The Justice Department--after first announcing it won't pursue minimum sentencing for drug use any longer--has added to that decision an acceptance of recreational marijuana use by adults in two states where it was legalized and medical marijuana use in 20 more.
Although (aside from the Rand Paul wing of the Republican party) our social institutions may not yet realize it, formerly illicit drug use in America has been legalized. We are now in a slowly unfolding process of figuring out how to use drugs sensibly. This is Phase II of Drug Use in America (it is actually Phase III--since we first had to make drugs illegal in the early part of the twentieth century--but let's skip that story for now).
We can now turn our attention to the next three issues in integrating drug use into society:
1. How will kids learn to use drugs? If you smoke marijuana and have kids, what then? Or, put another way, how will all of the drug ed lectures start now that they can't begin: "It doesn't matter what you think about using pot--it's illegal." We have to realize that we are preparing our children for a world in which they may--and probably will--use those drugs. Of course, we already knew that was true--certainly in terms of their drinking alcohol--and we still ignored the issue. Only now it is out in the open with respect to marijuana as well as alcohol. Is it too much to hope that we can do a better job?
2. The therapeutic-police state. Drug courts (lobbying as the National Association of Drug Court Professionals) are all the craze, what with television star Matthew Perry appearing on liberal media and before Congress saying how they saved his life. (Here is the jaundiced British view of the Perry phenomenon--Europeans just don't get recovery!) When drug use is illegal, drug courts force you into recovery-type treatment as an alternative to prison. And if you test positive--boom, you're in jail. Harm reduction? What's that? We'll need to know in order to proceed without the threat of incarceration for drug use.
3. The addicted versus the liberated self. Now that we can use drugs legally, what about all of the forces in society telling us we are more and more susceptible to mental disorders and drug addiction, insidious diseases that grow within us? There are two warring paradigms of the self: "I am a powerless victim of an emotional disorder/addiction." "I am a free agent who can use drugs as I choose." Of course, the resolution may be, "Hallelujah, I can take drugs and drink all night, then meds all day." (i.e., "Drugs 'R' Us"). But we need to strive for better personal and social positions on drugs than that.
In any case, let's be clear: we are in the next phase of society's relationship with drugs.
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Stanton Presents: "What will replace the 12 steps?"
Thursday, September 19, 2013 from 7:00 PM to 10:00 PM (EDT)
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