six in the morning, police at my door
dirty feet squeak across the bathroom floor
all night long we were hiding from our neighbors
we feel much safer living as strangers
and out the back window, there ain’t no escape
didn’t even get a chance to set myself straight
c’mon and shake
shake, baby, shake
you’re never going to stop
it ain't ever going to stop at all
sign in east Hastings saying ‘no’ to me
they fight against keeping my blood clean
small town to Lansdowne saying ‘no’ to me
darling, I’m in this cage for my disease
and I’m in here for a dozen years
I got two knees in my back and a gun in my face
they’re dragging you by the hair as they search apart our place
and they pull you from my side with the haze from my eyes
I’m shivering through the sweats, baby, on this concrete floor all night
For as long as I can remember people have been telling me that drugs are bad. Not just bad for me in terms of my physical and mental health, but bad for society, bad for humans as a whole. Just by smoking a joint I would be simultaneously destroying my brain and funding terrorism. All of the evils in the world were somehow linked to drug use. Well, illegal drug use anyway. The majority of the anti-drug public service announcements I watched were on television stations that didn't balk at the advertising dollars alcohol and tobacco companies were throwing at them.* Only certain drugs were deemed bad, and using them was not only a crime but it could lead to the downfall of society as we knew it. The anti-drug propaganda I grew up with isn't much different than what youth today are subjected to - it is filled with the same lies and misinformation. The central themes remain the same: humans should not get high; in a perfect world everyone would abstain from using drugs; the increase in drug use among the population (particularly youth) is representative of the immoral attitudes and trends of the modern age. I was told, and kids today are being told that using a drug just once can get you hooked on it for life. Being the skeptic that I am, I've since tried most of those drugs and while I liked a few of them, I developed a physical addiction to none, and didn't even like most. I am not trying to imply that drugs aren’t addictive. They most certainly are, and addiction can ruin a person’s life. My point is simply, not all the information we have been told about drugs is true, and using drugs does not make you a bad person. Habitually snorting or smoking meth will fuck up your life – there’s little question about this. Smoking weed daily may increase your lethargy and appetite but it will not destroy your life. Pot and meth are two completely different beasts that have been lumped together as equally destructive. This simply isn’t true.
What I find so amusing about all of this isn't the fact that some people rally so hard against something as harmless as, say, weed smoking, it's the fact that as old as these anti-drug myths are, the use of narcotics by human beings predates it all. In 2008, archeologists working in the Gobi desert uncovered the 2,700 year-old remains of a shaman that had been buried with 2 pounds of marijuana. Up until this discovery, experts thought that the ancients of this region only grew the plant as hemp in order to make clothing and rope. The strong psychoactive properties they found in the still green marijuana, however, implies that it was grown as an inebriant as well. Also in 2008, archeologists conducted studies on the hair of mummies found in the Andes Mountains which revealed that in 1200 BC, pre-Hispanic South American people were taking hallucinogens. In addition to the medical evidence of their drug use, ancient drug paraphernalia like pipes and snuffing kits have been found as well. None of this should be too much of a shock – as far back as 5000BC the Sumerians were smoking opium. The first alcohol was brewed in 3500BC by the Egyptians. Humans have enjoyed getting high for centuries.
The movement to prohibit the use of drugs has been around for quite a while too, the earliest of which occurred in 2000BC when an Egyptian priest forbid his pupils from consuming alcohol. But that just underlines what a pointless effort prohibition is. For all the attempts that have been made to stamp out the use of intoxicants, it has never worked. No one will ever be able to stop people from getting high. Prohibition has never, and will never work. What it does do is allow for a brutally violent black market to exist. Evidence of this can be seen with the rise of gangsterism in major American cities in the early 20th century during the days of alcohol prohibition. And it can also be seem now, as wars between rival cartels and dealers play out on streets around the world. Making drugs illegal has never stopped people from doing them, but it has allowed for some morally bankrupt dickheads to make a fortune off of them.
Now, I’m no fan of physical confrontation. I lack the strength, determination, and hand-eye coordination to be a successful pugilist. Even when I see some sort of injustice unfolding in front of me I’m too much of a weakling and a coward to intervene. Such was the case last spring when, on my way to work, I happened upon my neighborhood crack dealer punching the shit out of one of his more frail male clients. The junky’s girlfriend was screaming for assistance but no one on the street, especially me, was running up to offer it. I crossed to the other side to avoid getting involved and continued on to the subway. Later that night, on my way home, I witnessed the same crack dealer issuing a similar beating to a different, yet equally helpless, addict. I would feel much better were this douche bag not living in my neighborhood, but running him out vigilante style not only seems unbelievable but also silly. The cops have done very little about his operation, which is understandable because I’m sure there are hundreds just like it all over the city. The best way to run this prick off my street would be to take his livelihood away.
But what about the junkies you say? Taking away the drug dealer** doesn't mean that the neighborhood is going to be a nicer cleaner place. There are still going to be crackheads and junkies running about shitting in alleys and begging for change and stealing bicycles. I would argue, however, that we have the same problem with drunks running around doing similarly unpleasant things all the time, and yet very few of us rail for the LCBO to be shut down. Crackheads, junkies, and drunks are all pretty annoying people to live around, but they're still people. They just have some pretty big fucking problems, ones that will not be fixed with the existence of a black market. Drug prohibition pushes drug addicts to the margins of our society, dehumanizing them in the process. Shooting galleries and needle exchange programs do not encourage drug use - they exist in order to protect the most at-risk members of our society from the harm that their disease can cause them.*** This song is in no way and endorsement of drug use. This issue is a human rights issue, as far as I am concerned. No institution or government should dictate what I can or cannot put into my body. We all have the right to make bad decisions. A truly compassionate society will allow each of us our fuck-ups and never deny us help when we are at our most vulnerable. The money used to treat recovering addicts is peanuts compared to the resources used to fight the 'war on drugs.' Because this war - this war we are losing - is fucking expensive. Every year more and more money is spent on police and prisons for the purpose of locking up our neighbors. If history has taught us anything, it's that there will always be a demand for drugs, and trying to keep them away from those who want them is all but impossible. Legalization is the only intelligent option.
I didn’t want to make this little rant a bunch of statistics and numbers. That would have been pretty dull to read. I do suggest you check out these sites, however, for some more info.
*Once upon a time cigarette ads were on TV. Beers ads have, of course, always been idiotic.
**It should be noted that I do not believe all drug dealers to be violent sociopaths to be feared. The example I am using is extreme, and I have known many a drug dealer that has no desire to pummel their clientele.
***Yes, addiction is a disease, and no one should be put in a situation where they might contract HIV or hepatitis.