Drug Policy

What Makes Al Gore III Special

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Al Gore III's arrest last week for pot and pill possession prompted a sharp Kathleen Parker column advocating marijuana legalization and a Chicago Sun-Times op-ed piece by the Drug Policy Alliance's Tony Newman, in which he argues that treatment should replace jail for people with drug problems but that an arrest for possession does not necessarily mean someone has a drug problem (other than the obvious one created by the law):

If someone is busted with marijuana or another drug but they are not hurting anyone else, then they should not automatically be considered to have a drug problem. Leaving them alone may be better than forcing them into treatment and is clearly better than locking them up in a cage at taxpayer expense.

Gore's history—which includes a 2000 arrest for reckless driving, a 2003 marijuana arrest that occurred after he was pulled over for driving with his headlights off, and the speeding that led to his latest bust—suggests he may in fact have a drug problem that goes beyond his legal troubles (and that he may pose a hazard to others). In any event, as usual in these situations, he has checked into treatment, a development welcomed by his father. 

It's not clear that the former vice president's son, who had Xanax, Valium, Vicodin, and Adderall in addition to about an ounce of marijuana in his Prius, is being treated any better than someone without his connections would be. In California (thanks largely to an initiative championed by DPA), this sort of drug offender typically would get treatment rather than jail. My main objection to these episodes in which famous people or their kin are caught with drugs is not so much the special treatment they receive as the fact that they tend to be fuckups, which reinforces the idea that all drug users are stupid, reckless, inconsiderate, and potentially dangerous. It's not surprising that fuckups are more likely to be arrested: They're the ones who go zooming along the San Diego Freeway at 100 miles an hour at 2:15 a.m. But the upshot is that the drug users who get the most attention are the ones who are most dysfunctional.

A.P. used Gore's arrest as an excuse to highlight "the growing problem of prescription drug abuse among America's youth." Following the government's lead, A.P. defines any nonmedical use of prescription drugs as "abuse," even if it helps people meet their responsibilities or otherwise enhances their lives. The article notes that stimulant "abuse" is especially common at highly competitive schools. Is the college student who uses Adderall to stay up so he can study for an important exam or finish a paper worse or better off as a result? And what if he celebrates his A by popping a Vicodin or two over the weekend? Does that mean he is destined for a life of addiction and degradation?

I am not denying that some people use these drugs to excess, causing harm to themselves and people close to them. Judging from his family's account, Al Gore III is one of those people. But he should not be seen as a typical prescription drug "abuser" (or pot smoker) simply because he's conspicuous.

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  1. a 2003 marijuana arrest that occurred after he was pulled over for driving with his headlights off, and the speeding that led to his latest bust[…] It’s not clear that the former vice president’s son, who had Xanax, Valium, Vicodin, and Adderall in addition to about an ounce of marijuana in his Prius

    Does anyone find this as funny as I do?

  2. I think his dad was Vice President, or something.

  3. My main objection to these episodes in which famous people or their kin are caught with drugs is not so much the special treatment they receive as the fact that they tend to be fuckups

    Amen. 3rd generation descendants of ultra-rich people tend to become the biggest fuckups of all. The names Kennedy, Bush, Hilton, Ford, and Rockefeller all come to mind.

  4. Paul: Now that you point it out: absolutely. The word clich? originally referred to lazy/overworked typesetters’ tendency to store commonly-printed groups of words together.

    I, for one, have a hard time drawing any norm-supporting bright line between having a joint or a scotch to relax after a long day at the office. And I feel like I couldn’t get very far into a discussion with someone who felt comfortable with such a line before running into a serious paradigmatic impasse.

  5. I was rooting for Gore the third until that line about him driving a Prius. I hope they throw the god damn book at the sanctimonious twat.

  6. “My main objection to these episodes in which famous people or their kin are caught with drugs is not so much the special treatment they receive as the fact that they tend to be fuckups”

    j.s. wins the thread even before it started. excellent post!

  7. Edna’s right, there’s more wisdom in this blog post than in most panels or even books on drug policy.

    I especially like the point-also made in Sullum’s Saying Yes-about how criminals and fuck-ups are the only ones who get caught with drugs above ground; most people successfully keep it to themselves. Thusly the myth of “Drug Use=Instant Disaster” is perpetuated.

  8. In the Muqaddimah, Ibn Khaldun describes a 4-generation theory of statecraft: The first generation is great conquerors and leaders, who overthrow decadent regimes and establish their states; their sons are great administrators, who put the new state in order and rule justly; their sons are incompetent lovers of luxury who ruin the state; their sons are overthrown by the first generation of another family, who starts over.

    He was describing the politics of the Maghrib in the 1300s AD, but that sounds like a good description of lots of these families.

  9. I, being more libertarian than you, have no more objection to the idea of driving 100 mph than I do to smoking marijuana; however, things being as they are, doing it on the San Diego Freeway at 2 AM plainly classifies you as an idiot.

    If you wish to smoke marijuana and drive 100 mph, go right ahead, but pay attention, and try not to ram into anything.

  10. I, being more libertarian than you, have no more objection to the idea of driving 100 mph than I do to smoking marijuana; however, things being as they are, doing it on the San Diego Freeway at 2 AM plainly classifies you as an idiot.

    Please – no true libertarian would drive on a government freeway, paid for with money taken from citizens. At gunpoint.

  11. No True Scotsman fallacy?

  12. Actually, I’m with you JS. I’m very pleased with the level of treatment Gore III is receiving with respect to how others in similar situations are treated.

    WRT him being a fuckup, this reminds me of the libertarian dillema, as well as any issue that manages to divide people. The most outspoken people (whether individuals or groups) are usually very annoying, stupid, misinformed, etc., and it ruins the entire image of a group based on the press received by a select few. Think… Pat Robertson for Christians, Al Sharpton for blacks, Bill Maher for libertarians, Cliche flamboyent-types for gays, PETA for vegetarians, etc.

    The issue with Fuckups representing drug users is perhaps even more difficult to combat because we all can’t march in a line in DC being all like “We just smoked pot and we’re not dangerous!!!!”

  13. Please – no true libertarian would drive on a government freeway, paid for with money taken from citizens. At gunpoint.

    Geez, Dan T., did it ever occur to you that there are different levels of libertarianism, all of them pretty much at a philosophical impasse at this point?

    I’ll wait for your tiny brain to bust the miniarchy/anarchy debate. I’m in Iraq; I have a lot of time on my hands.

  14. Yup, we’re definitely into the Patrick/Michael Kennedy range here.

  15. Oh, come on, Dan T barris was just riffing of the libertoid one-upmanship quips that preceded him.

    Yeah, well, not true libertarian breathes air with particulate levels made artificially low by the Clean Air Act!

  16. “Geez, Dan T., did it ever occur to you that there are different levels of libertarianism, all of them pretty much at a philosophical impasse at this point?”

    Dan T. = barris?

    Even for libertarians and anarchists who are opposed to government built freeways, what else are we to drive on? We pay taxes for them, we might as well get our money’s worth.

  17. It’s not clear that the former vice president’s son, who had Xanax, Valium, Vicodin, and Adderall in addition to about an ounce of marijuana in his Prius…

    What? It’s still not legal to buy drugs, even when using your carbon offsets?

  18. “… no true libertarian would drive on a government freeway, paid for with money taken from citizens. At gunpoint.”

    Not at the posted speed limit, anyway.

  19. He belongs in prison for his crimes, speeding and especially the violent crime of drug abuse. All use not prescribed by an MD is abuse and is a moral issue requiring some good ole fashioned SEVERE punishment. Drug abuse (i.e. use) causes violence and supports terrorism, that is why it is illegal and wrong. As to the scotch vs. weeds comparison, alcohol has a long history of safe use in western society and is therefore legal, other drugs are not products of european culture and are therefore wrong and dangerous and must be illegal. It is wrong to use drug except alcohol which is OK cause it safe.

  20. Most people I’ve known who smoked pot then drove went slower,not faster.

  21. He is not a fuckup!

    He is doing exactly what rich kids are supposed to do.

    As far as Adderall “abuse” goes, that was all the rage in engineering school. I swear I never tried it. Scouts honor. But if I did, I would have to say that it might have worked.

    [winks, flicks off the camera]

  22. If someone is busted with marijuana or another drug but they are not hurting anyone else

    If the kid smokes grass, he’s hurting me because his additional CO2 output is contributing to global warming.

    Stupid comments aside, Jacob is suggesting the guy has a drug problem because of 2 run-of-the-mill moving violations? That’s fucked up.

  23. ?l pertenece en la prisi?n para sus cr?menes, apresurar y especialmente el crimen violento del abuso de la droga. Todo el uso no prescrito por un MD es abuso y es una edici?n moral que requiere un cierto buen castigo SEVERO formado ole. El abuso de la droga (es decir uso) causa violencia y apoya terrorismo, ?se es porqu? es ilegal e incorrecto. En cuanto a el escoc?s contra la comparaci?n de las malas hierbas, el alcohol tiene una historia larga del uso seguro en sociedad occidental y es por lo tanto legal, otras drogas no son productos de la cultura europea y son por lo tanto incorrectas y peligrosas y deben ser ilegales. Es incorrecto utilizar la droga excepto el alcohol que es causa ACEPTABLE ?l seguro.

    J

  24. ola, juanita. yo quiero taco bell.

  25. If we don’t close the borders, then H&R comment threads will all be in Spanish!

  26. Gore 3 was kicked out of my DC high school for (unsuccessfully) purchasing weed. It turned out to be oregano. I think the idea was that, while he didn’t really do anything wrong in buying a cooking herb, the school realized they didn’t want anyone so stupid that they could not tell the difference between oregano and weed.

  27. mama m?a. no hablar espa?ol…

  28. “As far as Adderall “abuse” goes, that was all the rage in engineering school. I swear I never tried it. Scouts honor. But if I did, I would have to say that it might have worked.”

    You just put it in your mouth, but you didn’t swallow it.

  29. Now, if he wasn’t driving a Prius, you guys would be all over his dad for letting him contribute to global warming.

    What I want to know is, did he buy carbon offsets to counteract the CO2 pouring out of his joint?

  30. “Is the college student who uses Adderall to stay up so he can study for an important exam or finish a paper worse or better off as a result? And what if he celebrates his A by popping a Vicodin or two over the weekend? ”

    Anything this engineer designs in future should come with a warning:

    “This bridge was designed by JAMES HERBERT TOKER, III. He earned a B- in PHYS 3111, Structural Engineering. It took him twice as long to complete his assignments compared with the class leader. Mostly he showed up in class with wide red eyes and was witnessed muttering to himself about ‘those damn dirty apes’.”

    Oh, and Vicodin sucks.

  31. David Ross,

    You take back what you said about Vicodin right now!

  32. Juanita: Puede que me equivoque, pero ‘pertenecer’ quiere decir que ya est? en la carcel, ?no?

  33. Juanita,
    In the spirit of pedantism, I corrected your Spanish for you:

    ?l pertenece en prisi?n para sus cr?menes, manejando a velocidad y especialmente el crimen violento que es abuso de las drogas. Todo el uso no prescrito por un MD es abuso y es una tema moral que requiere un cierto castigo SEVERO de costumbre. El abuso de la droga (es decir uso) causa violencia y apoya el terrorismo, ?sto es porqu? es ilegal y malo. En cuanto a el wisky escoc?s comparado con la de las malas hierbas, el alcohol tiene una historia larga del uso seguro en sociedad occidental y es por tanto legal, otras drogas no son productos de la cultura europea y son por lo tanto malos y peligrosas y deben ser ilegales. Es malo usar qualqier droga excepto el alcohol que es un RIESGO aceptable.

  34. Ok, there are still some mistakes.

    Should be “el alcohol tiene una una larga historia de uso sin riesgo”

    and it should be “En cuanto a comparar el wisky escoces con la marijuana”

    Malas hierbas, I don’t think translates to smokable weed, only translates to garden weeds.

    But I think pertenece, means both “belongs” and “stay”, so that word would be appropriate.

  35. I disagree, if anyone other than a rich white person had been arrested with all those different drugs, they would have been charged with dealing, which is a much more serious crime than posession.

  36. So, I wonder if this will make Al Gore come out against the drug war?
    If it does, I will back some of his environmental whackism.

    I wonder if one effective way to approach politicians who are big on the drug war is to ask them if the best way to treat their children’s non harmful use, is put the in prison and expose them to violence for many years.

    If that is not the best way to help their kids, why is it the best way to help the kids of others?

    Another idea I was toying with as a measuring device for what cops should be enforcing is:
    If not paid to do it, are you willing to break into someones house to stop them?
    I am willing to use a gun to stop robbery, rape, murder, theft.

    But I can’t fathom being willing to go into someones house to stop drug use.

    I don’t know if it would be a universally good measuring stick though.

  37. Make Rush Limbaugh his designated driver.

  38. Most people I’ve known who smoked pot then drove went slower,not faster.

    That’s what I was thinking. Driving a hundred miles an hour on weed must have felt damn near like travelling the speed of light.

  39. I am willing to use a gun to stop robbery, rape, murder, theft.

    But I can’t fathom being willing to go into someones house to stop drug use.

    Why not, drug use is the cause of nearly ALLrobbery, rape, murder, theft.

  40. People who take the drug are usually violent, I learnt this in DARE.

  41. Juanita,

    Did you see the corrections I made to your Spanish post?

    Do you now see the dangers of letting google do your translating?

    Google translating is rumored to be the cause of roughly half the translating related murders.

  42. Juanita, I suspect you are Jennifer’s alter ego.

  43. As long as you libertarians insist that police can only have warrants and probable cause before raiding people’s homes and stopping their cars in search of illegal drugs, drug users will be characterized based on the most criminal and/or stupid.

    Now, if you let the government giving breathalizer tests to passengers of cars driving appropriately, you’ll find lots of drunks on the roads, and the “designated drivers” who enable them. If you let the government sample the pee of private homes and companies, you’ll find all those people whose fine contributions to society serve to mask their drug use.

  44. I think most people seem to misunderestimate the nate og the Trey Gore incident.

    Apparently, he was preparing for a movie role.

    http://www.staggeron.org/universe.html#al_trey_gore

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