Carl Hart is a 54-year-old Air Force veteran, a professor of psychology at Columbia University, and an unapologetic recreational user of heroin.
"I use heroin," he tells Reason, "in part because it's really good at helping me to unwind, to be more forgiving of other people, to look at my own behavior and see where I need to modify in order to be a more responsible person, in order to be a better person."
Hart's new book, Drug Use for Grown-Ups: Chasing Liberty in the Land of Fear, is a provocative manifesto for legalizing all drugs and letting responsible adults use the intoxicants of their choosing. He is coming out of the "chemical closet" because he says the costs of the drug war—the violence that attends to black markets, the creation of a prison-industrial complex, the destruction of minority neighborhoods, the perversion of justice, and more—are too great to bear.
He says prohibition is based on a series of lies about substance abuse, and he documents that the overwhelming majority of drug users—even of hard drugs, such as heroin or methamphetamine—use responsibly and are no more likely to develop problems than drinkers.
More important, Hart says drug prohibition is inimical to the ideals set forth in the Declaration of Independence, which "guaranteed life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all of us, as long as we don't disrupt anybody else's ability to do the same. We get to live our life as we choose, as we see fit and taking drugs can be a part of that. And it is a part of that for a lot of Americans."
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