiction to a cheap thrill is an unconscionable act," he declared.

City Pages Editor Steve Perry initially argued that "the point of the item was that it's possible to make entirely too much of the drug hype of the hour." But a torrent of angry letters and media requests convinced Perry to apologize for "the pain it clearly caused many readers." Minnesota is safe, once again, from satire.