Pubdate: Sun, 27 Jun 2004
Source: Washington Post (DC)
Copyright: 2004 The Washington Post Company
Author: Martin Torgoff
Bookmark: (Opinion)


I very much appreciate Nick Gillespie's characterization of my book,
Can't Find My Way Home: America in the Great Stoned Age, 1945-2000
(Book World, May 23), as "brave," along with his opinion of it as "a
generally successful effort, in many ways as pleasantly and as richly
intoxicating as a double hit of Humboldt County, Calif.'s finest." But
I must vehemently disagree with his conclusion that the book is "a
bummer -- maybe even a bad trip" because I happened to land in a
12-step recovery fellowship. As Gillespie describes it, my personal
experience with drugs veered "between use and abuse," was "nothing if
not unrepresentative," and its inclusion in my book "suggests that a
truly measured discussion of American drug use is yet to come."
However, I state unequivocally in the book that the vast majority of
people who use drugs do not become addicts.

Gillespie's notion that Can't Find My Way Home is ultimately a
"downer" because I end up happy but abstinent is revealing. Some
critics of the drug war and proponents of reform are obviously
discomfited by addiction because it is so frequently cited as the
raison d'etre for prohibition; they are, moreover, critical of the
"disease concept" and the increasing influence of the recovery
movement. No doubt Gillespie would have been far more disposed to view
my account of the American experience with illegal drugs as "measured"
had it ended with the following words: "Today I remain a deeply
committed secular humanist/rationalist/libertarian, perfectly capable
of controlling my drug use, who uses marijuana recreationally, on
occasion, and always in a moderate and responsible manner." But such
was not, alas, where my journey took me.

The point of my book is that we must start telling the truth about
drugs, and the two brief chapters that tell my personal story convey
my truth; in those places I speak for myself and no one else. The view
that my own experience with drug use, abuse and addiction makes this
book, "for all its many merits," any less "measured" than anyone
else's might be reflects a bias on Gillespie's part that is, in its
own way, every bit as deep-seated and distorted as the bias of the


New York, NY

Nick Gillespie replies:

Martin Torgoff misquotes me: I wrote that his account of his own drug
experiences veered between "between abuse and abstinence," not
"between use and abuse." Like the prohibitionists he rightly
criticizes, Torgoff apparently has difficulty conceptualizing drug use
that does not lead to extremes even as he recognizes that most
people's experiences with illegal drugs are rarely so polarized.
Certainly it's legitimate to wish that a book about the considerable
role of drugs in postwar America -- even one as interesting and
accomplished as Can't Find My Way Home -- might frame the discussion
in a way that paid closer attention to the moderate way in which most
people actually consume illegal substances.

I'm glad to learn that Torgoff is "happy but abstinent," and I'm
confident that he, too, would rather live in a country where those of
us who would prefer to continue to use drugs might do so legally. 
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