1.19.2008

Ellen Taylor, Meth Advocate

War on Drugs is war on our own people
Ellen Taylor
Article Launched: 03/11/2007 10:38:14 AM PDT

Mike Goldsby, a highly-respected local expert in drug addiction, declared in last week's My Word opinion, “I have nothing good to say about methamphetamines.”

The estimated 1.4 million users in the U.S. would disagree. Productivity-oriented professionals with demanding careers praise the increased alertness afforded by meth. Timber fallers, mill workers, truck drivers, and others in dangerous occupations extol the stamina it provides. The military has always depended upon meth as a source of courage and quick reaction time. Poor people, trapped in multiple low-paying jobs or the exhausting paperwork demands of public assistance, emphasize its empowering and antidepressant effect.

These people agree that, like other drugs, meth can be fatal. But its high morbidity and mortality, they would add, rest in the fact that its use is illegal.

Like marijuana, also a medicine, meth is a multibillion-dollar criminal industry. There is naturally violence where such huge profits are to be made.

As revealed by Gary Webb in his San Jose Mercury News articles on crack cocaine, successful drug networks involve protection and exploitation by government agencies, including law enforcement. Police departments flourish on grants for drug interdiction. The domestic cost of the War on Drugs was $51 billion in 2006.

The penal system, increasingly privatized, prospers as well. The public pays an annual $27,000 for each of 2.5 million prisoners. As a society, we are invested in this industry: Some cities are almost exclusively supported by their prisons.

I recently attended a conference, “Methamphetamine, Hepatitis and HIV,” in Salt Lake City, where drug policy analysts described “set and setting” as determinants of how a drug or medicine will affect an individual.

The law enforcement vendetta against meth, and media use of such slogans as “meth kills,” linking it to deviance, disease and violence, provides a hostile setting, and amounts to a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Public opinion as reflected in Times-Standard op-eds echo the official contempt. One guest opinion praised the policies of MaoTse-tung for summarily executing drug offenders. Another called it “terrorism,” and suggested soliciting Homeland Security money.

The recent killings by the Eureka police were attributed to the victims' use of meth, which is rapidly becoming a license to kill. Even Mike Goldsby, in saluting law enforcement's “vital role in holding addicts accountable,” regretted that “there are not enough police or jails to arrest, convict and incarcerate every addict.”

A declaration of war is an open invitation to ignore the rights of individuals in the name of a more urgent destiny. The War on Drugs is no exception.

Harsher sentences than for murder, illegal searches and seizures, intrusive urine testing, property forfeitures, disenfranchisement, ineligibility for public support, housing, school loans or food stamps, loss of children: Fourth, fifth, eighth and fourteenth amendment protections are widely denied meth users.

Demonization of meth cripples democracy. A minority of our citizens even votes, let alone takes an active role in policy decisions which will affect their and their childrens' lives.

Involvement in illegal and socially-condemned activities has estranged large segments of the population from political life. Paranoia prevents users from exercising their first amendment rights to express their opinions. Thus, in a democracy already handicapped by apathy, a stigmatized class is prevented from defending their own interests.

This has powerful implications. One op-ed reported that 70 percent of children in some Humboldt County schools come from “meth homes.” Urine tests at local clinics confirm wide use.

Paul Gahlinger, M.D., commander of the Davis County Jail in Utah, observed that his inmates, 65 percent meth convicts and one-third female, attribute their incarceration not to meth but to the chaotic problems of poverty. They have no plan to stop using.

It is evident that meth is endemic, a street medicine used to treat endemic conditions of life in the American culture of speed, performance, achievement, self-absorption, alienation, waste and neglect.

The War on Drugs amounts to a war on our own people. It is contrary to the precepts of Christianity and all other religions, and destructive to the foundations of democracy.

We must treat the human conditions which cause suffering, instead of demonizing the medicine that relieves the symptoms, if we wish to restore family and human values to our communities.

Ellen Taylor lives in Petrolia.

This Op-Ed was originally posted at http://www.times-standard.com/fastsearchresults/ci_5418494
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There was a LETTER TO THE EDITOR in response:

Meth victim's mom: Help stop this killer

Author:    My Word by Suzi Fregeau
Date: March 18, 2007
Publication: Times-Standard (Eureka, CA)
I read, with amazement, the recent opinion of Ellen Taylor, “War on Drugs is a war on our own people.” I cannot for one minute understand why any sensible individual would support, in any way, the use of this drug. To imply that this drug is helpful for productivity-oriented professionals with demanding careers, that it is necessary to increase the alertness of truck drivers, timber fallers, mill workers and others in dangerous occupations is ludicrous at best.

Since... (truncated, available from Times Standard paid archives)

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