Pubdate: Wed, 30 Mar 2011
Source: Metro Times (Detroit, MI)
Column: Higher Ground
Copyright: 2011 Metro Times, Inc
Author: John Sinclair


Imagine: What If They Had a War on Drugs and Nobody Came?

The War on Drugs was still just a twinkle in Richard M. Nixon's evil 
eye when the great John Lennon released his classic recording called 
"Imagine." That was in 1971, and Nixon launched his horribly 
misconceived attack on recreational drug users the following year as 
part of the re-election campaign headed by the aptly named Committee 
to Re-Elect the President (CREEP).

My fantasy of late has been to imagine an America without a War on 
Drugs - a place where the cynical, old, rich, white men who dominated 
the United States Senate, and their feral sidekicks in the House of 
Representatives, had never succeeded in hoodwinking the public into 
welcoming their rhetoric about the dangers of getting high and the 
sick, draconian measures they enacted to interdict and punish the 
millions of recreational drug users among our citizenry.

Forty unrelenting years of this inhuman campaign founded in a passel 
of lies, untruths and severe misrepresentations has transformed our 
country from a flawed but still idealistic democracy to an 
ever-burgeoning police state with a gigantic, self-perpetuating, 
taxpayer-funded apparatus of persecution and doom directed at 
everyone who refuses to accept the vicious anti-drug mythology that's 
been enacted into law.

Let's imagine that the White House and the federal legislative bodies 
had simply rejected the specious argument advanced by empire-building 
bureaucrats like Harry J. Anslinger that marijuana was a narcotic 
with no conceivable medical application and its users presented a 
clear and present danger to the social order.

What if, instead, they had conducted an unfettered scientific 
investigation into the actual properties, patterns and methods of 
usage, physical and mental effects, documented medicinal uses, 
economic potential, and overall impact of marijuana on the fabric of 
American society, resulting in the reasonable conclusion that 
cannabis causes virtually no harm to its users nor to society in general.

With respect to other recreational drugs with certain detrimental 
effects on their users, the relatively enlightened lawmakers might 
well have concluded that the resultant problems were likely medical 
and/or psychological in nature and demanded treatment of some sort to 
reduce the potentially negative impact on the drug users and, by 
extension, on the social order itself.

Nowhere would such an informed approach dictate legal sanctions 
against recreational drug users of any sort. If their behavior were 
to cause problems in the workplace or in social settings, the usual 
remedies - demotion, firing, suspension from duties and the like - 
would be applied to resolve any discrepancies. If laws were broken as 
a result of their drug use, the mandated responses - arrest, 
prosecution, conviction, punishment - would be effected as for all 
similar violators.

The idea of segregating recreational drug users from their fellow 
citizens as a class unto themselves and punishing them for getting 
high in their chosen ways would be seen as indefensibly stupid and 
entirely without basis under our system of jurisprudence and its 
guarantees of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness - like 
arresting and jailing persons for smoking a cigarette or drinking a 
bottle (or even an entire case) of beer.

Not only could there be no finding suggesting that recreational drug 
users constitute a criminal class to be treated in the same manner as 
armed robbers, arsonists, rapists and murderers, stripped of their 
lives and livelihoods and sentenced to long terms in prison, but it 
is indeed likely that testimony solicited during the course of such 
scientific investigations would indicate that there are many positive 
effects from getting high on drugs and that drug users have made many 
valuable contributions in the areas of medicine, psychology, 
philosophy, poetry, literature, painting, cinema and music of many 

A short list of such exemplars crucial to the development of 
"America's only original art form" would include Louis Armstrong, the 
pioneer of jazz improvisation, Lester Young, the president of the 
tenor saxophone, Charlie Parker and Thelonious Monk, originators of 
modern jazz, and Miles Davis, perhaps its greatest avatar, as well as 
sonic explorers like Cecil Taylor, John Coltrane, Pharaoh Sanders and 
Marion Brown.

With respect to the giants of jazz, the record indicates that a 
wildly disproportionate number of musical creators were forced to 
serve lengthy prison terms as a consequence of their arrest for use 
of marijuana, cocaine, heroin and other illegalized substances - a 
list that includes Mezz Mezzrow, Prez, Dexter Gordon, Hampton Hawes, 
Sonny Rollins, Stan Getz and the great tenor saxophonist Gene Ammons, 
who served a seven-year stretch in the Illinois penitentiary for 
being a heroin addict.

More familiarly, the popular music of the past 50 years now known as 
"classic rock" was created and advanced by people deeply steeped in 
marijuana smoke, LSD and other chemicals, including such originators 
as Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison and many others who 
succumbed to the fatal effects of their habitual drugs of choice.

Further, with regard to popular culture, it's hard to imagine any 
film or television production that has been realized without the 
participation of writers, directors, actors, producers and 
crewmembers under the influence of illegal drugs of some sort. The 
ranks of record producers, entertainment executives, concert 
promoters, artists' managers, booking agents and other industry 
operatives are rife with drug users of every description, yet the 
show goes on and the profits roll in to the coffers of the 
corporations who utilize their drug-addled services.

But we're only making little scratches on the surface of the fabric 
of modern American society. The fact is that millions of people use 
illegal drugs on a regular, daily basis and suffer primarily from the 
efforts of the insanely dedicated minions of law and order who are 
bent on enforcing the letter of the law that proscribes getting high 
without a prescription and mandates elaborate punishment schemes for 
those unlucky enough to be apprehended.

Imagine that it's OK to get high and that you could acquire your drug 
or drugs of choice across the counter at a reasonable cost from a 
licensed dispensary. Imagine that the police and legal authorities 
had no stake in what might be going on in your head as long as you 
weren't hurting anyone or breaking the established codes of social 
conduct. Imagine that the people who grow, manufacture and supply 
your drug needs are treated like producers of other essential goods 
and services, allowed to make a reasonable profit and pay the 
appropriate taxes into the public treasury.

Imagine that the police had absolutely no power of arrest with 
respect to recreational drug users unless we were to commit some sort 
of actual crime. Imagine that they weren't allowed to tear your car 
or your home apart looking for drugs or the attendant paraphernalia. 
Imagine the vast number of closed police stations, courtrooms, jails 
and prisons, the shuttered probation and parole offices and drug 
treatment centers. Imagine that those police forces that remained 
were directed toward detecting and confiscating unregistered or 
illegal weapons of human destruction.

Then imagine the resultant savings in tax dollars and the massive 
redirection of tax revenues to underwrite music and arts programs in 
schools, free health care for the sick and damaged among us, expanded 
human services of every kind instead of money wasted on the idiotic 
War on Drugs. Imagine a society where you can get high and go about 
your business without fear of persecution, arrest or punishment of 
any kind except that which you may inflict upon yourself in the 
course of your experimentation and habitual use of your drugs of choice.

In the immortal words of the bard (who, by the way, smoked the stuff):

You may say I'm a dreamer

But I'm not the only one

I hope someday you'll join us

And the world will live as one
- ---
MAP posted-by: Richard Lake