Sometimes life bewilders me. In fact, I sometimes feel as bewildered as my old dog looks when I wake him up to go out before he goes to sleep. You can almost see that little wizened brain of his thinking, “God, lady. What did it look like I was already doing?”
When I read that Governor Murkowski was introducing a bill to once again make the possession of pot totally illegal in Alaska, I felt that bewilderment. I wondered how many times we could travel down the same road, come to the same ending and not accept that we are spinning our wheels fruitlessly.
I thought that one of the distinctions between man and beast was that we could learn more quickly from our mistakes than lesser creatures. Apparently I was wrong.
And Alaska isn’t alone in this. For some reason, all of America seems paralyzed by its concern over illegal drug use to the point that no one is willing to stick their head above the crowd and shout out, “We’re all heading into the wall again. For god’s sakes, somebody be bold enough to take a left.”
For those of you who aren’t keeping track, the “war” on drugs is, has been, and will continue to be, a massive, expensive, messy and bloody failure. Our prisons overflow with people who take from society with no chance to ever give back as productive citizens because they used or sold drugs. Our kids continue to experiment because drugs, despite the billions of dollars spent over more than three decades, continue to be available to them. In fact, they are now available to them at younger and younger ages.
In the sixties – when we enjoyed the conceit that we discovered the fun of illicit drugs – I knew of no one who had ever tried them before reaching college. Now I routinely encounter 8th graders who are blas� about their ability to obtain pot whenever they want.
The war has failed to achieve even minimal success. Statistics on use drop minimally one year and rise again the next. Yet anyone who speaks that truth about this war is automatically suspect as someone soft on drugs.
It’s not as though there aren’t other methods around that have been successful in making headway against an addictive substance. Can anyone say tobacco?
Twenty years ago, smoking was still a sophisticated thing to do. Restaurants, airplanes, movies – anywhere you went people were lighting up all around you. You never said a word because you felt it was just something that had to be endured.
The changes in how smoking is viewed were not driven by laws. Less and less people are smoking now not because smoking is illegal, but because an all out education effort has changed how we view smoking.
This education, this massive PR campaign, has made the horrors of smoking so clear that even the most devoted of smokers can no longer pretend to not know that they are damaging their health by their continued puffing.
Most importantly, teen smoking statistics are way down. It’s no longer cool to smoke like it was when I was young. Kids feel more empowered to “Just say no” because the tobacco campaign has given them that power.
The results of this campaign are that adults are smoking less even though tobacco is still legal, and kids are smoking less even though tobacco is more available to them than pot.
Am I the only one who sees the parallels here? What if, just for the sake of discussion, we stopped the war for a few years and tried the education approach to drugs. Really tried it. Not the half -hearted efforts at education that we now do while all the real money goes into guns, planes, surveillance cameras, lawyers, courts and jails. Let’s take all that money and try to recreate the successful tobacco campaign.
At worse it couldn’t be more of a failure than our current war on drugs. At best, it might actually give us our first mark in the win column of the drug war.