Thursday, January 05, 2006

From the Archives

In checking out some of Slate’s most popular posts from the past year, I came across this one about honest reporting of the real effects of drugs. I agree with the central tenet of the article, that by lying about a drug’s addictive nature in an attempt to prevent use, we lose credibility in the debate. Thinking back on information given to me about marijuana, crack, and other drugs, I remember that the addictive nature and serious side effects were very much exaggerated. As a youth, once you find out that pot isn’t addictive, and is less dangerous than alcohol, you no longer believe what was said about the other drugs that are available. The point is well taken that the press and others reporting on amphetamenes need to be cautious about how they describe the drug’s effects.

One point to nit-pick over though is in regards to the following passage:

Cocaine's easy ride ended in the mid-1980s, when a cheap, prepackaged, smokable version of it—crack—arrived. The press no longer thought the drug cute since inner-city users binged on it and dealers fought gang wars over territory. The users most frequently chronicled in the press—young blacks and Latinos—came from a "different social class, race, and status," as Reinarman and Levine write, groups that many in the press were uncomfortable about covering.... It wasn't latent racism as much as stupidity that led the press to help the government demonize crack and its users.

The difference between crack and cocaine wasn’t so much in who used it, but in how its distribution affected communities. The gang wars that the above paragraph references were not minor. They were extremely bloody and ruined many inner city neighborhoods. The press and the government were right to demonize crack because of how badly it was tearing apart the urban poor. I have heard too many people talk about the different policies for dealing with crack and cocaine as racist. What they often fail to understand is that keeping similar policies for the different versions of the drug would have been more racist; it would have allowed the violence to continue without any attempt to stop it.