Killing Whitney Houston

Whitney Houston, she of the musical gift we may see only once in a lifetime, is dead at 48. There has been no final determination, but there is little doubt: drugs killed her.

Houston, they say, and I have no reason to doubt it, was troubled by the pressures of show business, celebrity and stardom, and with a little help from her dead-beat, abusive husband, singer Bobby Brown, sought to relieve the stress with a variety of illegal substances, including cocaine. Over the past 15 years or so, Americans have been able to watch the relentless deterioration of Houston, once the epitome of a beautiful, intelligent, ebullient and charismatic presence, into an emaciated, ruined shell  with only a hint of the glorious instrument that once, in the middle of a war abroad, delivered the most stirring rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner I have ever heard, or ever will hear.

This happened to Whitney Houston because when illegal drugs were among the options she could have chosen to accept or reject as a way to get through difficult days and troubled times, she did not have the instant reaction, hard-wired in her brain, that has to stop all of us from doing terrible, dangerous, irresponsible and anti-social things. There can be little doubt that some theoretical options would have triggered that reaction. They would be the options that did not seem like options at all, because the culture Whitney Houston lived in was unequivocal and unshakable in its verdict, a verdict virtually all members of that culture naturally adopted and accepted—because that’s what cultures do. And when that option presented itself, Whitney Houston, like the culture she was a part of, would have said “No.”

That she didn’t say no to drugs, and is dead because of it, was the direct result of an American culture that does not give its constituency a clear message and verdict. Instead, the clearest and most unequivocal signal from the culture, the fact that recreational drugs are illegal and that America enforces the laws against them, is progressively weakened by ridicule, attack, popular culture, and the defiance or hypocrisy of role models and public figures. Incredibly, though the deaths by drug-abuse among the tiny proportion of the world that is famous and talented—Michael Jackson, Amy Winehouse, Whitney—should make it obvious how massive the number of anonymous victims of drug abuse there must be, the destructive refrains grow louder: Legalize drugs! End the War on Drugs! And those calls weaken the cultural resolve further. Actually doing what they advocate would cripple it….and that day might come.

Whether they are preventing the culture from rejecting drug use because enforcement is expensive, or because they have a relative or friend in prison for drug-dealing; whether they are calling for legalization because they are libertarians and academics or Ron Paul, or because they are public officials who see a new revenue source; whether they are longing for the halcyon days of Haight-Ashbury and the Strawberry Alarm Clock,  or just like getting stoned, these are the people whose advocacy continues to nurture a competing culture that killed Whitney Houston, as surely as if she had been shot her between the eyes.

I would say that if their insistence on legalization is followed, and the nation’s laws join the popular throng in pronouncing addictive and life-destroying drugs as legitimate “options,” many more like her will die….except there aren’t many more like her. But there are countless lives to destroy, and unimaginable losses to families, businesses and America to be endured.

I just watched the video of Whitney Houston’s glorious performance of our National Anthem at the Super Bowl, before the drugs had finished their work. She radiates confidence, strength and character, as well as that special joy that the fortunate few with magical gifts have. She brings a stadium full of Americans to their feet in cheers, with an exhibition of artistry that will continue to inspire forever. Drugs took all of that away, from Whitney Houston and from us.

Because our culture could not say no with enough conviction to save her.

Update (2/15/12): With some regret, I am closing comments on this post. Too many commenters refused to discuss the issue it was intended to raise, which was how cultural approval and disapproval of conduct is more powerful, ultimately, than the law in establishing standards. I have committed on this blog to responding to as many comments as possible, but the onslaught of pro-drug zealots whose tactic was to keep repeating the same arguments no matter how many times I gave my response led me into too many frustrated responses, too many nasty exchanges, and too many hasty replies that I wish I had stated more clearly. For those I apologize, both to the visitors involved and other readers. I also apologize for ending the discussion here, but I don’t have the time to monitor it. You are welcome to e-mail me personally.

189 Comments

Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Health and Medicine, Law & Law Enforcement, U.S. Society

189 responses to “Killing Whitney Houston

  1. Tony Aroma

    “We all tell each other what is right and wrong, Tony”

    No, society tells us what’s legal and illegal. That’s not necessarily the same thing. Not in the sense that you’re using the word “wrong.” You’re saying drugs should be illegal because they are wrong, so obviously you see those as two distinct concepts. Legality is the purview of the government. Right and wrong are personal, moral opinions dictated by religion or philosophy or whatever. The two do not always coincide.

    Our government was set up in such a way as to do everything possible to protect our rights. In order to take away a right, it must have a compelling reason. That’s called due process. In order to restrict the behavior of citizens in the privacy of their homes (e.g., simple drug possession or choosing their own medical treatment), the government must show that such behavior harms society. If such behavior doesn’t pass that test, there’s no legal justification to criminalize it.

    Of course nobody’s saying DUI or child endangerment or other harmful behaviors caused by drug abuse aren’t bad and should not be dealt with. But that’s quite different than punishing harmless drug use just because it is “wrong.”

    • What can I say? You don’t understand the differing, if ideally complimentary, roles of law and ethics in society. Take one of my seminars. You’re out of your depth.

      Wrong means, in ethical terms, objectively harmful to individuals and/or society without sufficient compensating benefits. “Wrong is wrong” is morality. I don’t do morality. Another distinction you need to bone up on.

      • A Critic

        “Wrong means, in ethical terms, objectively harmful to individuals and/or society without sufficient compensating benefits.”

        That’s one definition. Not the only one. Even by that definition the war on drugs is wrong because it provides no compensating benefits, doesn’t solve any problems, and it creates many new problems.

  2. The prohibition of Earth’s most widely beneficial plant species is a crime against humanity.

    To keep Cannabis illegal while tobacco and alcohol are dispensed freely would be *MURDEROUSLY STUPID*.

    Any questions?

    • All right. I would normally feel bad about this, and I usually won’t allow comments that stoop to the I-word to stay up. But there are exceptions to every rule, and that comment included two epically stupid comments–the first about cannabis, and the second canard holding that the fact that we are stuck with two deadly legal drugs is a persuasive reason to add more. I’ve explained why this argument is utter garbage too many times today, and too many times in my lifetime. I don’t know why it has such appeal, but I do know that a proper number of brain cells should stop anyone from writing it or saying it, since they would naturally prompt the thought..”Wait! That makes no damn sense!”

      Indeed it doesn’t. If you make that argument, you either are an idiot, or you’re momentarily thinking like one. Anyway, I feel a little bad, but only a little. I don’t want to see that argument any more. It insults everyone’s intelligence.

      • strayan

        The fact that we are stuck with two deadly drugs is exactly the reason that people should not face criminal sanction for the choosing to use safer alternatives.

        Here’s a fun fact, when better, safer drugs are discovered as medical treatments, you generally abandon the use of the old shitty ones. WIth drug prohibition you do the opposite – thereby abandoning any hope of reducing harm.

        By the way, why should people be punished by the State for what they put into their own bodies? What ethical framework do you use to justify locking people in cages for chewing coca leaves? Are you going start arguing for the recriminalisation of suicide, anal sex or abortion?

        • “The fact that we are stuck with two deadly drugs is exactly the reason that people should not face criminal sanction for the choosing to use safer alternatives.”
          1.A fatuous statement…once again: if it were possible so late in the game to illegalize either tobacco or alcohol, it would be a good thing to do.
          2. Again—it is not the health of the individual, but the harm drug use does to the rest of society that is the main reason fo the law. If you, or anyone, promised to live alone, be self supporting, have no family obligations, never drive and receive no assistance or health benefits, then fine–abuse yourself however you want, and the law and state shouldn’t care. But society isn’t like that.
          3. Suicide is still illegal in most states. Read.
          4. Abortion should be illegal under certain circumstances, and is.
          5. Please…xplain to me how any third person is affected by a couple’s anal sex. Do you really not understand the use of analogies, or is your means of argument just to throw random thoughts at the wall?

          • strayan

            Explain to me how someone chewing a coca leaf (illegal) exposes society to more risk than someone (totally unimpaired and well rested) driving a car to work.

            Knock yourself out.

            • Darn, if only I didn’t have to organize my sock drawer. Instead, I’m going to assume you really can figure out yourself what’s wrong with that question, if only so I don’t get even more depressed about the US educational system.

              • strayan

                You just argued in favour of drug prohibition (and upholding the current laws) because of the harm (and I quote) “drug use does to the rest of society”.

                Well Jack, driving to work exposes society to more harm than chewing coca leaves and yet chewing coca leaves is will land you in jail. How is logical?

              • A Critic

                “Darn, if only I didn’t have to organize my sock drawer.”

                Creative. Many people use marijuana and enjoy a wide variety of benefits, everything from pain relief to creative inspiration. That’s a benefit to society. Your use of alcohol however appears to have had a negative impact on your ability to think clearly – to the detriment of society. Shouldn’t we put you in prison for ten years to teach you a lesson? After all, it’s for the good of society.

          • strayan

            Still waiting patiently for an answer to this:

            “What ethical framework do you use to justify locking people in cages for chewing coca leaves?”

      • A Critic

        “the second canard holding that the fact that we are stuck with two deadly legal drugs is a persuasive reason to add more. ”

        That’s not quite accurate. It would be accurate to say:

        the second canard holding that the fact that we are stuck with allowing people to use two deadly legal drugs is a persuasive reason to add more to the list they are permitted to use.

        Your belief in the war on drugs is predicated on many false beliefs, including that there is some sort of benefit obtained from not permitting people to use certain drugs.

        “I don’t want to see that argument any more. ”

        You don’t want us to point out that you advocate the state sanctioned sale of deadly poisons while the state treats the producers and users of the safest drug known to man as though they were violent criminals? Of course not. Why would you want us to point out that you are advocating the policy favored by psychopaths? Only a psychopath, or an idiot following a psychopaths, thinks it is a good idea to distribute poisons to the masses while criminalizing the safest and most effective medicine known to man.

      • Ben

        You come close to implying that you think tobacco and alcohol SHOULD be illegal. If this is truly what you believe, then I give you credit for being one of the few prohibitionists with an internally consistent argument… But it doesn’t make you look very intelligent.

        • No Ben, I said that if we could ban it we should, but it’s impossible. You don’t get to call me unintelligent…sorry. My space. Bye. I’ve put up with rude, silly, repetitive and illogical arguments, but I don’t have to put up with that.

  3. Right. 2012 is just like Prohibition. You don’t know what you’re talking about, not even slightly.

  4. Just so you know, “Free Radical” got himself banned. Vigorous debate is fine and welcome; pointless insults and constant snottiness is not. I don’t like to do it, but it was richly deserved.

  5. And Mr.Jenson follows Free Radical to the permanent penalty box.

    It is cheering to me that the most rabid defenders of illicit drug use are just about as devoid of character as I would predict. Imagine devoting so much passion and energy to make sure that school children have even more access to drugs than they already do, to make the costs to society of drug abuse even more devastating, all because they like their relaxing joint or six. They are contemptuous of the law, and substantially in the camp of the “right and wrong is whatever we say it is” barbarians. Drugs make people jerks, and jerks are attracted to drugs.

    I may close future posts about drug abuse to comments if this is the best I’m going to get. The same arguments over and over, invalid comparisons with alcohol, absurd comparisons with non-American cultures, and arguments that by-pass ethics entirely for “everybody does it” variations. If I keep talking to them, they get insulting. meanwhile, nobody in the sane, unstoned, responsible world bothers to join in the fray, because, unlike me, they are smart enough to know that this about agendas, not reason And certainly not about what’s best for American society, The kids just want their high. How ennobling. How primitive. How infantile.

    How sad.

    The funny thing is that the post was about how the vociferous advocacy of just these same commenters and their like create the weak tolerance of illegal drug use that ensnares people like Whitney Houston..So Jenson and Free radical have contributed to our understanding after all.

    Thanks guys. Bye!

  6. Jack, I’m a little disappointed that you haven’t dealt as vociferously with the ethical elements at the other end of the spectrum. Most of your posts on this topic deal with individual behavior, the fact that drug use is illegal, and if one is caught breaking the law, they get what they get. While I mostly share that feeling, I think a significant part of our anti drug efforts are misguided. As I’ve mentioned before, in my mind, the manufacturers,distributors and bankers that largely facilitate and profit handsomely from the drug trade are largely left to do their dirt underground. I’m especially pissed at the bankers that launder drug money. It seems really unfair to demand so much from the individual, yet not be equally hard on the shadow industry that continues to make money on ruined lives. Why no equal outrage?

    • I’m equally outraged, Roger,but the banks aren’t the ones writing me to defend themselves.Everyone involved is despicable. My point, a narrow and obvious one,was that the problem with drugs is greatly increased by cultural ambivalence created by elite apologists for drug use who are willing to risk social catastrophe for their own recreation. I shouldn’t need to point out that obvious villains are villains…that’s not the purpose here.

      By the way, thanks for joining me in the anti-drug Alamo today. You were the only one as the invaders swarmed over the walls, and I appreciate it.

  7. Joshua

    I’m hitting my forehead as hard as possible. Can people really be this blind? You only hurt yourself? You are joking, right? Riiiight?

    My brother is a meth addict. He has to fight the urges every single day of his life. He’ll last for a long while then relapse. Every time he relapses he hurts the one who needs him most, his daughter. I hope some of the wisdom instilled by those around her stays with her through her life.

    My nephew’s mother is a pothead. Absolutely insane woman, too. The nickname my family has given her is not meant for polite conversation. I feel bad for my nephew because he won’t get to know his mother because of the drug culture she is a part of has robbed him of his mother. Let us hope my nephew finds a better role model.

    What about all the impressionable youths who get conned into believing drugs are great by the music industry and Hollywood?

    Marijuana is proven to cause long term memory loss and other health issues including cancer.

    Meth… Now there is a great drug! I’ll just give a Wikipedia link to the facts on meth. I’m glad my job allows me to prevent the making of meth. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Methamphetamine

    Earlier it was questioned why I brought up oleander and nightshade. Since the point was so over the top complex and hard to understand, let me put it again like I did earlier. And because I just want to make sure I won’t have to repeat it again I’ll put it all in caps. JUST BECAUSE A PLANT IS CONSIDERED NATURAL DOES NOT MEAN IT IS SAFE FOR HUMAN USE! You would not go and eat any and every mushroom you find would you?

    Jack, I feel incredibly sorry for you. You have been bum rushed by the dregs of society. You need a perk me up so here’s a great video for you.

    *Language Warning*

    • Thanks…and great video. 80% of those guys were college students who think there’s nothing more to life than getting stoned and screwing. I checked out one of the Facebook pages. It was all drugs and Occupy stuff. Sad.

    • strayan

      Methamphetamine is FDA approved. They prescibe it to children:

      http://www.fda.gov/downloads/Drugs/DrugSafety/ucm088582.pdf

      The research shows the harms of methamphetamine are largely overstated: http://www.nature.com/npp/journal/v37/n3/abs/npp2011276a.html

      But feel free to continue to base your world view on wikipedia and cartoons.

      • Joshua

        Methamphetamine is a schedule two drug. The reason it is prescribed to people with adhd and the like is because it has the opposite effect it has on everyone else.

        Go ahead and keep dreaming your drug induced utopian land with fairies and unicorns and people who agree with you.

        • A Critic

          “The reason it is prescribed to people with adhd and the like is because it has the opposite effect it has on everyone else.”

          That is false. They prescribe it to ADHD people because it has the exact same effects as it has on everyone else. Those effects include greatly enhanced concentration and focus.

  8. crella

    ‘All you have is “Drugs are bad, mmmkay?”

    and here is demonstrated the level of reading comprehension you possess.

    Jack, you’re a helluva lot more patient than I’d be. On the other hand, they are providing loads of proof as to why it’s best for drugs to be illegal ;-D

  9. Bill

    I use to be someone who thought marijuana should be legalized. Then I quit smoking it. After three years of not having smoked it I have no desire to go back to it. Smoking Marijuana doesn’t just get you high then wear off and go away. It has lasting effects on your thinking ability and mental alertness. Every hour of every day now I am much more alert and focused in both my job and personal life. While I may not have been high all the time the hangover from marijuana affected everything I did. I can understand allowing for medical marijuana but I have concerns about control and prescriptions.

  10. kaptinemo

    “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.” – CS Lewis

    As someone who considers himself a life-long ‘paleoconservative’ (as in the traditional, non-neoconservative, Goldwater/Paul sort) I find this argument of continuing to proscribe recreational drugs on a supposedly ‘moral’ basis to be rather reminiscent of the original ones behind that prohibition.

    The problem here is that the people who originally proposed and lobbied for drug prohibition were what we would nowadays call LIBERALS.

    Back then, as some do now, they called themselves ‘progressives’…yet it becomes clear with a little research just how those with supposedly ‘progressive’ tendencies (and therefore assumed to be less prone to Human failings, as many of them no doubt thought themselves) were, in fact, just as much products of their society’s bigotry and prejudice as those they sought to control…‘for their own good’, of course.

    In short, said ‘progressives’ engaged in an entirely regressive (and arguably, immoral) national policy based on racial and ethnic bigotry and prejudice, in which they considered minorities and non-Protestant ethnic groups to be barely civilized savages incapable of self-control while under the influence. Like the proscription against selling ‘firewater’ to ‘Injuns’, it was not based on anything scientific, but a misplaced sense of moral superiority whose foundation was racism and ethnic bigotry…and nothing else.

    For an avowed conservative to support drug prohibition when its’ ideological foundations came from the liberal/progressive camp, is very puzzling. For, as the CS Lewis quote above makes clear, the historical record shows they were, indeed, the ones intent upon tormenting others for their own good…which their ideological descendants continue to do today. A practicing conservative wouldn’t even need knowledge of the historical context behind drug prohibition to know that it was directly antithetical to the ideals of rights and liberties – not to mention being anti-Constitutional; the liberal/progressives distorted the original meaning of the Commerce Clause, leading to the obscene burgeoning of the Federal government’s ability to negatively affect our lives. As Thomas Jefferson so presciently put it in the Kentucky Resolutions:

    “. . . it would be a dangerous delusion were a confidence in the men of our choice to silence our fears for the safety of our rights: that confidence is everywhere the parent of despotism: free government is founded in jealousy and not in confidence; it is jealousy and not confidence which prescribes limited Constitutions to bind down those whom we are obliged to trust with power: that our Constitution has accordingly fixed the limits to which and no further our confidence may go; . . . In questions of power then let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.”

    The liberal/progressives broke those chains with the Harrison Narcotics Act nearly a century ago, again, for the ‘best of reasons’…and we have been suffering the consequences to our rights and liberties ever since.

    So…if morality is to be determined as what is best for society as a whole, then it should be obvious from all the historical evidence that drug prohibition, like alcohol Prohibition before it, is anything but a moral policy. Given the horrendous damages to society it has caused, physically, fiscally etc., it is inherently immoral, literally from the get-go. It needs to be retired as alcohol Prohibition was.

    • 1. Who are you calling “an avowed conservative”?
      2. Morality has nothing whatsoever to do with it, and neither does ideology. It’s called identifying harmful and anti-social behavior, identifying it, and making a clear statement that it is to be avoided by responsible citizens.
      3. There is no right to harm others and inter-dependent societies.
      4. This is the clear argument for drug legalization. It is wrong, reckless, naive and dangerous, but this is an excellent statement of it.
      5. Good work. I would make this the Comment of Day if I wasn’t so sick of debating this issue after The Onslaught Of The College Potheads yesterday.

      • strayan

        If his argument is “reckless, naive and dangerous” how ought we label a argument that has lead to the imprisonment of millions, the destabilsation of entire States, the ongoing erosion of personal liberty, widespread corruption of the military and police and brutal savagery as evidenced by the beheadings and torture in Mexico.

      • A Critic

        “It’s called identifying harmful and anti-social behavior, identifying it, and making a clear statement that it is to be avoided by responsible citizens.”

        Drugs aren’t harmful nor are they anti-social. You can lie, but why? To defend the indefensible.

        “3. There is no right to harm others and inter-dependent societies.”

        Drugs don’t harm others or society.

        “The Onslaught Of The College Potheads yesterday.”

        Another ad hominum attack based on an irrelevant stereotype.

      • kaptinemo

        1) It is clear from your postings that you consider yourself a conservative, as conservatives are supposed to be interested in the preservation of not only rights and liberties but the social order in which they are practiced. Said social order having certain mores that are usually more the product of custom rather than rational thought.

        2) If morality and ideology has ‘nothing to do with it’, then one might believe – correctly – that given your parameters, massively more damage has been done by The State with its’ ‘anti-social behavior’ directed towards its’ own citizens than anything the citizens have done to each other by drug use. To maintain the DrugWar when it has caused to much more misery than any individual could ever cause makes your support of it illogical. Therefore, to paraphrase an ancient Roman saying, DrugWar delanda est!.

        3) See 2 above. Using your parameters again, one may argue that Government has no right to harm its’ citizens if they are engaging in conduct that does not harm others. The determination of ‘harm’ has to do with the old libertarian ideal of personal sovereignty with its’ twin, personal responsibility.

        This principle was re-learned, with bloody punctuation provided by gangster Tommy-guns, during alcohol Prohibition, and it was a bitter lesson for those would-be social engineers who foolishly thought, in the face of historical evidence to the contrary, that they could successfully engage in substance prohibition when every single society in the past which attempted to do so failed, sometimes with catastrophic results..

        in short, if I punch you in the face, I’ve harmed you. If I get drunk, drive and kill someone through my negligence – as someone did to a cousin of mine long ago – I deserve the fullest sanction that the law allows for, for then I truly have harmed someone. But, if I get drunk in public, I’ve only harmed my reputation, and maybe your sensibilities, but that’s all.

        4) I have provided specific historical examples as to why drug prohibition is inherently indefensible and re-legalization a plausible solution. You only provide condemnation without rationale for it. Only the Pope is supposed to be infallible and able to speak ex cathrdra. Do I detect intellectual laziness?

        5) Like you, I thoroughly enjoy rational discourse, but for me this is no intellectual exercise but a matter of national survival. If this nation is to survive what may be coming down the pike, we will have to jettison a great many government programs that have built up over the years that in fact do nothing at all for the citizens and serve only to enrich their bureaucratic, corporate and political benefactors, and if anything deserves to go on the chopping block, it’s the trillion-dollar-already boondoggle that is the DrugWar.

        • I am confused by identifying people as conservatives or liberals.

          Drugs kill people. Guns kill people. Wars kill people. Abortions kill people. People kill people. My point on this one? Conservatives, mostly, support gun rights. Conservatives have supported the recent wars with the exception of doing anything to prevent human atrocities contributed by fascist regimes. Conservatives tend to oppose drugs outside of alcohol and nicotine. Conservatives oppose all types of abortion. Liberals for the most part support gun control. Liberals support pro-choice. These examples confuse me as is one killing different than another killing? Do drugs kill? Yes. Do guns kill? yes. Do abortions kill innocent people? yes. Do wars kill innocent people? yes. Why do many conservatives support wars they do not engage in the actual fighting? Why do liberals support abortion when it’s not their choice? Why do conservatives support gun rights that do not hunt?

          What about the freedom of religion? How come the conservatives are worried about their rights to prayer in public places? And at the same time oppose any religion( except that of Judeo-Christian faiths) that contemplate building a place of worship in a public place such as a few blocks away from Ground Zero. How come liberals want the same freedoms as conservatives do, but without any interferance from outside groups? Why do Americans only want freedoms, laws and rules that are only a convenience to themselves?

          • kaptinemo

            It depends upon what ‘flavor’ of ‘conservatism’ you are referring to.

            Essentially conservatives can be divided into two camps: those who see the Constitution as meaning exactly what it says, and ONLY what it says…and then there are those who, quite simply, are willing to use the precedent that the liberal/progressives created in distorting the Constitution courtesy of (IMHO, improper) ‘interpretation’ by enacting legislation geared towards social engineering on a national scale, and then followed suit with their own agenda…which in operation and methodology is strikingly similar to that of the liberal/progressives, but for differing aims.

            Such are the neoconservatives, who in fact are an alien grafting of former(?) Trotskyites onto the American body politic, who claim to have renounced their Commie ways.

            Yet their actions seem to belie their words. because they have no reluctance to do just what the liberal/progressives do, they just do it with a rightist slant instead of a leftist one. Namely, to use the power of The State to compel compliance with their political (and other) agendas. Which a traditional conservative would refuse to even consider, because of the danger of opening what would be a Pandora’s Box of unrestrained government overstepping the bounds provided for by the (now, almost totally destroyed) ‘checks and balances’ meant to keep government power on a tight leash.

            So…a traditional conservative may not like drug usage, but said traditional conservative would not favor drug prohibition because the laws that would have to be crafted to enable that would, perforce, lead to exactly the situation that Jefferson warned us about in the Kentucky Resolution. The exact same situation we suffer from today: too much out-of-control government intruding in areas that it was previously precluded from.

            So, given that, I think you can guess by now where your ire should be directed.

  11. Mike R

    The War on Drugs kills hundreds of thousands every year – VASTLY more than drug overdoses. Hollywood is not, even remotely, representative of the vast majority of people who can quite successfully moderate their intake of drugs, both legal (alcohol) and illegal (marijuana). To continue to add to the 40,000,000 American citizens who have been incarcerated by the War on Drugs, or the 50,000 Mexican citizens who have been murdered because of it, would be abjectly evil. To use a few Hollywood icons to justify continuing the War on Drugs is simply moronic. I’m happy that most American’s are smarter than this.

    Simple fact: the War on Drugs has nothing to do with saving lives. It’s about protecting corporate and political interests and the build up of police powers and the police state in general. Period.

    • Ben

      At some point, you’re going to have to address the issues here, instead of just calling people naive, stupid, and idiotic.

      Prohibition causes violence on a massive scale, and does not curtail use.

      • You do realize that I have addressed all these issues over and over again, and that the same flawed or outright silly ones keep getting posted? You send in one or two comments, and I answer 100—sorry, Ben..I have earned the right to reject and slap down those that waste my time and those of my readers. Take, for example this statement.

        “Prohibition causes violence on a massive scale, and does not curtail use.”
        1. It’s rude. I have explained that the drug movement’s use of “prohibition” is a ploy, and that comparisons with Prohibition are historically and logically wrong. Yet you repeat it. Well, My position has been stated clearly, and you ignored it. You get waht you ask for.
        2. “…causes violence on a massive scale…” Prove it. An unsupported, and nonsensical assertion. How do I respond other than “you’re full of baloney”?
        3. “and does not curtail use” Bullshit. Complete supposition, fantasy, propaganda and wishful thinking. I think it is probably an outright lie, if not complete self-delusion.

        The totality makes for a dumb, dishonest, useless and thoroughly engaging statement. Keep sending me crap, and I’ll announce it…and that is completely justified.

    • “Simple fact: the War on Drugs has nothing to do with saving lives. It’s about protecting corporate and political interests and the build up of police powers and the police state in general. Period.”
      ^5,Mike. Think of all that lovely money,cars,precious gems,furs,mansions they get to confiscate,too. And the dope that the crooked ones get to use and share.Nice little business.

      • The War on Drugs has NOTHING to do with saving lives? This is the kind of dishonest hyperbole that poisoned the thread. I’ve talked to DEA agents and sincere policy makers, as well as prosecutors. That statement is either 1) am intentional lie 2) naive 3) or an irresponsible exaggeration. But it is absolutely not ” a simple fact.”

  12. YoungPerson

    Dear Jack,
    I read this thread yesterday and I felt I must respond with a personal perspective.

    I am 23 years old, and I was one of the “college stoners” you so disdain (and am still a stoner). Where am I now? I am on the law review at Duke Law School, with some of the highest grades in my class. I make this point only to show that the stereotype you espouse is wrong and frankly extremely offensive. And I am not the only one – my friends who smoke pot are highly intelligent, capable people. In fact, studies show that people who do drugs have higher IQs – perhaps because we don’t believe drug warrior hype and instead we think for ourselves. We young people are the future of this country, and I have high hopes (pun intended) for us – we are tolerant, diverse, deep-thinking, and caring for others, pretty much the opposite of you and so many in your generation. We are going to have to clean up the mess your generation has caused; how do you feel about that ethics-wise?
    One large, trillion-dollar piece of that mess is the War on Drugs, which has almost entirely been a war on young people. Did you know that 1 in 3 people is arrested by the time they reach my age? In fact, I have been arrested. Luckily no charges were pressed, since I am white and the cops knew I could get a good lawyer. Most are not so lucky. Is this really the ethical choice for young people, to end their lives before they even start?

    You talk about culture and alcohol, and make the point that alcohol is part of our culture so that makes it acceptable. How do you not understand that the entire point of banning other drugs in the first place was to suppress the culture of the *other*? That banning alcohol during Prohibition was a suppression of immigrant culture? In fact, for many people cannabis is a culture. When I get together with friends and we share a bowl by passing the bong, that is a cultural ritual just like any other. So the reality is that the comparison to Prohibition is apt. Newsflash, Jack: We are not going to stop smoking pot just because you don’t like our culture.

    What I don’t understand is what I have to do to prove to you that I deserve equal citizenship to you, that I don’t deserve to be hunted down and enslaved in a cage. There are millions of people like me, productive members of society that you would rather go to jail (or have an arrest record, which can ruin your life) because of how we choose to relax. I wish I could talk to you in person, to make you tell me to my face that you believe it is ethical that I should go to jail because of the chance that someone else might abuse drugs.

    • There is so much utter nonsense in this post that I will not waste my time to argue with all of it. My favorites:

      1. In fact, studies show that people who do drugs have higher IQs – perhaps because we don’t believe drug warrior hype and instead we think for ourselves. I read this a lot. How exactly would you determine this? Higher than WHO? And it certainly isn’t higher while you’re stoned. Ridiculous.
      2. “One large, trillion-dollar piece of that mess is the War on Drugs, which has almost entirely been a war on young people. Did you know that 1 in 3 people is arrested by the time they reach my age? In fact, I have been arrested. Luckily no charges were pressed, since I am white and the cops knew I could get a good lawyer. Most are not so lucky. Is this really the ethical choice for young people, to end their lives before they even start?” No, the ethical thing is for them to obey the law. You’re a fool. You’re admission here would get you disqualified by bar membership in most bars, and should. Some aspiring lawyer. Pathetic.
      3. “That banning alcohol during Prohibition was a suppression of immigrant culture?” Tell that myth to Carrie Nation and the temperance movement. Go ahead, re-write history to meet your agenda.
      4. “In fact, for many people cannabis is a culture. When I get together with friends and we share a bowl by passing the bong, that is a cultural ritual just like any other. So the reality is that the comparison to Prohibition is apt. Newsflash, Jack: We are not going to stop smoking pot just because you don’t like our culture.” It’s not a culture, it’s a sub-culture. There is also a child porn sub-culture, and an organized crime sub-culture. Then there is the American culture, the big one, and it makes the rules.
      5. “I wish I could talk to you in person, to make you tell me to my face that you believe it is ethical that I should go to jail because of the chance that someone else might abuse drugs.” No, I’d tell you that you should go to jail because you’re an arrogant scofflaw, and are a disgrace to the legal profession before you enter it.

      • Ben

        Really just pathetic. Another comment whose merits you don’t actually debate. You just mock and name-call.

        It’s understandable, though. There’s really no good rational defense of prohibition. Tough policy to defend with anything other than hysteria and scare-tactics(THINK ABOUT THE CHILDREN!!!!).

        • Right. “There’s really no good rational defense of pxxxxxxxxx”. No rational defense for officially condemning conduct that ruins lives and families, contributes to poverty, ruins business, and costs the US billions in lost man-hours and health acre costs. None at all. And I’m supposed to treat such comments with reverence? All of this just translates into, ” I want my high, and I couldn’t care less what damage it causes for me to get it.” And any lies, bogus studies, rationalizations and warped logic you can put your hands on is what you’ll throw.

          I engage serious commenters with contrary opinions with serious discourse. This doesn’t qualify

          • “I don’t know you Jack, I haven’t read your other articles, but from reading this page alone I can tell that you have no respect for the rights of your fellow men.”

            I’m not reading past that unfair and ignorant statement, and neither will anyone else. If you bothered to read but a handful of the 2600 posts here, you would know that your statement is false, and absurdly false. I will tolerate a lot, and have, but I will not tolerate someone recklessly accusing me of something that is anathema to my core beliefs just to score cheap points with pro-drug marauders. You are, or were, a guest here. Call me out for what I do and write, but I’m not going to accept an irresponsible falsehood that you could have checked out in ten minutes. Bye. You’re not welcome here.

          • Ben

            Allow me to address your points individually:

            1) “Ruins lives and familes”
            No question, drug addiction ruins lives. However, prohibition does not prevent this. We know this because drug addiction is currently ruining lives at pretty much the same rate as it always has. Drug users do not care about your definition of ethics or morality or anything else. They want to numb their pain, and they will do so regardless of the costs to themselves or anything else. Making this conduct illegal does absolutely nothing to address the problem.

            2) “contributes to poverty”
            I guess addicts tend to get poorer(though I still fail to see why prohibition is any kind of rational response to that). But you know tends to make people get poor and STAY poor? Criminal charges for drug possession. An addict can get clean and sober, but they’ll never clean off their arrest record.

            3) “Ruins businesses”
            You’re going to have to clarify that one, because I don’t have any idea what you’re talking about.

            4) “costs the US billions in lost man-hours and health care costs”
            Are you seriously going to make a fiscal argument in favor of prohibition? After all the hundreds of billions of dollars wasted on locking people up, funding the militarization of police forces, and kicking in people’s doors and shooting their dogs, add ON TOP OF THAT the costs of the totally unaddressed problem of addiction.

            Bottom line: you list the evils of addiction, and then seem to think that it is self-evident that this should mean that the production and sale of drugs should be made illegal, with the harshest possible penalties attached. But you don’t actually seem to make any logical connections between the two concepts: addiction and prohibition.

            The ostensible goal of prohibition is to decrease drug usage, and after 50+ years of harsher and harsher laws and law enforcement, we now know beyond a doubt that it does not do so. We also know that the social costs of prohibition are perhaps even higher than the social costs of addiction itself. Our inner cities resemble war zones, because all the drug trafficking is pushed there. African Americans, who feel they have few other options, consistently pursue the easy money offered by drug dealing. They get busted, tossed in jail, their lives are ruined, and someone else steps up to take their place the same day. The effects are predictable, and the massive numbers of African Americans currently under the “supervision” of the judicial system is about the same as the number of slaves in 1863, which is why you hear the ACLU call the Drug War a successor system to Jim Crow laws.

            The good news is, the public is finally waking up. People who would never really think twice about these things are taking a critical look at drug policies, and realizing that they have been wrong. After marijuana is legalized, and the world does not end, the rest of the system will come crashing down, and a lot of narcotics enforcement agents will be doing more productive things, like stopping burglaries and rapes.

      • YoungPerson

        Gee, I guess I am so disgraceful as a future lawyer that Duke made a horrendous mistake in accepting me and giving me a scholarship, I shouldn’t have made the law review and it was certainly a mistake that I didn’t receive a single grade below 4.0 last semester (including a 4.1 in ethics by way, on a 3.3 curve).

        It’s certainly not disgraceful (and certainly not hypocritical in the least!) to insult, stereotype, and degrade instead of engaging your fellow human beings, especially when you claims to be an ethics expert.

        I’ll leave it to others to judge, but I think I know who is the disgrace here.

        • No one can read the dozens of responses here and say that I’ve refused to engage, when the opinion left have been rational, reasoned, and not hysterical or silly.

          Yes, Duke made a mistake. If you doubt me, go ahead…write your bar and contact Duke and tell them both you’ve been breaking the law, as a future lawyer. Go ahead. They’ll answer that question. Or perhaps I’ll wait til you apply to the Georgia bar, and send this exchange in to the character committee in the interests of the integrity of the profession. Just to test your theory. Game?

        • crella

          If they knew you’re a pot-head passing your ‘cultural’ bong ’round, you may very well have not gotten that scholarship. Yes, you have a huge ethical blind spot, demonstrated by breaking the law while you study it.

          Go on, tell them, if you are so sure that your drug use is right and acceptable. Then tell us if you get to keep the scholarship. No? You haven’t and won’t tell them that you use drugs? Then you’re a hypocrite as well.

          • YoungPerson

            If they ever did revoke my scholarship, it would be because of no knowing, pitch fork wielding psychos like you. Thanks for your service to this nation.

        • YoungPerson

          You are completely proving my point, demonstrating the flawed circular logic of drug prohibition (yes, prohibition): Drugs must be banned because all drug users are immoral, incompetent and incapable of meaningful contribution to society, you say (a completely irrational prejudice, I might add).

          When confronted with direct evidence that completely refutes this insulting stereotype, you say: Punish her, because all drug users are immoral, incompetent and incapable of meaningful contribution to society.

          Because you have nothing left, you actually stoop so low as to *threaten* me. Shame on you! That is just terrible. No big surprise though, bullying is the quintessential tactic of prohibitionists.

          P.S. You can’t seriously mean that I deserve to be punished because I broke the letter of the law. Unjust laws are meant to be broken (if you believe otherwise, I have a place in Nazi Germany for you), and you have said nothing that justifies these laws (see circular logic above).

          P.P.S. The NC group of law professors that I am working with to reform drug policy (including the former dean of Duke Law, who has told me that he smoked pot, btw) must also think I’m a disgrace. I should tell them that Jack Marshall said I’m not worthy, and quit the group.

          • YoungPerson

            One more thing – apply to the bar in Georgia? Please, what a hellhole.

          • 1.I didn’t mean to threaten you, and if you felt threatened, I apologize. I was trying to point out that you are specifically and openly violating the character provisions of most bars, including the state your school is in, and that if I was 1) sure you weren’t making all the law student stuff up, and 2) didn’t have a standing pledge to keep personal data secret, I would be obligated under my own bar rules to flag your conduct. In other words: It’s really stupid for a law student to declare that she regularly uses illegal drugs. And does show that the law school misjudged your commitment to a lawful society.
            2. Working for drug reform is a valid First Amendment exercise, though I think it is working to to hurt the country.
            3. A law student may NOT break the law. If you want to engage in civil disobedience, then break the law openly. “Laws are meant to be broken” is an offensive statement from a lawyer or potential lawyer.
            4. “Drugs must be banned because all drug users are immoral, incompetent and incapable of meaningful contribution to society.” There is nothing in what I wrote or have ever written that remotely resembles this statement. You’re going to make a hell of lawyer. Find one example of my ever referring to drug use as immoral, for example. It isn’t immoral. It’s selfish, irresponsible and bad citizenship. It’s unethical. But morality has nothing to do with it.

            • YoungPerson

              The state I’m applying to doesn’t consider drug use or even criminal conduct directly in its moral fitness application, unless that conduct actually has an effect on your ability to practice. If my state considered pot smokers to be lacking in moral character, we would have hardly any lawyers. This goes to show that people can disagree as to whether drug use in itself is so bad that it means you are unethical, contrary to your determination that “American culture” universally condemns it. (And btw, your whole argument for Prohibition rests on the expressive moral function of the law, so I really don’t get how you can say otherwise).

              So please, stop making veiled threats, they don’t scare me and they only serve to make you look worse.

              By the way, what do you say about the former dean of Duke Law School, who admits to smoking pot? Or the 100 million people who have? Do we all deserve to be rotting in jail right now because the law is the law is the law?

              I agree with you, I am going to make a hell of a lawyer. Being capable of nuanced thinking and evidence-based reasoning certainly helps with that. By contrast, your arguments throughout this thread seem to break down to: 1) variations on “you’re an idiot”, 2) you must agree with me because I said so, or 3) na na goo goo.

              Check mate, I’m done here.

  13. http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/ondcp/policy-and-research/rx_abuse_plan.pdf
    “Prescription drug abuse is the Nation’s fastest-growing drug problem. While there has been a marked
    decrease in the use of some illegal drugs like cocaine, data from the National Survey on Drug Use and
    Health (NSDUH) show that nearly one-third of people aged 12 and over who used drugs for the irst time
    in 2009 began by using a prescription drug non-medically.”
    “Whitney Houston’s family was told by L.A. County Coroner officials … the singer did not die from drowning, but rather from what appears to be a combination of Xanax and other prescription drugs mixed with alcohol .”
    Maybe we should make prescription drugs illegal.

  14. On very rare occassion I drink beer or wine in my home. I don’t drink much. I don’t drink outside the home. If I am thirsty, there are plenty of other things to drink. I am also on prescription medication. I detest it. I will be on it for the rest of my life. I hate the side effects but without them my life would be even more miserable. One of my favorite cliche’ s is “too much of a good thing is a bad thing”- but I always add- ” and sometimes even a tiny bit is a bad thing”. Whitney died of excesses in all phases of her life. Not everyone is capable of a disciplined approach to life, therefore should not open the door to the vices that will destroy themselves. Drugs in any form can be extremely dangerous and the laws should not be compromised in the least. Any one that is guilty of mis managing any substance should be prosecuted. There are medicinal purposes in drugs, but that doesn’t mean they should be abused even a tiny bit.

    • kaptinemo

      Once again, the same old fallacy is in operation: Force the man to eat pablum because the baby can’t chew steak. That’s the hallmark of the liberal/progressive: “My fellow citizens don’t know what’s best for them, so I, with my superior education, in the name of ‘social democracy’, will volunteer to be in loco parentis to them. And if they don’t accede to my ‘suggestions’ as to my idea of right living, if they chafe at my ‘guidance’, I will bring the full force of The State down upon their heads for not being as ‘evolved’ or as ‘enlightened’ as my liberal/progressive self is.”

      And, no, that was only partly satire; yes, they actually did think of themselves that way when they crafted the drug laws…while heedless of their unconscious bigotry which they injected into those laws.

      Nobody who has reached the age of putative adulthood should have to put up with government nannying, regardless from which political spectrum it approaches. For there is always a dark side to that supposed altruism; as the great American social critic HL Mencken put it:

      “The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule.”

      • So, where should we draw the line without it leading to anarchy? Without losing the United States as a free market democracy? Without denying people, ANYONE, their rights to pursue life, liberty, and happiness? I know that idea was in the Decaration of Independence. (hope you don’t mind me paraphrasing.) Then, tell me how to interpret the preamble the way it was intended by the Founding Fathers.

  15. ‘Drugs took all of that away, from Whitney Houston and from us’. Well, abuse of drugs did. In Whitney’s case, alcohol and prescription drugs. What was ethically relevant about using Whitney’s death to start a debate about the legality of those particular drugs versus the current illegality of certain others?

    • That’s not what I did, and not what the post was about. That’s what the commenters took it, but the post was about how the pro-drug advocates in the culture weaken the ETHICAL message sent by society via law (in the way that law states society’s values and ethics) so that drug abuse no longer sounds an automatic negative reaction. You really don’t see that, Nancy? How elite and mostly wealthy elites have chipped away at the social consensus againsy drugs for purely selfish motives without concern over its natural consequences to populations less affluent, connected, and able to function with the added burden of drugs? You don’t think that’s selfish? Irresponsible? I think it is, and undermining societal values that undergird stability is certainly an ethical issue.

      I have watched a strong consensus that drugs were destructive to core institutions and the social fabric since the Sixties be destroyed for nothing more noble than the a desire to get high. Those doing the undermining themselves are substantially responsible for the drug abuse epidemic, by destroying the logical and experiencial conclusion that the more drug abuse (which is directly proportional to use) in the population, the worse off society is as a result. Then, like the parent-killer who asks special consideration as an orphan, they argue that they were right all along and should have their highs because the laws “don’t work.” And they are trying to make sure they don’t work.

      Yes, that’s an ethics issue in my book.

  16. The prohibition of Earth’s most widely beneficial plant species is a crime against humanity. How “ethical” is that?

    • “Most widely beneficial plant species.” To people whose only priority is getting stoned, I suppose. How can you look at yourself in the mirror after writing such silliness?

    • The prohibition of Earth’s most widely beneficial plant species is a crime against humanity. How “ethical” is that?

      Compared to what plant?

      Aloe?

      To apples and oranges? Besides health with the vitamins of the fruit, you can burn wood for heat. I dare you to do too much of that with cannabis.

    • crella

      They’re going to outlaw wheat!?

      ;-P

  17. To keep Cannabis illegal while tobacco and alcohol are dispensed freely would be *MURDEROUSLY STUPID*.

    And blatantly unethical. Any questions?

  18. Arthur in Maine

    Jack, starting a new sub-thread here because the one with the previous exchange is limited out. You responded as follows:

    This is nice…the crazies and zealots are gone, and the rational commenters are back! Question, Arthur: elborate on “this isn’t working.” “This isn’t working….
    1. …at all”?
    2. …as well as something else I can authoritatively identify” ?
    3….as well as we would like”?

    I think it depends upon how you measure success. Current policy is weighted heavily towards enforcement – in other words, in reducing supply. Demand, as we have seen, is still huge, and if you can cite some evidence that current drug policy in the United States is actually doing anything to significantly reduce demand, I’d love to see it. Econ 101 tells us that when demand remains constant and supply falls, prices go up. As, in this case, does the incentive to increase supply, which means ever-more aggressive criminal activity to do so.

    Thanks to a private intelligence service called Stratfor, I’ve been following the burgeoning threat from Mexican and Central American drug cartels for some time now. These guys use the same tactics as terrorists – targeting innocents, gruesome executions, etc. Five years ago, only a handful in the US had heard of them. Today, we’re starting to see some of those tactics on US soil.

    It is worth noting that many western European nations have more benign drug policies than we do, and do not seem to have the same incarceration rates or drug-related violence. Something to consider.

    My second question is: Do you really think that the gangsters killing people in drug trade violence will just open newspaper stands and soup kitchens if drugs are no longer their best business? Is it fair to say that the illegality of drugs generates crime and violence, or is it more likely that those who are attracted to crime will find objects for their chosen occupation whether it is drugs or something else?

    It’s a fair question. No, probably not. But consider several things.

    First, it’s interesting to note that many of the old organized crime outfits are now much more engaged in computer crime than the old vice rackets they used to run. It may not be as profitable, but it’s a lot safer. (Not that it’s desireable). So while it’s likely that many of these individuals would continue with criminal activity, the net impact to American society would likely be less.

    More to the point, how about the impact of current policy in creating those criminals in the first place? Look at American inner cities. The guys who had the nice cars and nice clothes and beautiful women were those involved in the drug trade. They co-opted youngsters to join it, too. I suspect that some of those kids would have gotten involved with criminal activity regardless, but I doubt it would have been activity this destructive.