Thursday, February 05, 2009

Dopey, dopey, dopey

Reading CLL discussion groups, and reading between the lines in those discussion groups, I am very much aware that some people deal with the stress of leukemia by taking drugs. And by drugs I mean alcohol and prescription antidepressants as well as illegal substances such as marijuana.

What is causing me to write about this is the tempest-in-a-bong over Olympic champion Michael Phelps. The 23-year-old swimmer was photographed smoking pot; from the overreaction of some people, you’d think he had been caught strangling mermaids with one of those ribboned gold medals.

Well, give me, and Michael Phelps, a break.

Somehow the United States managed to come into existence and prosper for its first 150 years without any restrictions on what you could put into your body. Alcohol, pot, laudanum, opium, cocaine, magic mushrooms, you name it -- all were there and ready for the taking as this country built itself into something ever more prosperous and successful.

But American respect for individual liberty has always had a counterbalance: our Puritan heritage, which entered the 20th century in the form of the temperance movement that brought us the Prohibition of alcohol.

Big success that was, of course. Since then we’ve been on a bender Prohibiting just about everything else, and that hasn’t been working, either. Our last three presidents all used illegal drugs in their youth. Our drug laws are a joke, which is hardly funny because of the enormous waste of lives, money, and resources involved.

Within the past 15 years or so, medical marijuana has gained a foothold in some states. It’s obvious that anyone with a flimsy excuse -- I do believe painful bunions were once used -- can get a doctor to pres
cribe pot in California. At least when it comes to marijuana, the absurdity of Prohibition is starting to break down. Gone are the days, and they were real, when people were sentenced to years in jail for possessing a joint.

* * *

I’m not a druggy personality. I like the occasional glass of red wine, but I find that being fully awake and aware in the here and now is more trippy than living in a haze. I experimented with the usual stuff in high school and college, but it’s been 30 years since I’ve smoked pot.

The only drug that I ever truly liked was LSD, which I took a half-dozen times in college. Sometimes it was revelatory, sometimes merely enjoyable, sometimes a bit of both. I recall laying on my back in the organic garden at UC Santa Cruz, watching as passing clouds smiled at me. Another time I was listening to the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, which wove itself into something resembling a complex Persian carpet right before my eyes. Never once, despite hysterical media reports that indicated it might be a real danger, was I tempted to jump off a building to see if I could fly.

In life, the Darwin Awards apply, whether you’re on drugs or not. Some people can handle drugs and some can’t.

I think we’ve all seen what happens to friends and family when people can’t cope with them, or when they take undue risks to get high. A family that has always been quite close to ours lost its sensitive
and talented middle child to some bad heroin one night in New York City; he was in his 30s. Another kid I knew and worked with many a summer led a life of drugs and dissolution, stealing from his own parents as an adult, until he managed to ruin his body to the point that it killed him.

And I know many more stories involving our legal drug. alcohol; I have seen it bring heartache and pain, emotional and physical, to people who could have and should have had happier and longer lives

I also know people in their 70s who have smoked pot their entire lives and seem none the worse for wear. Just about everyone I was close to growing up has violated our Prohibition laws on multiple occasions and most of them are quite happy and successful today.

Which leads me back to my point: Our drug laws are dopey. They’re not respected and they don’t work.

People will do what people will do, whether they’re 23-year-old swimmers or 60-year-old cancer patients. Perhaps some day American society will be ready for an adult discussion of drugs -- why they should be legal (or at least managed more sensibly) and why you should make the choice to use them sparingly.

Until then, let’s drop the hypocrisy. Let’s zip the flimsy moral outrage. Drugs are everywhere. They always have been, they always will be, and in a free society Prohibition will always fail.


Anonymous said...

Only a pointy-headed liberal would argue for no drugs laws as you do. I guess gay marriage, bigamy, abolition of the military, and socialized medicine haven't satiated your appetite.

With no laws, no rules on behavior, you tell people that anything goes. "If it feels good, do it." Let's lower the age of consent to, oh, I don't know, how about 12? Alcohol? Lower the drinking age to 18. If a person can serve in the military, then they should be able to drink legally!

Drug use leads to ruined lives and death, as you have noted, and a 15 year old marijuana user in junior high school is not mature enough to make life and death decisions, even if you think they are.

I think the clouds you fixated on when you were on LSD weren't smiling at you, they were frowning at your complete lack of mature thinking about the issues of the day.


David Arenson said...

Sometimes I think you are reading another blog in an alternate universe and ascribing thoughts there to me. I don't recall arguing for "gay marriage, bigamy, and abolition of the military," for example. Similarly, I never said there should be no rules, or that minors should be allowed to do whatever they want.

Ironically, conservatives are supposed to be big on individual freedom and responsibility. Fascists, on the other hand, like to tell other people what to do. I guess your true colors are showing a little bit.

And I do think that if you're old enough to fight and risk your life for your country, you're old enough to legally have a beer. Even Richard Nixon agreed with that one back in the '70s, but I guess he was a wild-eyed liberal.

The only "cloudy" thinking here is yours.

Anonymous said...

So, by your definition we've been living in a fascist state for over 200 years (since we've always had laws proscribing undesirable behaviors). All governments have laws, except in the fantasy utopias that liberals like to imagine themselves living in.

Conservatives ARE 'big' on getting the government out of the way and letting citizens get on with their lives. They are not big on immorality. For example, the government has no business in the bedroom. It does have a vested interest in prohibiting homosexuals from molesting children or getting 'married'.

Nixon WAS far more liberal than the average conservative today. Wage and price controls? He imposed them in the early 70s; what conservative would support that idea, then or now? NONE. Only Obama and the far left would support such a notion (Obama chides businesses for paying executives more than he thinks they should. Wage controls, nothing more, nothing less.)

The younger the drinking age, the more deaths on the highway. Teenagers are the worst drivers on the road now, can you imagine them with a few beers in them?

Anonymous said...

I've often wondered why there are no pointy-headed conservatives, or staunch Democrats.


David Arenson said...

I think we can all agree that society needs laws.

To be very specific here, I think marijuana should be legalized. As to the rest of the drugs that are currently illegal, I think we need to undertake a review of the laws, as well as the laws in other countries, and try to come up with restrictions that are realistic and sensible. This may run the gamut from legalization of some to decriminalization to continued control.

I agree with Anonymous -- can't believe I'm saying this! -- about laws covering the bedroom.

I do not agree that the state has a vested interest in denying gay marriage; I think there should be legal civil unions for all, gay and straight, without getting into the religious component, which should be left to the particular faith or sect.

And, by the way, the state has a vested interest in preventing ANYONE -- gay or straight -- from molesting a child.

As to alcohol, it has indeed been shown that raising the drinking age from 18 to 21 has resulted in fewer drunk driving deaths. I imagine raising it to 25 or 35 or 50 would result in even fewer.

The problem is that the age of majority is 18. It comes with certain rights as well as responsibilities. If you can vote and you can fight, you should be able to legally drink. Either that or we raise the age of majority.

I am all in favor of Draconian drunk driving laws, by the way. Driving drunk is inexcusable.

Anonymous said...

I think that our government should carve out a geographical area and call it "The State of Euphoria." Hard drug addicts would be given a choice. They can be sent to rehab one time, and if they relapse they get sent, for life, to Euphoria. Or, they can elect to go to Euphoria directly for life. There, they get all the drugs of every kind in any amount, for free, along with very basic medical care, living quarters, and food.

The advantages are many. It gets these losers off the streets, where they tend to commit a disproportionate amount of crime to support their habits; and given all the drugs they want they will kill themselves much faster and thus be a burden on society for less time.


Michele said...

Anonymous (Denny), Prohibition didn't work. The black market got into 'dealing' alcohol and there were deaths and people in jail for breaking alcohol laws because its rarity (due to illegality) caused it to be a big money commodity.

What makes you think that the prohibition of marijuana is working? It's still out there, no matter how much our government spends on its prohibition. Our prisons and jails are full of people who committed crimes that hurt no one. That, especially now in this hard economic time, is the epitome of stupidity.

Where others were harmed, of course the perpetrators deserve to be incarcerated.

Drugs that are more harmful should be controlled.. and available by prescription if needed.

Have some common sense (though it appears not to be very common.) Where breaking the law can and does harm others, the law is right and necessary. Where breaking the law harms no one and only serves to get more government into the private lives of adults (note, I state adults as they should be responsible enough to make life decisions) then those laws are not necessary, are in fact an infringement on our freedom, and should be repealed.

I choose not to give you a label.. I prefer not to be labeled as I believe it leaves much room for misconception and error.

I certainly wouldn't consider myself a liberal (I'm NOT into the socialism I see heading toward us like a MAC Truck driven by our current government) I do not believe in socialized medicine. I believe in personal responsibility. I do believe consenting adults should be able to marry. I believe our Military has a place and a duty and that is to protect this nation from enemies. And I am proud of our military men and women and their families for their sacrifices to protect us.

I think David Arenson is a voice of reason (and a quite melodious voice at that) and as a person with CLL, I'm very glad to have found his blog.

I could, however, do without your name calling and labeling. I'm interested in your opinion.. you have every right to it.. but please leave out the rest.

Anonymous said...

Hi Michelle,
You start out addressing my post, but then end up implying that I was name-calling. Are you mixing me up with our other infamous Anonymous who doesn't sign his name? Or are you truly objecting to my calling hard-drug addicts "losers"?

Anonymous said...

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After years abroad I found that Americans are generally difficult to talk to about certain issues, issues that in other countries are non-topics of conversation. I mentioned in a previous post my experience with Japanese health care. I won't go into it all here but will say that the Japanese system is not perfect but it does deliver the goods better than the US system. We seem to be paying for plush amenities that the Japanese do without. Their education system is similar as it delivers better than ours but lacks the plush amenities. Japanese score higher both in healthcare and education than the States. I didn't find care in Japan rationed. Nor was I forced to see certain doctors. The whole of the Japanese medical system was there for me with little restriction. Sometimes I feel that we Americans are paying for a for a Mercedes Benz M Class while getting to drive a '78 Ford LTD.