In December 2006, reason's Nick Gillespie spoke on a plenary session at the annual conference of Students for a Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP). The panel's topic was "What Would a Sensible Drug Policy Look Like," and Gillespie focused not just on that topic but on how drug prohibition functions as what he calls a "structuring event" in American life, forcing all sorts of activity—from education and athletics, from law enforcement to foreign policy—to pay hypocritical and misdirected lip service to a Just Say No mentality.
"The drug war screws with everything that it touches, and it touches everything," says Gillespie. Snippets from his talk:
What I want to do is try to create a post-prohibitionist mind-set, where we are no longer merely reacting to prohibition and trying to get rid of it, because in a way we become twinned with it….
When we talk about the Tour de France, we talk about drugs. When we talk about Major League Baseball, we talk about who's using them. Plan Colombia and a good chunk of our foreign policy is all about drugs. Hundreds of thousands of people are in jail because of drug policy. All of you [students] probably went through some form of bogus drug education program, all for no good reason. The real dead-end of this is…[found] in men's rooms in America. When you go and take a piss, there is a pretty good chance that the urinal cake holder, the thing that deodorizes it…says 'Say No To Drugs' on it….
The quick version of my sensible drug policy, of a post-prohibitionist policy, is that it would be smarter to regulate all drugs, including prescription drugs, somewhat like we do with alcohol….
Like drug warriors…we will need to stop imbuing inanimate objects with supernatural powers.
The drug war is over, if we want it—to paraphrase a famous anti-Vietnam war slogan. The end of the war starts up here, in our heads, and then proceeds out to the actual America. The starting point for a sensible drug policy, a true post-prohibitionist mind-set that does not participate in any way with prohibitionist thinking, would be take seriously the credo of the Whole Earth Catalog…"We are as gods, and we might as well get good at it." Ironically, the first step to becoming gods may be to recognize that drugs are only one means among many for changing who we are, how we live, and what we will become.
Approximately 17 minutes; click on the image below to watch.
SSDP's 10th annual conference will take place in Washington, D.C., from November 21-23 and will feature, among many other speakers, reason's Radley Balko.