I’m an old man now, closer to my sparsely attended funeral than I am to my birth in a government-run facility. However, there has been a constant throughout my misspent life: the Drug War, the propaganda that’s fueled it, and the damage wrought to our collective spirit.
Fifth grade: a school newsletter sending home scare stories about sheets of acid with Disney characters on them. These neversurfaced in our school, of course. But apparently, they were somewhere.
Sixth grade: a health class film, a Drug Scare short soundtracked by a psychedelic circus version of “Frère Jacques,” with the lyrics “Marijuana, Marijuana … LSD, LSD ….”
That was supposed to be scary. However, for bored kids in a government school, it was much more memorable than dumbed-down social studies books.
High school: The “zero drug tolerance” road signs began popping up, while all the stoner kids wore D.A.R.E. shirts-ironically.
Sometime after that, piss tests became obligatory, a precursor to a world where surveillance and biometric monitoring grow more sophisticated all the time.
Along with that, pop culture promoted the Dionysian cultures of commercial rap and rave and all that followed-the kind of thing that stuffed the jails and made serious money for the folks with private prison stocks for decades to come.
The Drug War was always in bad faith. From Harry J. Anslinger onward, a farrago of scare stories and poorly executed arguments and the occasional Gary Webb story about how U.S. intelligence was involved in the drug trade revealed the utter hypocrisy of mendacious, booze-bloated politicos saying that a corporate cartel’s poison du jour was FDA and DEA approved, while a plant that grew in the ground merited a SWAT team response.
Drug reform has been slow in coming, but it has come. Out west, past the old Jim Crow states like the one we live in, weed has been decriminalized on the state level. So far, so good.
Here, we have medical cannabis-state-controlled, of course, like it’s toilet paper in the U.S.S.R. or Lay’s potato chips in Zimbabwe.
Of course, we have an attorney general now-Moscow Jeff Sessions-who’s looking to reassert federal prerogatives on weed, taking advantage of a flaccid policy drift from the Obama administration to define policy like it was in the last decade.
We don’t have the money to do enforcement like it’s 1985; in large part because we are paying the pensions and the health care for those who did it back then.
Meanwhile, we have a crisis that merits an actual war on drugs-and we are too resource-poor to deal with it.
Consider the opioid overdose crisis, as it was billed on an invitation to a community conversation to be hosted by Councilman Bill Gulliford Thursday at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall. Gulliford has made noise about this of late-and with salient reason.
The overdose rate is triple the homicide rate. They die from crushed-up and snorted pills, and they die from carfentanil/heroin cocktails.
It’s so bad, Gulliford says, that the fire and rescue department has already blown through its Narcan budget for the entire year. Narcan is the antidote. Part of the reason they’ve burned through the budget for it is because people recover, feel normal, and then score and get their fix again.
That’s the concentric circle of a junkie’s life: a walk inward, always, because the outer reality is pure hell: poverty, deception, poor education, spiritual barrenness, transactional relationships, and the self-loathing miasma of knowing, always, that you are a pawn-and that the opioid offers the only diversion.
The government forfeited moral authority in the drug war, sadly, with the bad faith bargain it struck with its citizens. The last quarter-century, the last half-century, we find ourselves working longer and ending up poorer than our parents.
Literacy went down. Quality of life went down. Life expectancy went down.
People shoot up, snort up precisely because they see how it goes. How it went for whoever raised them. How it went for them in these minimum-security prisons we call schools.
They get hooked and they die because they realize they’re 25, 35, 50, whatever-and it’s not going to get any better. They were half-trained for a world too specialized to even use them up and dispose of them properly.
Drug addiction is a portal to despair. And the “opioid overdose crisis” is a manifestation of that, not so much the chickens come home to roost as a long shot of the processing plant.
There is no government solution to those conditions, because government-city, state or federal-has too many “stakeholders” invested in the status quo to have an honest discussion about root causes-and a long-term government conspiracy to brew them up, across decades and generations, until poverty and despair became the calling cards of our ever-expanding underclass.