Drug users have a civic duty to ‘ come out of the closet ’ in order to bring about real political change , Professor Carl Hart told Constellations
Drug control has been used as a tool to subjugate , and has its origins in subjugating specific populations – certainly in the US ,’ Professor Carl Hart of Columbia University told Harm Reduction International executive director Naomi Burke-Shyne . ‘ That ’ s why it ’ s important to question the basic assumptions of drug control .’
One of these was that the government ‘ does not trust you to make the right decisions about what you can put in your body ’, he said , something that was then backed up with vast amounts of money . ‘ When you think about all the people who are employed in order to control what you put in your body ’ – not
just law enforcement and prison authorities , but researchers , physicians , the media – ‘ all of these people have their hand in the cookie jar . That ’ s the real reason this continues , and it helps that the people who are primarily impacted are poor and politically weak .’
Assertions that the ‘ war on drugs ’ had somehow failed were therefore wrong . ‘ It ’ s been a success for the people in control , and the people they give their fruits to ’ – the ‘ war on drugs ’ was essentially a jobs programme , he said . ‘ If we think that the stated policy is to lessen the availability of these substances in our communities , then at some level it did that . But the unstated goal is to increase the budgets of various groups of people , and it worked there as well .’
HARM REDUCTION INTERNATIONAL ( HRI ) is a leading charity dedicated to reducing the negative health , social and legal impacts of drug use and drug policy .
The charity promotes the rights of people who use drugs and their communities through research and advocacy to help achieve a world where drug policies and laws contribute to healthier , safer societies .
Arranged to coincide with HRI ’ s 25th anniversary , CONSTELLATIONS was an online event in November 2021 which celebrated HRI ’ s activism and achievements in the field over a quarter of a century . DDN was HRI ’ s chosen media partner .
‘ Through panels , interviews , town halls , poetry readings , art and music , our community gathered to connect , to explore innovative solutions , to have urgent conversations and to redefine what harm reduction is and what it can be ,’ said HRI .
For more information : www . hri . global
One useful aspect of cannabis reform in the US , therefore , was demonstrating to the ‘ people who have power in our society how they can make money off this endeavour – legally regulating the market ,’ he said . ‘ We ’ ve seen how the human rights violations , racial discrimination and targeting of poor people hasn ’ t been compelling at all . So we need to really think about how we advocate for change .’ There was also a huge amount of people ‘ who – although we might not agree on a number of political issues – really understand the concept of liberty ’, he stated . ‘ At this basic fundamental level of people ’ s liberty , we agree .’
If governments saw drug users as people with political power and a vote ‘ then maybe we wouldn ’ t have so many repressive laws that have targeted people with less political power ’, he said , which was why he tried to encourage people to ‘ get out of the closet ’ about their drug use as a matter of civic duty . The majority of people using drugs were simply ‘ seeking to alter their consciousness ,’ he continued , so ‘ why aren ’ t we defending their liberty to take them ? The vast majority of users of any drug don ’ t meet the criteria for addiction .’
On the question of worrying about who would ultimately control the regulated market , there were more pressing concerns , he told the session . ‘ We ’ ve yet to even have a serious conversation about legally regulating the market . The first goal is to take the chains off , then we can worry about who ’ s controlling it .’
‘ We ’ ve yet to even have a serious conversation about legally regulating the market . The first goal is to take the chains off , then we can worry about who ’ s controlling it .’
PROF CARL HART
There had always been a disproportionate focus on the negative aspects of drug use and it was time to talk about the positive aspects , such as pleasure , he added . ‘ I upset so many people by saying that sort of thing . Pleasure is a good thing , and it ’ s sad that I even have to say that .’
On the question of changing the language around drug use , while it was as important to be precise ‘ we don ’ t want to get hung up too much on it ’, he said . ‘ Stay focused on the big issue , which is do people have the right to put whatever drug they want in their bodies . There ’ s always risk when you ’ re fighting injustice , but it causes a lot more harm not to do anything .’ DDN www . addiction-ssa . org
14 • DRINK AND DRUGS NEWS • FEBRUARY 2022 WWW . DRINKANDDRUGSNEWS . COM