Caffeine. The gateway drug. —Eddie Vedder
I should probably clarify, since this article is likely to catch the attention of someone somewhere in the bowels of law enforcement: Neither of the pictures shown here depicts a person smoking any illegal substance. I do not have such a photograph anywhere in my catalog. While I’ve known, and continue to be closely acquainted with, a large number of people who do engage in the use of inappropriately controlled substances, I am too keenly aware of colleagues who have photographed such only to have members of law enforcement come along and confiscate all their equipment and computers as “evidence.” While such contrived bullying is remedied in court, I can do without the disruption.
That being said, imagine a world where no creative person ever consumed any form of drug. Music from the 50s onward would be dreadful. Art from at least the 18th century forward would be flat and meaningless. Literature is a little more difficult to track, but certainly from the 1930s and beyond drugs participated heavily in the creative process. Drug use among creatives spans centuries, not decades, and one can make a reasonably accurate argument that much of what we know as fine arts would either not have existed at all or, at the very least, would not have been of equal quality were it not for the influence of various substances along the way.
One might think that our nation’s brief period of alcohol prohibition, from 1920-1933, would have taught us that outlawing popular mood and personality altering substances doesn’t work. Everyone gave it a valiant try, but it failed. The difference between then and now is that, upon recognizing the failure, the law was not merely changed, but the entire Constitution re-amended. For some reason, however, our current crop of politicians have yet to learn that lesson, even though reversing the failed drug policies of today would be much more simple.
As a result, the New York Times reports this morning that mandatory drug-testing is making it difficult to find employees. One employer recounted an instance where hundreds of people were attending a job fair the company was holding. When the company announced that all new hires would have to pass a drug screen, over half left. Mind you, that doesn’t mean they couldn’t have passed the piss test. Of the 9.1 million employment mandated drug tests administered in 2014, only 0.38 percent came back positive, the greater majority of those being for casual marijuana use. Drug testing does not increase productivity or make people more creative. If anything, workplace drug tests are a complete waste of both time and money.
What is mystifying is that while none of this is new information, we still have not done anything on a federal level to solve the problem.
Okay, I’ll admit, the past 12 years the U.S. Congress has failed to solve any problems, so we already know where a great deal of the bottleneck is.
Still, given the travesty of marijuana-based mass incarceration, and the numerous studies showing that marijuana is less dangerous than alcohol, one would think that we would have more than two states who have completely legalized the drug, and more that would have adopted a more sensible approach to other drug use. Can someone explain to me why we’re still putting up with this bullshit?
I could post pages upon pages of facts and figures regarding the failure of our current drug policy, but what has to happen is for people to get behind a sensible replacement; something that would address legitimate problems without making criminals of a third of the population (higher if you’re black or Hispanic). Here’s what a reasonable drug policy needs:
- Complete declassification of marijuana as an illicit drug and reclassification as a medicinal herb.
- Elimination of all workplace drug testing with the exception of those involved in public transportation and the use of heavy machinery. Even there, disqualification for marijuana use should not be immediate but subject to treatment and review.
- Personal use of cocaine and opioids would not be a criminal offense but would require mandatory treatment with regular follow-up.
- Misuse of prescription medicines, including over-prescribing and misprescribing on the part of medical professionals would receive greater penalties. Pharmacists would have the ability to halt and/or question new prescriptions known to conflict with existing medications or where prescribed dosage is deemed unsafe, without any repercussion.
- Psychiatric and addiction treatment for drug, tobacco, and alcohol use would be covered under all major medical health insurance policies.
There is no excuse for us continuing to support such an obviously failed prohibition policy. Change only happens if we make it happen. Tell your legislator now. We need a better drug policy.