Saturday, May 23, 2015

Chasing the Scream

by Johann Hari

Mount Hope May 23, 2015
I am sitting at Mount Hope on a cool clear day. The vista is beautiful. Not a cloud in the sky and the air is filled with birdsong. Here are some excerpts taken from the introduction to Johann Hari's remarkable book.

Lady Day
"How do we react to addicts and the war on drugs? We all know the script. Treat addicts and drug users as criminals. Coerce them into stopping. This is the prevailing view in almost every country.

Hari used to think that way but has changed his mind. He now argues instead for a second strategy – legalize drugs stage by stage, and use the money we currently spend on punishing addicts to fund compassionate care instead."

The journey that he took to research and write this book took him across nine countries and 30,000 miles and it would last for three years. The story is a compelling read.

Drugs are not what we think they are. Drug addiction is not what we have been told it is. There is a very different story waiting for us when we are ready to hear it. Pick up this book and read.

Johann Hari's Ted Talk: Everything You Thought You Knew About Drug Addiction in Wrong, June 2015.

Cast of Characters (in order of appearance)
Harry Anslinger: Bureau on Narcotics "godfather."
Billie Holiday: Jazz singer hounded to death by Anslinger
Arnold Rothstein: NY drug/alcohol lord
Chino Hardin:  FTM drug dealer turned activist/reformer
Leigh Maddox:  Policewoman/lawyer who once stalked addicts and now he workswith LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition)
Sherif Joe Arpaio: Arizona reincarnation of Harry Anslinger.
Prisoner number 109416 (Marsha Powell): small time drug user and victim of Arizona "justice" system.
Gabor Mate:  Family physician from British Columbia who is helping drug addicts on the front line.
Bruce Alexander: a psychologist at SFU in Vancouver. He worked on a Rat Park study that showed it's the environment which creates addicts not biology.
Bud Osborn: An addict and an activist who organized the Downtown Eastside drug users and got them recognition and respect.
John Marks: Liverpool psychiatrist who ran a drug prescription clinic and saved many lives until the British government disbanded it.  He self-exiled himself to New Zealand.
Ruth Dreifuss as president of Switzerland, she approved the establishment of drug distribution centres.
Jose Mujica: The anarchist president of Uruguay who implemented legalization of many drugs.
Mason Tvirt: Activist in Colorado who spearheaded that states campaign to legailze marijuana.  He fought against Hickenlooper -- the CO governor.
Tonia Winchester: An attorney who led a successful campaign to decriminalize marijuana in Washington state.

The author, Johann Hari, did a masterful job here.  When I looked at his Wikipedia page, I was surprised to learn some disquieting facts about him - but feel they only make him a more scrupulous reporter her.