Sunday, August 9, 2009

The War on Drugs

Our public schools are drug-free zones now. At least that's what the sign says on the fence that surrounds the schoolyard. That's really good to know; that the school children aren't sitting around in class smoking weed. It calms my anxiety about the children knowing that for about 6-1/2 hours a day they are imprisoned within that fence, unable to leave the building, and unable to access drugs that might affect them detrimentally.

Of course, what most people are unaware of is that a large percentage of children within the walls of that school are actually consuming large quantities of amphetamines and other mood stablizers each and every day, with the full knowledge of the school's staff. In fact, many of those children are consuming those drugs because the staff demanded that they do. Horrifying, isn't it?

These children suffer from a disorder that the Mental Health community calls Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The primary treatment for the disorder is pharmaceutical, and this requires the oversight of a physician - usually one trained in psychiatry, but that is not necessary from a legal standpoint. In fact, it is estimated that about 70% of all patients who are prescribed amphetamines for ADHD received those prescriptions from a primary care physician, not a psychiatrist.

Adderall is the most recent popular drug used in the "treatment" of ADHD. Consider what the manufacturer says about its own drug: "Adderall XR was generally well tolerated in clinical studies. The most common side effects in studies included: children - decreased appetite, trouble sleeping, stomachache, and mood swings; adolescents - loss of appetite, trouble sleeping, stomachache, and weight loss; adults - dry mouth, loss of appetite, trouble sleeping, headache, and weight loss." These are symptoms from a LEGAL drug!

On the other hand, our nation has been in a "War on Drugs" for at least 70 years. Marijuana, one of the most popular "illegal" drugs in America, was first criminalized in 1937 through a tax stamp act. Since then it has only gotten worse. More Americans today per capita use Marijuana than did in 1937. How is that possible? It's been illegal all that time, and more people use it now?

Let's consider some of the side effects of marijuana as compared to Adderall. Decreased appetite? Anyone who has ever smoked pot knows that quite the opposite is true. More recently, cancer patients who have been allowed to use marijuana for medicinal purposes report that they regain their appetites by smoking weed.

The next on the list is trouble sleeping. I don't know about anyone else, but I slept like a baby after using marijuana. I can't say that I ever experienced a headache from it either. Dry mouth? Well, most of us are familiar with the term, "cotton mouth." So, I guess marijuana is that much better than Adderall.

The War on Drugs has cost this country billions, and perhaps trillions, of dollars thus far, with no end in sight. While the media certainly reports on "major drug busts" and Hollywood loves movies about cops who stop the evil drug importers (oops, I mean smugglers), the Drug Enforcement Agency has little to show for its years of Gestapo-like tactics. Major "Drug Lords" in Mexico and South and Central Americas continue to import their products into the U.S. largely unabated. Except for the death of some DEA agents, and a whole lot of collateral damage, including innocent civilians in the war, there is little or nothing that the DEA has to brag or complain about. On the other hand, a whole bunch of users and small town retailers (oops, er, I mean "pushers") get arrested and jailed or imprisoned on a daily basis. The average citizen would be amazed at the percentage of our current prison population that is incarcerated for no other crime but drug possession.

I heard on one of the cable TV news networks once that we, as a nation, spend about $14 billion on the enforcement of just marijuana laws. That number doesn't count all the other illicit drugs. The guest on the TV news program stated that we could save at least that much, and perhaps generate an additional $7B in tax revenue on the sale of marijuana. I seriously doubt that this included that billions we would save by immediately letting those non-violent marijuana users out of prison, and cleansing their record so that they can return to have a normal life.

The government doesn't want to do that. It would cost them too much power and too much money. Too much money, you ask? Yes. The War on Drugs is one reason that politicians can weep and moan about how they must raise taxes - they absolutely have to protect us from those non-violent tokers - the ones that got naked at Woodstock and listened to music for days on end. Why, that would give people too much freedom, and who knows; they just might enjoy themselves. We can't have that now, can we? Not unless we are talking about alcohol - good old beer and wine - that is. Now, those are "safe."

I just got back from a day long visit with some old high school friends. I graduated from a very small school in East Central Michigan, in what is affectionately called "The Thumb Area." We only had 21 graduates from our class back in 1977. In these past 32 years, we have lost two of our classmates already, and another is about to die - he's in the hospice program. All three died as a direct result of drinking too much alcohol.

On top of that, I had two very dear friends, they were several years older than me, but they were married to my ex-wife's sisters. Both men died before they were 50 years old - again, directly related to alcohol. Should I start to recount the number of my uncles and aunts who have died for the same reason, or about my father-in-law who had every major organ in his body shut down due to years of alcohol abuse? I'm sure everyone reading this article could give anecdotal confirmation of what I speak.

I didn't even mention the number of alcohol related domestic violence incidents reported everyday in America; or, the instances of child abuse from father's who were drunk and didn't want to be bothered by their children. We all have it pounded into our heads by our government the number of alcohol-related deaths on the highways of America each year. The list is endless. Alcohol, when abused, is dangerous and deadly. If any drug should be illegal, it would be alcohol.

Wait a minute! Didn't we already try that? How did that work out anyway? Was it successful? What? What did you say? Al Capone? Who's he? Sorry, just kidding!

Most people don't know that the main reason for the FBI's existence was because so many big city cops were on the Gangsters' payroll during prohibition. Most of us know of Elliot Ness, and J. Edgar Hoover - famous men who unsuccessfully fought Prohibition. Yet, today we fight a similar war - and we are losing.

Because of this, we should ask ourselves seriously. Is there a reason to continue this war on marijuana? Our last three presidents have admitted using drugs at least once in their pre-politics life. How many of us can look our children in the eyes and tell them, with a straight face, that we never smoked a joint? I can't. I bet most of you can't either.

Let's stop the nonsense. Let's legalize marijuana. Other countries that have decriminalized it have found that reported use has gone down afterward. What with the medical marijuana movement, wouldn't it be simpler to legalize it and let cancer patients and the like have the freedom to obtain and use it. At least we won't be hypocrites any more.

Drug free school zones and the social acceptance of alcohol are two very large indicators of that hypocrisy. Marijuana is far less dangerous than Adderall, and alcohol (when used in excessive quanities). Legalize it, and give Americans their freedom.

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