America was created by neo-Puritans whose beliefs leaned strongly on punishment for sins and transgressions of every sort. There was also a problem of combative ethnic minorities with ancestral grudges that carried over into the New World in the forming of gangs. The Irish were semi-apelike sub-humans until they formed “volunteer” fire brigades for the collection of protection money, and subsequently became the police in much same order. Their tendency to riot and mayhem was fueled by enjoyment of their drug of choice: whiskey. The drunken Irish were the target of anti-saloon politics culminating in the Prohibition laws of the 1920s.
Marijuana was outlawed because field hands and urban blacks used it for recreation and analgesic medicine. Prejudice in the Southwest caused the white society to ban “pot,” (from the Spanish potaguayo), because it was favored by the largely Latino population whose numbers were potentially threatening politically.
The early identification of Chinese immigrants with opiates was a factor in the exclusion acts of the late nineteenth century and persisted into the “opium dens” image as late as the middle of the last century.
But that was then, even recently, and today the high-tech of pharmacology has triumphed over nature once more with the development of hundreds of prescription drugs of every imaginable sort hitting the market. These new drugs are flooding the markets both legitimate and underground. Evidence indicates that the abuse of this plethora of pills is the number one abuse problem in the world and growing logarithmically.
The cost — monetary and social — of the current “war on drugs” is far higher than simple solutions, but I rise to suggest that those costs can be offset. To begin with, most of the failed life examples we see are propaganda. Most users will tell you that their problems come from being arrested and imprisoned rather than any physical effect of their habit. If “junkies” and potheads were as dysfunctional as portrayed they couldn’t survive in the modern world. Truth is a serious number of white-collar workers use heroin, cocaine and crack recreationally without any noticeable loss of employee competence. New standards of potency need development, along with new laws relieving society of responsibility for drug policy and allowing citizens to “name your poison” without official interference.
Of course, we can go the other direction entirely and begin government control of all the various poisons afflicting Americans. Sugar consumption kills more people every year than heroin. Short-term “energy” formulations are widely used as “speed” by teens and working people, not to mention athletes. And how about coffee, fueling workplace stress and agitation and a national culture based on over-dosing on the caffeine?
And finally there is tobacco, a weed of no beneficial use that has become America’s shame and trademark around the globe. Surely a government that punishes public health menaces will incarcerate millions for mandatory rehabilitation, in the name of the public good.
It all comes down to the ultimate question: Who do you trust, your government or your connection?
“Travus T. Hipp” is a 40-year veteran radio commentator with six stations in California carrying his daily version of the news and opinions. “The Poor Hippy’s Paul Harvey,” Travus is a member of the Nevada Broadcasters Hall of Fame, but unemployable in the Silver State due to his eclectic political views. He can be reached at email@example.com.