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Criminally Ill
An M.S. sufferer, Richard Paey, is now serving a 25-year mandatory prison sentence for illegally obtaining drugs to medicate away his pain -- after making the mistake of moving to Florida where he couldn't find a doctor to treat his pain. This isn't a surprise, since doctors are suspected by the drug warriors for prescribing large doses of pain medication -- even to legit sufferers like Paey. Maia Szalavitz writes on Alternet that Paey, in prison, is getting double the dosage he was illegally obtaining on the outside:

In a jeremiad of a dissent, Judge James Seals called the sentence "illogical, absurd, unjust and unconstitutional," noting that Paey "could conceivably go to prison for a longer stretch for peacefully but unlawfully purchasing 100 oxycodone pills from a pharmacist than had he robbed the pharmacist at knife point, stolen 50 oxycodone pills, which he intended to sell to children waiting outside, and then stabbed the pharmacist."

But the Florida Supreme Court disagreed, letting the sentence stand, without comment. It released its cowardly decision in the media quiet of a Friday night. As Siobhan Reynolds, founder of the Pain Relief Network points out, "Where Florida stands now is that individuals have no recourse to the courts when the executive and legislative branches behave tyranically." Under the Constitution, the role of the judiciary is supposed to be to check the powers of the other branches -- not simply to defer to them.

Paey's only other alternatives now are an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court or clemency from Governor Charlie Crist.

Writing in support of clemency, leading academic pain specialist Russell Portenoy, MD, said, "the information available indicates that any questionable actions [Paey] took, actions which led ultimately to his arrest, were driven by desperation related to uncontrolled pain."

He noted that such cases "may increase the reluctance of professionals to treat pain aggressively."

Portenoy wrote that despite the fact that Paey required high doses of opioids, those doses were "clearly in the range used by pain specialists in this country." He stressed that, "The number of pills or milligrams of an opioid required for analgesia says nothing about any of the negative outcomes associated with these drugs-including abuse, addiction and diversion-and reference to the amount of drug as evidence of these outcomes by regulators or law enforcement should not be condoned."

Unfortunately, across the country, pain patients are being undermedicated and doctors are going to prison because the Justice Department refuses to believe this.

People profess to be experts about addiction because they have personal experience with drugs or addicts; they think they know about opioid drugs because they've watched a few episodes of E.R. or been through DARE classes at school. The truth is that opioids are amongst the safest drugs known to humanity -- when given appropriately, they do not kill.

Unlike aspirin, Tylenol, Vioxx, Celebrex, Advil, Alleve and every other known class of pain medications, opioids do not harm any organs and there is no maximum dose once a person has become tolerant to them. People need to educate themselves about the complexities of how drugs, brains and settings interact before making policies about them that send people like Richard Paey to prison.

Governor Crist, please, do the right thing and send Richard Paey home.

Posted by aalkon at March 14, 2007 11:24 AM

Comments

rage...rising...want...to...kill...

If only I lived in Florida and could write the the governor complaining about this utter waste of my tax dollars. Anyone here live in Florida? I'd be happy to help you with an irate letter. What the hell is this guy doing in jail? And when the hell are my former bretheren in the media going to stop treating oxycodone as some sort of mysterious uber-destructive substance and start treating it as a legal painkiller? Gah!

Posted by: marion at March 14, 2007 8:06 AM

Collateral damage in the War on Drugs.

Posted by: Norman at March 14, 2007 8:54 AM

Yes, the war on people who need drugs.

And quite frankly, there shouldn't be a war on people who want drugs, either. Our failed (and failing) version of Prohibition.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at March 14, 2007 9:04 AM

Drugs fuck people up, though.

Posted by: Crid at March 14, 2007 9:36 AM

And these damned mandatory sentences for relatively trivial offenses are a huge part of the problem. I've said it before, and will almost certainly say it again: it is the height of stupidity to remove discretion from people whom we have presumably hired primarily because of their good decision-making abilities (judges, foremost among them, but also prosecutors, principals, etc.). Only the most cruel among us would desire that a man who illegally purchased painkillers be sentenced more severely than if he had committed rape, or manslaughter, or any number of violent acts.

Posted by: justin case at March 14, 2007 9:44 AM

Drugs fuck people up, though.

Drugs fuck SOME people up. And opiates aren't seriously addictive for people with severe pain.

Posted by: justin case at March 14, 2007 9:46 AM

Drugs prohibition creates more problems than it solves - and it doesn't actually work. So why stick with it? To "send a signal" - a phrase that I have grown hypersensitive to.

Posted by: Norman at March 14, 2007 9:50 AM

Alcohol fucks people up, too. Some people. I stop after a glass, and two at the most if I'm drinking wine with a big dinner. Will you deny me my wine because some people get fucked up on booze?

Posted by: Amy Alkon at March 14, 2007 9:58 AM

Life fucks up certain people too.

Posted by: Joe at March 14, 2007 10:06 AM

Jail 'em all! (Or come up with reasonable drug policy.) Personally, I resent paying to keep a bunch of potheads in jail.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at March 14, 2007 10:07 AM

Youse peoples are so goddam smug.

Posted by: Crid at March 14, 2007 10:13 AM

Amy,

Maybe, members of MADD will have a problem.

I like the old Kinky Friedman joke about MADD. "How about a group for Drunks Against Mothers?"

Posted by: Joe at March 14, 2007 10:23 AM

Youse peoples are so goddam smug.

Crid: Perhaps you can, maybe, knock that smug look off our faces with some cold, hard logic and supporting facts?

Here is my argument for why our drug policies are dumb and counter-productive (well, it's a partial argument, but a decent start):

1) People have always sought to alter their minds and will always do so. Drugs are never going away.

2) Most people who do drugs do not turn into problems for society. Just like most people who drink don't become serious alcoholics.

3) And yet, we spend tons of time, effort and money prosecuting even minor breaches of drug laws.

4) In addition to putting away hardened criminals, the drug war puts away thousands of people who, outside of their drug use, are not criminals. These people would most likely otherwise be productive members of society. Instead, they cost the rest of us a bundle.

5) The illegality of drugs has led to a huge illicit economy that often enriches the worst in our society and others (you live in LA - what is the economic vehicle of the street gangs?).

6) The war on drugs erodes trust between the police and people, because in their minds, and probably kills more police than any other laws they enforce.

So, we waste a bunch of money and lives, enrich street gangs, hurt police-community relations, and incarcerate thousands of non-violent people under the current policy. It's pretty awful and inefficient.

In order to justify this policy, I think, one must assume that the consequences of decriminalizing some drugs (lets say, pot and cocaine, since they're the most widely consumed) would be worse than what the drug war is already doing. Do you think our streets would be flooded with addicts? Or is there something else? What's your argument, Crid?

Posted by: justin case at March 14, 2007 11:17 AM

That you're too fucking smug.

Posted by: Crid at March 14, 2007 11:28 AM

God, that made me laugh.

(You are fucking hopeless, Crid!)

Posted by: Jody Tresidder at March 14, 2007 11:42 AM

You sound like my first wife.

Posted by: Crid at March 14, 2007 11:53 AM

How many have there been?

Posted by: Amy Alkon at March 14, 2007 12:11 PM

That you're too fucking smug.

Awesome! Thanks for the laugh.

Posted by: justin case at March 14, 2007 12:13 PM

Posted by: Amy Alkon at March 14, 2007 12:27 PM

Does anyone know why drug laws were kicked into place? What is the rationale behind the government criminalizing all drugs - is it a babysit-the-people argument, a moral argument (and when did using drugs become a moral issue, which is does seem to be in many people's opinions - that drugs are just inherently wrong and the people who use them suck)?

When did people become okay with blanket laws that punish everyone by prohibiting drugs just because a few people might abuse drugs (and these people probably abuse drugs or alcohol anyway)?

I could use a little clarity about why I'd be thrown in the slammer with a child killer if I decided to light up a joint and got caught.

And lastly; does anyone actually believe that drug use is somehow morally reprehensible?

Posted by: Gretchen at March 14, 2007 12:35 PM

My ex-wife and lots of my money now live in Florida, so I think I should be able to write the governor.

I'll take a shot at your arguments, Justin:
1)Drugs are never going away, but we shouldn't give up on the rule of law.

2)"Most people who do drugs do not turn into problems for society", but I don't think we want the Donald Trumps and WalMarts to get a green light to now push the stuff.

3)"...we spend tons of time, effort and money prosecuting even minor breaches of drug laws." I imagine there are some sad stories out there, but from what I know most prosecuted had other offenses that brought them to the attention of the authorities. Most quiet users aren't bothered.

4) See 3.

5) "The illegality of drugs has led to a huge illicit economy that often enriches the worst in our society and others..." Yes, but even if we "legalize" drugs, we'll still have criminals exploiting the loopholes: not paying the tax, selling to minors, stealing "legal" drugs to sell or use themselves. Look at the trade in oxycontin.

6) You win this one.

My argument is that you will have more carnage with legalization. The addiction of cocaine and meth is so powerful, it overrides our desires to go to work and be productive. It is like stop signs: most of us could drive safely sans stop signs, but we put them out for an overall beneficial effect. Likewise, most of us could function in a drug filled world, but we need the laws to keep (some of) the tempted in the mainstream, for an overall benefit.

Posted by: doombuggy at March 14, 2007 12:48 PM

Gretchen,

The first national drug law was the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act of 1914. It was a bizarre way of first regulating legal narcotics out of existence through a complex tax and license system. It was important step in the Drug wars, because the US Congress always believed every American had a constitutional right to put whatever they wanted into their bodies. Or it was up to state and local governments to regulate drug use.

Then the next major law was the 1937 Marihuana Tax Act that would include any cannabis derivatives.

So the beginning stages of the Drug war was to try to regulate it out of existence. Anyone could legally distribute narcotics unless they had a special license. But the legislation forgot to create a govt. agency to print out these licenses. In the 1920s and 1930s, lawsuits from medical doctors and hemp farmers started challenging the laws through litigation.

The Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970 was the first real law that resembles the current Drug War policies. It established the Drug Enforcement Agency and created a tier/levels system of legal and illegal drugs. The Controlled Substance Act (which is title II of Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970 allows the jurisdiction of ALL drug laws the domain of the federal government.

Posted by: Joe at March 14, 2007 12:50 PM

> Drugs are never going away.

Neither will cancer, but we fight it.

> Just like most people who drink don't
> become serious alcoholics.

Some do, and many of us test the boundary too often.

> tons of time, effort and money
> prosecuting even minor breaches

Hard to say. The scenario we hear of far too often from the city prosecutor goes like this: "OK, Your Honor... The People will let go of the bludgeoning of the liquor store owner by (unregistered) pistol grip, the wanton sexual violation of his wife, and the wedgie given to their mentally retarded son... But this punk's GOING DOWN for the weed!"

> they cost the rest of us a bundle.

Yes, but it's not like the hardened criminals would be in lawful, taxpaying enterprises otherwise.

> often enriches the worst in
> our society

They didn't choose the business because they admire the respectful competition between matched providers; they like pliable, feckless, distracted customers.

> you live in LA

It's the city of residence. Most wouldn't call this really living.

> erodes trust between the
> police and people

People hate cops anyway. It's fucking insane. I saw this last year at jury duty.

> Do you think our streets would
> be flooded with addicts?

I think people wanna be mouthy about the safety of pot in a pose of political daring. A culture patient with enthusiasm for inebriation gets hard to admire after awhile. Weed specifically can really trash the minds of young and enthusiastic consumers, and it's grotesque to allege that collecting fresh taxes to pay for treatment makes the stupefaction forgivable. Just for starters, treatment doesn't work.

> does anyone actually believe
> that drug use is somehow
> morally reprehensible?

Yes! We're bound to each other with all kinds of responsibilities, and the I'm-my-own-man rhetoric is as likely to spin out of bounds as is commie control.

Friends, there really is such a thing as human weakness out there. I seen it with my own eyes.

Posted by: Crid at March 14, 2007 12:50 PM

The Drug War is simple misdirection; the Feds hope we'll confuse activity with progress, and they need a handy set of false Demons to fight, demons which don't demand bravery, conviction or brains. Or as my former colleague said of another, "He throws a forward pass then runs down the field to catch it while everyone else is running in the opposite direction." Some conspiracy theorists think the Feds want certain parts of society to be drug addled - they're more manageable that way.

I believe the War is prolonged by conservative vote whores who are ascetics or are pandering to large ascetic constituencies.

I wonder if this is a modern version of Puritanism, and why anyone thinks squeezing all joy out of life benefits anyone. Justin's analysis is dead-on.

As an aside, I recently emailed a Creationist zealot with friendly suggestions on how he might harmoniously coexist with evolutionists and create a Win-Win situation - I suggested he adopt a more "flexible" view of the Bible. He acknowledged all my nicey-nice thoughts but rejected them because THE BOTTOM LINE is that the Bible is the IMMUTABLE WORD OF GOD and GOD CREATED SCIENCE, SO SCIENCE MUST ALIGN ITSELF WITH THE BIBLE (my emphases). Part of the screed on the website was "no-one has actually seen a live dinosaur, so how can anyone claim they ever really existed?" Well, because I don't KNOW that Dinosaurs existed, I just BELIEVE they did, and by the way my faith is supported by scientific evidence. Scientists should take a lesson and stop putting the bar so high.

Another true believer knows that Man and Dinosaurs coexisted because that cartoon creature he saw in a cave painting was clearly a dinosaur - not a poorly drawn giraffe, ostrich, or whatever.

Don't tell Christians that birds are dinosaurs - they won't be able to choose between Dinosaurs are Bunk and Creation: 6000 years ago (http://www.independencebaptist.org/Books_by_the_Pastor/The%206,000%20Year%20Old%20Earth.pdf). This link is really funny.

Posted by: Dave at March 14, 2007 1:16 PM

Assorted observations from the legume observatory:

About "People profess to be experts about addiction because they have personal experience with drugs or addicts; they think they know about opioid drugs because they've watched a few episodes of E.R. or been through DARE classes at school." : You shouldn't be surprised about that. People believe they know about Iraq watching TV, the Bible watching Moses in "The Ten Commandments", guns by watching "The A-Team"... most of what people "know" is superstition and lies. They are protected by the "buffer" of society and the division of labor.

Those of you pardoning oxycodone procurement, don't forget to e-mail Rush Limbaugh and apologize to him for calling him names when he dealt with his pain in much the same way.

If you want to complain about drugs, go after your state government - which permitted, even encouraged, smoking, and does so today because of the tax money... even as the State's own health departments tell the State how the people are suffering.

When you talk about the wealth of the underground drug business, realize it's a boil on the butt of the professionals at Pfizer, Merck, etc., who reap billion after billion selling perfectly legal drugs six times an hour on prime-time TV!

Posted by: Radwaste at March 14, 2007 6:11 PM

So much good stuff here. Really. Amy deserves some sort of award for having a blog where the comments section doesn't descend into vitriol any time a controversial subject comes up.

Assorted thoughts on Crid's, doombuggy's and radwaste's thoughts above:

Crid, db: I think that I'm more sanguine than you guys about the carnage that would result from legalization, which is why we come to different conclusions as to what decriminalization of some drugs would do. Right now, I think the problems created by the drug war outweigh the negative effects of what I assume would be a smallish increase in the number of people with substance problems if pot and cocaine were legalized (meth and heroin are not substances I would accept legalizing) - I'm assuming that legal drugs would be stigmatized much like cigarettes, only worse.

That said, you guys make important points about young people getting into drugs, and the life-long consequences thereof; and that drug users affect others than themselves, etc.

So I propose a compromise position: How about decriminalizing possession of small quantities of illegal drugs for personal consumption, whereby possession is fined, but no criminal charges result? This gets rid of the problem of incarcerating the productive, keeps the casual user closer to the right side of the law, while still discouraging the activity (fines should be steep enough to be a deterrent).

Those of you pardoning oxycodone procurement, don't forget to e-mail Rush Limbaugh and apologize to him for calling him names when he dealt with his pain in much the same way

It's hard to do so, given the sanctimoniousness of his prior discussions of drug users. But fine, he's forgiven for being a big old fool, like the rest of us. I still think he sucks.

When you talk about the wealth of the underground drug business, realize it's a boil on the butt of the professionals at Pfizer, Merck, etc., who reap billion after billion selling perfectly legal drugs six times an hour on prime-time TV!

Yes, but they pay taxes, make money for shareholders and all that. I don't think the pharma biz is any worse than other big industries in any deep sense.

Posted by: justin case at March 14, 2007 6:38 PM

Thanks, Justin...I'm amazed and thrilled.

And as for the notion that only the drug laws are keeping people from lying in the street strung out on smack -- alcohol legality is an argument against it. Those of us who live in urban areas can get drugs pretty easily if we want them -- it's not their illegality that stops me from doing them. If I liked pot, I'd smoke it. I don't. Again, I drink wine, but just a glass. I have to wake up in the morning and write, and hangovers don't really work well with that lifestyle.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at March 14, 2007 6:58 PM

Half the time I think that the drug laws are meant to keep the criminally useless from becoming violent psychopaths and killing everything in their path. The other half of the time I think that they're there to keep the shallow end of the gene pool well-stocked. The third half, I think it's to set an example by taking a productive member of society and destroying his life.

This case, however, isn't about the war on drugs per se, it's about the idea of mandatory minimum sentencing. This is something that came about because there are too many judges who've gone soft in the brain and decide to give out exceedingly light sentences to violent criminals. And so, we end up with the same thing we always do - the cure being worse than the disease.

And you can criticize Limbaugh all you want. The fact of the matter is he was using a drug that was legal. Unlike your neighborhood crank addict, he didn't start taking the drugs to get high. Doesn't make him less of a druggie, since he went from pain abatement to getting high, but it's not in the same category as someone who decides "fuck it, let's spend all our time wasted". Like Limbaugh, this Paey fellow doesn't appear (from what little is in the article) to be an ignorant lump of waste that's looking to simply spend his life stoned and a burden to society. He just wants the pain to go away.

Unfortunately, that won't happen unless the governor steps in, and that kind of political football isn't something he's likely to do for fear of upsetting the anti-drug purists.

Posted by: brian at March 14, 2007 7:48 PM

Didn't Limbaugh get in trouble for sending his Guatemalan housekeeper to pick up 'scrips or something? Listen, everybody got pain, but we should be expected to deal with our own.

The decrim people used to say it would free up resources to go after the big dealers, which seems to beg the question: Is doing drugs cool or is it not?

Posted by: Crid at March 14, 2007 9:31 PM

Drugs do indeed screw people up. A couple of my nearest and dearest are addiction counselors; I hear plenty about the side effects. Note to parents: if you really want to control your children's drug use, educate yourself thoroughly on the signs of drug use. You'll be able to spot a post-pot (or whatever) kid in a heartbeat.

That having been said, what drug laws do is attempt to prevent people from harming themselves. Not from harming others - from harming themselves. Yes, yes, you can argue that laws against drug trafficking don't quite fall into this category...but, at the end of the day, we're trying to disrupt not a dangerous intersection between two or more people, but one person putting substances into his/her body. That's why laws that seek to stop drug use twist and warp things the way that they do...and why drug use is effectively impossible to stop. You can prevent people from hurting others by enforcing the Golden Rule; the same is not true in the case of drug use.

From my POV, the drug war has had an amazingly corrupting effect on law enforcement. Most of the laws seeking to stretch the Fourth Amendment stem from the drug war, for example. Law enforcement receives the proceeds of drug busts...and while I'm glad that law enforcement is getting funding, that creates a rather vicious cycle. Police justify no-knock raids in the pursuit of drug criminals. Non-violent offenders get slammed into jail, taking up spots that could go to violent offenders AND almost certainly getting pushed farther down the path to true criminality.

We might cure cancer one day by figuring out how to reprogram the cells that cause it. In order to stop drug use, you'd have to reprogram brains on a massive scale. I'm fine with the reprogramming cancer cells...reprogramming human wants is another matter altogether. That usually turns out...poorly, aside from all of the associated rights issues.

I've never used illegal drugs...hell, I've never smoked a cigarette. No offense to the lot of you who have used them, but I find their use to be, well, dumb in general. But the many permutations of the drug war, including the immense amount of red tape and professional threats that doctors must deal with in order to prescribe opioids, do nothing but warp our justice system and general society. I generally hate slippery slope arguments, but...fer crissakes, I, a law-abiding citizen, have trouble buying decogestants - DECOGESTANTS - because someone, somewhere, might make them into (gasp!) meth. Where does this end? No, really? They came for the pain patients and I didn't speak up? ENOUGH.

Want to stop people from using drugs? Educate yourself on the signs of drug use and call out kids close to your heart (children, nieces/nephews, friends) who are using. More importantly, make sure that kids are raised in a happy environment. There are serious drug addicts out there who were raised in happy, healthy, supportive homes...but the number is low. For many people, drug use is how they deal with issues plaguing their minds. Until you can stop those, you're never going to stop drug use, and attempts to try eventually land you in front of the Supreme Court arguing that the Founding Fathers really, truly didn't mean to prohibit infrared looks through walls when they wrote the Bill of Rights.

Posted by: marion at March 14, 2007 9:44 PM

Is doing drugs cool or is it not?

Being a fuck-up, however you get there, is not cool.

Posted by: justin case at March 14, 2007 9:46 PM

Stanton Peele is an addiction treatment specialist -- probably the best out there -- and he, based on looking at the data, understands that all drug use is not abuse. You can find his work at Peele.net -- for those who'd like to get the data-based notion of things, rather than the religion of addiction stuff. Stories from people you know who are drug counselors may be moving, but they're really not worth very much in terms of policy-making.

I've used drugs, but I haven't abused drugs. I've taken mushrooms a bunch of times, LSD once, ecstasy once, coke once, and I've probably smoked pot about four times. I'm not a drug abuser, but mushrooms helped me figure out some stuff about life. Drug laws don't stop me from abusing drugs -- the fact that I put long-term goals in front of a short-term high keeps me from abusing drugs.

And, P.S. alcohol is a drug. It's a legal drug. Sooo...if you think that illegalizing thing is the only way to prevent us all from becoming gutter bums, how come every single person you know isn't a drunk?

Posted by: Amy Alkon at March 15, 2007 12:42 AM

> if you think that illegalizing
> thing is the only way to prevent
> us all from becoming gutter bums,

That's kinda over the top. The point isn't that restricting some stuff protects all of us from horrible fate, it's that life is better overall.

Posted by: Crid at March 15, 2007 4:45 AM

Do you think life would be better overall if alcohol were prohibited?

Posted by: Norman at March 15, 2007 4:48 AM

The fact that restrictions apply to all people. most of whom would thrive without them, doesn't mean something's wrong.

Posted by: Crid at March 15, 2007 5:41 AM

Here's an angle no one has touched upon yet - the government's declaration of "war" on things that are basically un-preventable. Regardless of the "War on Poverty" or the "War on Drugs," we will always have poverty and drugs. But by involving itself in wars it can't win, the government assures itself that we will always be fighting these wars and providing bureaucrats with jobs.

Posted by: Pirate Jo at March 15, 2007 6:44 AM

Yep, and when DEA agents die in the course of their work it hurts like hell, because they're acting on our behalf.

OTOH- Anybody see that article in teh LAT yesterday about how tweakers are stealing copper off telephone polls, out of wherehouses, or off of anything else that will sit still for twenty seconds? There was a telling quote from law enforcement along the lines of "These fuckers never sleep!"

Posted by: Crid at March 15, 2007 6:52 AM

I think life would be better overall if we banned alcohol, but you have to pick your fights. I also think life would be better overall if we walked more, but I'm not about to lead a charge banning the car.

I'm not sure what to do with an "unwinnable" war. Sometimes you have to fight on in the face of setbacks. We have an ongoing war against crime, and it seems to ebb and flow. The percentage of murders solved each year has gone down lately, but I'm not ready to throw in the towel.

Posted by: doombuggy at March 15, 2007 7:04 AM

Dave,

What do you mean by this? Me no understand.

"I believe the War is prolonged by conservative vote whores who are ascetics or are pandering to large ascetic constituencies."


Posted by: kg at March 15, 2007 7:16 AM

Yeah, the concept of the vote whore has problems. There are people who'll do anything for a vote. This shouldn't be a surprise. Politics makes things happen for people.

Posted by: Crid at March 15, 2007 7:44 AM

Violent crime involves people doing terrible things to other people. That's why we fight it. A society that can't control its violent crime is a society in which some are allowed to prey on others and there is no sense of security.

Drug abuse involves people harming themselves, not others. With the exception of people operating heavy machinery under the influence, it does not involve general security or freedom. Stopping it requires controlling the behavior of individual adults in private - behavior that directly affects no other persons. Short of a police state, that's well-nigh impossible. You can take away abused children or pets, and abused spouses/partners can leave, but you can't physically remove the part of someone's mind that wants to use drugs.

[I]Stories from people you know who are drug counselors may be moving, but they're really not worth very much in terms of policy-making.[/I]
Interestingly enough, the counselors I know want drugs legalized, yesterday. They see no point to throwing addicts in jail...where they'll probably be able to get drugs, anyway. And yes, I know that not all drug use is abuse...but I am willing to admit that legalizing drugs will lead to more drug abuse. However, there is no perfect policy, and the one we have now is increasingly destructive in other ways, IMHO.

Anyone else remember PJ O'Rourke's piece on drug abuse, in which he took several statements about drugs ("Drugs are killing our children," etc. etc.), suggested that the n-word be put in place of drugs, and asked whether that was the *real* message of the drug war? I'm usually the last person to try to drag racism into all of this, but I do think it's a factor. There's a reason that penalties tend to be harsher for crack than for heroin...

Posted by: marion at March 15, 2007 8:16 AM

Marion reads PJ! I'm crushing over here.

Posted by: Crid at March 15, 2007 9:30 AM

As a Canadian, let me say I view the US Drug Policies are INSANE. That they are clearly doomed to eventually crash and burn in disgrace does not make them any less clueless at this moment in time. They merely fill up the prisons with drug related cases(many as 'harmless' as Mr. Paey) while serving to enrich and empower a vibrant, violent ,and corrosive, sub-culture which caters to the insatiable demand for the products. Then pointing gleefully to the very sub-culture the law itself has helped to create and flousish, the defenders of the indefensible, say that this culture 'prooves' their point. Circular reasoning taken to a new Kafkaesque plateau.

However, the 'good' news out of this horrendous typically US 'success' story---"Paey, in prison, is getting double the dosage he was illegally obtaining on the outside. Who can say whether he might not actually consider it a 'good' trade on balance ,considering his degree of pain. Living in his type of 'internal horror', each and every day makes, his life a form of prison in any case.

I sincerely hope that all who admire the US 'War On Drugs'(which by the by, is also losing Afghanistan for us as we speak),someday run afoul of the tentacles of this miserable bureaucratic monster. Then at least it might finally have some 'deserving' victims to consume.

Posted by: dougf at March 15, 2007 10:23 AM

Marion,

It has to do with numbers and cultural attitudes. Are there more crack or heroin addicts? Income levels between the two addicts? Differences in incomes can mean difference in qualities of attorneys when caught. Could there be a difference in sentences between an attorney from Legal Aid or a hired legal gun in a power suit? Is there a higher police presence in inner city neighborhoods versus suburbia?

BTW... my best friend is a former heroin addict and a law school grad. Heroin is too expensive for the average crack addict. Higher prices, usually mean higher income levels.

Is it wrong to use all the advantages society has to offer someone who has the resources?

Posted by: Joe at March 15, 2007 10:37 AM

You know, dougf, I don't know if there are many non-politicians who admire the war on drugs. I do think there are a lot of people who feel that drugs will be more available if they're legalized, and feel, hazily, that that's bad. But most Americans don't have the chance to *see* anything else besides a culture in which all drugs are illegal...except for alcohol and tobacco, of course. I get my pro-decriminalization bent from some world travelers who have seen other alternatives. I find it macabrely amusing, though, that this is one of the few issues about which both the political and the think-tank establishment are pretty much in internal harmony...it's just that the politicos feel one way, and the think tanks another.

Crid, I am a PJ addict. Can't wait to read his new book.

Posted by: marion at March 15, 2007 10:38 AM

He's a weird figure. He was always out there, but his gift didn't seem to blossom until he was in his 30's and fully expelled from the Belushi/SNL circle, by which point all his contemporaries were in full hack mode (conehead movies, etc)

Posted by: Crid at March 15, 2007 10:54 AM

"I do think there are a lot of people who feel that drugs will be more available if they're legalized, and feel, hazily, that that's bad. But most Americans don't have the chance to *see* anything else besides a culture in which all drugs are illegal..."

EXACTLY!!!!! What really irritates me about this situation is that those in favor of decriminalization are the ones put on the defensive. People are getting thrown in jail and getting criminal records over something that is usually harmless fun. And let's face it, if we're supposed to lock people up for harming themselves, we might as well start with the fat people, because there are a lot more health problems in the U.S. that stem from obesity than drug abuse.

But anyway, my point is, we always get the argument that, 'If we legalize drugs, then X will happen!' No, no, no, no, NO! The position that should be on the defensive is why we made this stuff illegal IN THE FIRST PLACE. Otherwise you are just getting down to the circular argument that 'Drugs should be illegal .... well, because they're already illegal!' It's the Drug War nazis who should be the ones doing the explaining. Explain to us chumps, I mean taxpayers, how their expensive little drug war isn't creating more problems than it solves. You want to intrude on people's freedoms? Then YOU defend YOUR position.

Posted by: Pirate Jo at March 15, 2007 11:34 AM

The main reason I support legalization is because of Latin America. I dont understand why the U.S. has to push its agenda on other countries (and that argument that its what's best for the American people is bullshit). I'm sure that black males are really reaping the rewards of what's best for the American people (I know that given the choice I would rather sell drugs than have to deal with another minimum wage job). It seems to me that this whole war is because people dont want to deal with the reality that not everything that others do in life is admirable. By the way I have never done any drugs and am not planning to. They interest me very little save for the economic impact they have in Latin America.

Posted by: PurplePen at March 15, 2007 11:36 AM

Actually, you would be surprised that some wealthy South American drug dealers are financing drug research in their own countries to make future recreational drugs less harmful to the users. Consumer friendly drug lords?

Also, the uncontrollable amount of Narco-Dollars is beginning to seep into major US banking institutions through their offshore divisions. The DEA and Treasury Department people have been sniffing around these major US banking firms.

Posted by: Joe at March 15, 2007 1:22 PM

Alcohol costs society, in drunk driving accidents, and people who are more likely to abuse their spouse and ignore their kids while under the influence, etc. The same with drugs. What we need is to internalize these costs. Before you buy a bottle of hooch, or score a bag, you have to show a card that says you've posted a bond, or bought insurance, that will compensate for any damage that might occur while you are using. The Amy Alkons of the world are a good risk: they would pay a small cost for insurance. Some people are such a bad risk they couldn't get such a bond posted, and thus couldn't buy.

Of course you would still have the illegal users, but I imagine it would be the same ones locked in jail today.

Posted by: doombuggy at March 15, 2007 1:39 PM

"Regardless of the "War on Poverty" or the "War on Drugs," we will always have poverty and drugs. But by involving itself in wars it can't win, the government assures itself that we will always be fighting these wars and providing bureaucrats with jobs."

Emanuel Goldstein: "It does not matter that the war cannot be won... the sole purpose of the war is the consumption of human output". Orwell continues to be correct!

By the way - don't say that drug abuse only hurts the user. That's so wrong it's sick.

Posted by: Radwaste at March 15, 2007 8:40 PM

"Is it wrong to use all the advantages society has to offer someone who has the resources?"

Don't know about you, but I would infinitely prefer that, if the legal system is going to confer any advantages, it do so on those less able to help themselves that others. I have considerably less sympathy for your friend than I do for the crack addicts my relative counsels who have, to a man, had horrific childhoods with "parents" who taught them little or nothing about dealing with the real world. I'm willing to spend some of my hard-earned tax dollars helping them participate in rehab IF they're really willing to do so. I have faith that your friend can find a way to fund rehab himself. But that's just me, and I acknowledge my biases up front.

"He's a weird figure. He was always out there, but his gift didn't seem to blossom until he was in his 30's and fully expelled from the Belushi/SNL circle"
...which would have been around the time he stopped using (illegal) drugs, I believe. :)

As for alcohol, I like the card idea...but I'll point out that, used in low quantities, alcohol actually has some health benefits. The vast, vast majority of adults can still function just fine - drive a car, etc. - after one glass of wine, and those who drink a glass of red wine every night tend to have a lower risk of heart disease than those who do not. So far, we haven't found any such health benefit from other mood-altering drugs...well, there's some evidence that nicotine can help blunt the effects of ADHD and Crohn's disease, but I have seen the long-term health effects of smoking, and I can confidently assert that death as a side result is usually a very nasty process. I'm not trying to say that alcohol is wonderful and has never ruined anyone's life...but the fact that I drink red wine in very moderate amounts is probably a health benefit for me compared with my teetotaler friends, and that's not something we can say about cocaine, heroin, or pot. (As for pot for painkilling, my take is: Legalize pot, leave opioids as prescription-only but remove the red tape/restrictions, and generally err on the side of relieving people's physical pain rather than erring in the other direction.)

Posted by: marion at March 15, 2007 8:52 PM

Every vice cop is another cop who is not enforcing the laws against violent crime against people and property, or busting people for drunk/stoned driving. Vice cops are also big revenue raisers for their departments due to the sheer volume of assets that a good drug bust can bring in. Gee, any wonder why it is that you see more enforcement of the drug laws, and less enforcement of the laws that are broken by people committing crime while stoned? There's no money in enforcing armed robbery, but there is a lot involved in a drug bust.

Posted by: MikeT at March 16, 2007 12:50 PM

Awww, I guess when Rush does it, he should go to prison, even though he never robbed anyone. Why does ANYONE support a nigger who robbed a store? My GOD you "people" are suicidal. Why don't you let him serve out house-arrest at YOUR home? Oh, you don't want to?? Well, then STOP trying to free him on OTHER PEOPLE in society. Jews...

Posted by: Tyrone Niggerdick at March 23, 2007 11:53 PM

Does racism make you feel all snugly inside? Apparently, it does.

The problem with Rush is his hypocrisy -- railing that drug users should go to prison nonstop, and then, oops! turning out to be one himself, then shouting "clemency!"

I'm not for the criminalization of drug use -- but if it were a "liberal" in Rush's place, wouldn't your racist ass be arguing quite the contrary?

It is typical that you write as murkily as you do. Many racists seem to only have a fourth or fifth grade education. Get your GED before you post again here, will ya?

Posted by: Amy Alkon at March 24, 2007 7:49 AM

Glad Rich's case draws a discussion. I can answer any questions you have on his case. The details are even more compelling, he's a good man who was dealt a lousy hand in life. His whole life was derailed due to a motor vehicle accident and his subsequent spinal surgeries that left him in severe pain. He was confined to a wheelchair after being diagnosed with MS. It's been a nightmare and I don't know when it will end. That really sucks for me and the kids. However, I am thankful that we've had good media coverage and everyone has been so supportive. Thanks

Posted by: Linda Paey at March 25, 2007 11:53 PM

My sympathies to you and your family. I'd suggest you turn to Reason magazine -- if they haven't written about your husband already. Just tragic, what's happening.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at March 26, 2007 12:14 AM

Jacob Sullum is a great fan of ours, his wise words have supported us in a number of the articles he penned. I try not to dwell on our situation, I try to push the issue forward and keep busy. I want all to see what is happening in Florida and around the country to legitimate pain patients and their doctors. The war on drugs has taken over common sense and now comes before helping some of the weakest members of our community receive proper medical care.

Posted by: Linda at March 26, 2007 4:05 PM

Hopefully this negroid will die soon. Funny that no one here has yet volunteered to let him serve house arrest at their home... You bedwetting liberals are all talk and no action. You cry for the floating turds in new orleans, yet, YOU don't go down to there to help! Probably a good idea, since you may well get shot. You want the nigs and the Mexcrement to live free, but not around you. NICE.

Posted by: Tyrone Niggerdick at March 27, 2007 10:22 AM

Hey, racist ass clot, I'm not a liberal. I'm fiscally conservative and socially libertarian. If you didn't spend so much time hating people simply because they have different skin than you do, you might read up on libertarianism, such as the propensity for letting people have freedom as long as they're not hurting otheres.

I live in southern California, and I specifically moved to my neighborhood because it's a mixed race neighborhood -- filled with all colors of faces -- because I grew up in suburban Detroit, which was lily white, and rather boring because of it.

I didn't know the guy was black -- race is unimportant to me. Why is it so important to you? Perhaps you should devote yourself to finishing high school and learning to think.

P.S. You can hate me, too (hate to be left out). I'm an atheist now, but I was born Jewish. Don't tell me...you're a "Christian"?

Posted by: Amy Alkon at March 27, 2007 11:05 AM

I bet you won't live in your beloved Detroit now, though will you? Often, blacks are violent - I'm sure you know and despise the stats on prison inmates and race. (Of course that's all whitey's fault, and we need government to fix it). No, I'm not a christian - that religion is truly hateful and intolerant - and makes as much sense as scientology.

Many whites just don't like the way the jews try to force negro onto white society. Society tends to segregate itself, anyway, but the jew organizations know better than we do (!) so they want to integrate everything. Kinda makes sense that people don't like jews because of that.

Posted by: Tyrone Niggerdick at March 27, 2007 2:33 PM

I've never "beloved" Detroit, and my close friend and next-door neighbor is black. She's an incredible person, from a lovely family. Which is more than I can say for you. What do you do besides bop around spreading hate?

Posted by: Amy Alkon at March 27, 2007 4:13 PM

Oh, well since you're friends with a black person, I guess that means they don't make up 80% of the prison population, have 70% of their kids out of marriage, etc. Interesting you see any opposing view as "hate".

Posted by: Tyrone Niggerdick at March 27, 2007 4:31 PM

Interesting to see you calling racist namecalling an "opposing point of view." I don't judge people by their skin -- it's dumb, since there are lovely people of all races and shitty people of all races. I have a number of black friends, as well as a number of friends of other races. None of them, black or white, are in jail.

Moreover, there are some excellent parents who are unmarried. You're just full of assumptions. Please go away. You don't add to the discussion, just bring it down. There's plenty of disagreement on my site, and I encourage it. There's a difference between disagreement and a guy who uses a ugly epithet in his "name," just for starters.

P.S. Jewish people don't act as one big monolith, dumbshit.

And furthermore, the difference between you and me (just one of them, that is) is that I post with my real name, and you, like a little weenie, hide behind one you made up...sitting there on Towner Place, in Louisville.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at March 27, 2007 5:16 PM

Towner Place in Louisville? Were in the hell did you come up with that?

Posted by: Tyrone Niggerdick at March 27, 2007 5:31 PM

Richard is white.

Posted by: Linda Paey at March 27, 2007 5:50 PM

And this isn't about color anyway, but a horrible injustice.

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