Outlook on the War on Drugs needs to be taken seriously by all

I was doing some research compliance training the other day when I came across the following question: “Many of the workers now use laptops, notebooks, palmtops, PDAs and even very smart cell phones that have access to sensitive information. What would be the LEAST effective philosophy regarding security training for these devices?”

This was the answer: D) “That these devices are dangerous, and should never be used.”

I was surprised by how many parallels can be drawn to the Drug War. Let’s re-formulate the question: “Many people use drugs for their medical, recreational, spiritual, performance enhancing, and/or pain relieving properties. However, many of these drugs can also have negative effects on health, relationships, job security, and may lead to strong physical and/or psychological dependence. What would be the LEAST effective philosophy regarding training people to use these drugs?”

The answer is very clearly the same as the one given above, yet the government stance towards drugs that are currently illegal remains: “Drugs are dangerous and should never be used.” To make matters even more confusing, the Drug War is selective about which drugs it should be labeled as “dangerous,” and turns a blind eye to the alcohol and pharmaceutical industries. Prescription drugs are shamelessly advertised on TV. Alcohol is celebrated in social settings. The line between “Good and useful” and “Dangerous and useless” is seemingly arbitrary and certainly not accurate.

Instead, shouldn’t we be giving people access to scientifically accurate information about the risks of use and abuse? Shouldn’t we allow people to figure out how to satisfy their own needs? Shouldn’t we ensure that they are obtaining their drugs from safe and legitimate laboratories, not from potentially violent criminals? Shouldn’t we be profiting off of an existing market by instituting sales taxes on controlled substances, not wasting money on incarceration while simultaneously funding cartels?

Obviously, an immediate transition to such a state will not instantly lead us to utopia. But while nothing changes, thousands are being led and will continue to be led to addiction, overdose, and incarceration. As it stands today, people are paying with their lives for the crime of not knowing any better.

The good news is there are movements and organizations both here on campus and internationally that are conscious of these issues. The soon-to-be-Union-recognized chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy is working on providing you with the information needed to be an informed decision-maker in your interactions with drugs and drug-related activities. If you have questions, concerns, or want to get involved, contact rpi@chapters.ssdp.org or find us on Facebook (RPI Students for Sensible Drug Policy). Also, be on the lookout for posters advertising our next event, featuring guest speaker Professor Nancy Campbell!

The War on Drugs is a War on People. It is a War on You.

Matthew Getzin

PhD Candidate, Biomedical Engineering

President, RPI Chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy

Outlook on the War on Drugs needs to be taken seriously by all