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Using Your Brain On Drugs

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Numerous tightly rolled cannabis cigarettes were in evidence at a June 12
luncheon at the Heartland Institute, a libertarian policy think-tank in the
Chicago Loop. These doobies were emblazoned on the cover of the provocative,
plainspoken book, Saying Yes: In Defense of Drug Use by Jacob Sullum, a
senior editor at Reason ("Free Minds and Free Markets") magazine.

Yet the capacity crowd of 36 hardly appeared ready to kick back and smoke
up: Mainly white men over 50 and conservatively dressed, they appeared more
likely to break a bong over a slacker's head than to consider Sullum's
argument against prohibitionism's moral fearfulness and shoddy science.

Sullum's thesis is that drug war policy has been ruled by "voodoo
pharmacology," the notion that certain chemicals can compel immoral
behavior. Anti-drug messages depend upon the idea that illicit substances
usurp users' judgment and free will, and that any usage equals abuse.
Punitive standards of interdiction and punishment compound the message that
such substances inspire immoral behavior.

Sullum subjects this invocation of automatic turpitude to a withering
critique. By examining the mythologized links between sloth, lust, madness,
gluttony, and wrath and their purported chemical precursors (historically
including tobacco and alcohol), he reveals the intellectual poverty of the
right's central conceit and retrieves the moral high ground ceded by uneasy
legalization proponents.

Pubdate: Mon, 6 Oct 2003
Source: In These Times Magazine (US)
Copyright: 2003 In These Times
Contact: itt@inthesetimes.com
Website: In These Times