By now you’ve probably had your mind thoroughly blown by the appearance of inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil on Friday’s ‘Real Time.’ He basically said that, at the rate artificial intelligence is growing, we’re not far from a time where computers will be smart enough to tell us, “Look, dude, I’m not gonna Tweet this picture of your d**k.” And not a moment too soon!
Futurism is a fascinating topic, but after hearing about “little robots with computers going inside our bloodstream,” you’re probably thinking, “I’m gonna need to be hella high for this.” And you may be right. But before you call up your roommate’s buddy “Spyder” and order the pizza with “extra mushrooms,” think about this: Friday was also the 40th anniversary of America’s “war on drugs.”
That’s the same war that the Global Commission on Drug Policy, in its report, issued this month, declared a “failure, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world.” You know, like when Sarah Palin tries to form a sentence.
As with any war, the battle against drugs has high costs, casualties and prisoners. Lots and lots of prisoners. In a recent op-ed for The New York Times, former President Jimmy Carter laments the fact that when he left office in 1980, “500,000 people were incarcerated in America; at the end of 2009 the number was nearly 2.3 million.” He also reminds us that, in 1977, he proposed “decriminalizing the possession of less than an ounce of marijuana.” Which is why history will remember Carter as “America’s coolest president.”
Our massive and financially-crippling prison population aside, the most visible effect of this drug war is undoubtedly the massacre currently taking place along the Mexico-U.S. border, as cartels battle the Mexican military for control of drug routes. The United States is funding this battle from both sides: our government provides support for the crackdown, while our citizens continue to buy the drugs that fund the gangs. Meanwhile, large-scale marijuana growing facilities in the U.S. continue to be raided by the DEA, leading to a greater demand for imported drugs. Which makes me wonder: “Are they f**king high?!”
It’s gotten to the point where Mexico is pleading with the U.S. to curb our drug consumption. Let me repeat that: we’re using so many drugs, Mexico is asking us to sober up. That’s like having your intervention moderated by Charlie Sheen.
It’s not an unfair request. As George Shultz and Paul Volker – two members of that Global Commission on Drug Policy – point out, “The number of drug-related casualties in Mexico is on the same order as the number of U.S. lives lost in the Vietnam and Korean wars.” If that sort of violence was happening on our side of the border, we’d probably be a little peeved too. In fact, we’d probably lose our collective s**t. And we’d find Cheech and Chong’s van and bomb it. But would we say “no” to drugs? Probably not.
The fact is there will always be drug use. Even the Commission’s report sensibly agrees with that. But as the U.S. government begins to acknowledge its wrong-headed approach to drug control, drug users ought to take some responsibility for their impact as well – not least of which is the success of the ‘Adult Swim’ network.
Granted, drug use and responsibility don’t typically go hand-in-hand, but I’m not proposing that Lindsay Lohan start babysitting. Rather, I’m suggesting that people simply extend some of the habits they’ve developed for the legal aspects of their life to the parts that are slightly-less-than legal. For example, take the people who “go green” by having backyard gardens or who shop at farmers markets. They do it to reduce their carbon footprint and promote sustainability – and also because they’re super high and heard about the free samples.
However, those same people who get off on how fresh their kale is probably aren’t quite as picky about where they buy their weed. But shouldn’t they be just as concerned about that as they are with the other stuff they put in their bodies? If we’re striving to source out “conflict-free” diamonds, shouldn’t we be able to make sure we’re not smoking “Blood Ganja?”
The legal status of marijuana – or anything else for that matter – should hold no sway over our moral obligation to discourage violence. All I’m saying is this: no one should have to die so that you can get baked enough to watch ‘Aqua Teen Hunger Force.’ If that’s too much to ask, forget about protecting our border with Mexico – we should build a fence around you.
Where do YOU think the change should come from? Legalization? Sentencing reform? President Willie Nelson? Drop some knowledge in the box below!