The idiots who said that marijuana legalization would be the gateway for harder drugs…

For those fools who objected to legalizing marijuana because it would open the door to social acceptance of more harmful drugs…. “This Heroin-Using Professor Wants to Change How We Think About Drugs” (New York Times, April 10, 2021):

Carl L. Hart, a neuroscientist at Columbia University, … confides that he has used heroin regularly for the last four years and describes the time he took morphine daily for three weeks in order to experience withdrawal.

Dr. Hart argued that most of what you think you know about drugs and drug abuse is wrong: that addiction is not a brain disease; that most of the 50 million Americans who use an illegal drug in a given year have overwhelmingly positive experiences; that our policies have been warped by a focus only on the bad outcomes; and that the results have been devastating for African-American families like his own.

Unlike past academic advocates for drug use, like Timothy Leary and Baba Ram Dass, who both experimented with L.S.D. at Harvard University, Dr. Hart rejects as “self-serving” the distinction between so-called good drugs, like psychedelics, and more maligned substances, like heroin and methamphetamine. All, he said, have their place.

What to do with all of the COVID vaccination sites once smart humans have shown the dumb virus who is boss?

A next step, Dr. Hart said, should be setting up testing sites nationwide where users can determine the purity and strength of their drugs — anathema to researchers like Dr. Madras, who say that anything that “normalizes” drug use leads to more use by adolescents — but essential for saving lives, Dr. Hart said.

He held out little hope that such sites would appear any time soon.

But he noted a twist during his time in the field. When he started, his students wanted to explore the dangers of drugs. Now they see more harm in drug prohibitions, he said.

(For the record, I am personally against the War on Drugs because it leads to an expansion of the government in general and the police state in particular. But I do think that alcohol should be cut way back (see Reintroduce Prohibition for the U.S.? and Use testing and tracing infrastructure to enforce alcohol Prohibition?) and I wouldn’t be telling folks to pick up heroin at the Safeway.)

23 thoughts on “The idiots who said that marijuana legalization would be the gateway for harder drugs…

  1. Philip, the article you linked barely mentioned marijuana legalization. Your post didn’t seem to mention it either, except in the title and the first sentence. Given the title and the first sentence I was expecting more on that topic. Did I miss something? Would you care to elaborate further?

    • In the following links there are maps of opioid overdoses and marijuana legality by state.

      The correlation isn’t obvious to me.
      For example, Colorado and California both have legal marijuana but low opioid overdoses

      West Virginia has the highest rate of opioid overdoses. Medical marijuana is legal, but marijuana has not been “decriminalized” there.

    • Sorry Ryan, I don’t have any elaborations to make, just an impression from eyeballing the two maps in those links. Maybe somewhere there is a more technical analysis?

    • Here is detailed story with doctors interview and economic impact on Pueblo, Colorado that opened marijuana processing and distribution center. Costs seems to be large. In California costs can be covered up by Hollywood, Silicon Valley and higher education and research industries’ income, for the time being. Subscription is required, I read it as part of a promotion.
      As an anecdote, 20 years ago some of my acquaintances moved to Colorado for startup/ manufacturing jobs. Immediately in late 2014 and 2015, my other acquaintances moved to Colorado to work in dependent care industry

    • I should probably do a standalone post about this, but one of the problems with the way that marijuana has been legalized in the U.S. is that enormous profits flow to government/political cronies. Marijuana didn’t become like spinach that anyone could grow and sell at a modest profit. So we have people who invested in “cannabis” become enormously wealthy while folks who make the useful stuff that you might find at Home Depot work hard for a few pennies in profit (if they’re lucky and it isn’t a loss).

      Consider a society where the big $$ are earned by cannabis investors, Bitcoin speculators, the funders of personal injury lawsuits (e.g., for talcum power; see ) and the funders of divorce lawsuits (see ). Getting an engineering degree and working in manufacturing is going to look like a path for suckers.

    • philg, please do a post on our society where the big $$ are earned by speculators, rent seekers and others who make no contribution to society yet earn big $$. You will have a much more financially rewarding career by becoming an investment banker, government employee, lawyer than becoming an engineer, construction worker, or farmer who actually do the work that keeps society going. I would estimate that Republican leaning areas of the US are more the providers of the resources, energy, food, production vs Democrat leaning areas of the US which are more rent seeking, speculators and other useless “industries”.

    • Pavel, in what successful society there are no investment bankers and landlords, or poorer the average investment bankers and landlords and abundance of capital to invest and of real estate?
      Or absence of those occupations? 25 years ago before government control of and cronyism in investment banking was significantly smaller then now and real meritocracy still ruled America developed quicker and investment bankers were afraid to show off their wealth because investors were looking where their investment were going, and their wealth was significantly smaller then of the investors. But yes, society can not be solely driven by investment banking and real estate.

  2. As Philip pointed out, alcohol related problems have also skyrocketed in recent years.
    “The rate of all alcohol-related ED visits increased 47 percent between 2006 and 2014, which translates to an average annual increase of 210,000 alcohol-related ED visits.
    Alcohol contributes to about 18.5 percent of ED visits and 22.1 percent of overdose deaths related to prescription opioids.
    An estimated 95,000 people (approximately 68,000 men and 27,000 women) die from alcohol-related causes annually,15 making alcohol the third-leading preventable cause of death in the United States. The first is tobacco, and the second is poor diet and physical inactivity.”

    • Thanks for that. But the article you cite says that Portugal treats heroin use as a “disease”. The more recent NYT in my original post quotes at least one expert (PhD… in Science!) as saying that heroin use is mostly a good thing.

      (Also, the subject of the original post is really about social attitudes toward drugs, not about how people actually use drugs or are treated for drug use.)

  3. Somehow I missed the whole drug thing. Is it like alcohol, some people are predisposed to abuse, or are “hard” drugs universally dangerous?
    After my mother died at age 92, I found hundreds, maybe thousands, of opioid prescription pills in her house. She took them daily for severe arthritis but never behaved unnaturally or seemed lethargic. Lived at home alone until a final two-week confinement in hospital with congestive heart failure.

    • If you found them at home your mother did not take them. 90 days prescription doses maximum for prescribed medications. My condolences on your mother death.

    • I think there are some similarities to alcohol. People’s personalities differ; people get addicted to different things. Social media, sugary beverages, alcohol, pornography, working, etc. Importantly, people have varying levels of conscientiousness. There are almost certainly people who can use heroin without ruining their lives (such as this Harvard professor, perhaps), but this obviously is not universally true of everyone. It seems similar to how educated rich people promoting casual sex and polyamory leads to a lot of lower-income people having kids out of wedlock and ending up in abusive relationships with non-biological parents. Presumably most of the people who would be able to try heroin and go on to not get addicted are smart enough to see what happens to a lot of other people who start using heroin and never try it in the first place. It takes a special kind of dumbass to think, “gee, using heroin sounds like a great idea, I think that will really improve my life.” Although I suppose it might be tempting if you’re e.g. a Hollywood movie star and you see a lot of your rich and successful friends using it.

      One of my friends argued that it makes sense for the law to have stricter penalties for crack cocaine than for powder cocaine. For whatever reason, crack harms its users more, despite being basically the same substance.

  4. I just really have no words for this kind of thing except that we should kick every single one of them out of Academe. With prejudice. They’re insane.

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