Posts Tagged heroin

Consequences of Apathy

The Huffington Post, every now and then as part of a PSA or something, dedicates a post to the “Faces of Drugs Arrests” – supported by Rehabs.com as a follow up to its anti-methamphetamine campaign “Horrors of Meth.”

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“Faces of Drug Arrests,” is a series of shocking images, depicting the decline of different “suspects” (suspects of what? drug abuse?)  physical appearance over the years via their mugshots. The individuals shown were all arrested for drug and drug-related offenses involving meth, heroin, cocaine, and prescription drugs.

The ugliest thing about this post is not so much the ravaged faces of these drug addicts, but the comments section of the Huffington Post where people admonish these individuals as “disgusting” beings who hopefully never have kids.

One commentator, who neither knows any of these individuals or their stories and backgrounds and thus their experiences and how they came to be where they are, writes quite presumptuously that “they no longer care where they are or whether they’re about to die.

Others casually “other” the people depicted in the images, commenting on how “irresponsible” it is of them, especially when “these people” have children of their own.

One reader had the following to say “There’s NO REASON for anyone to continue to abuse themselves to this extent – help is readily available pretty much everywhere. These types of addicts just don’t want to take the effort necessary to clean themselves up. Yes, I know that’s not the case with some addicts, but in these cases…..?” 

“They are disgusting.”

“They are irresponsible.”

“They don’t care.”

“They don’t want to make the effort.”

Yes, because clearly mentally healthy, stable people enjoy becoming emotional and physical wrecks as a result of heavy drug use. Because, thank the spaghetti monsters that be, drug addiction is not a disease at all.

No one in these comments has even noted the fact that these are mug shots taken from arrests, as in these people whom everyone is summarily dismissing, judging and spitting on as disgusting, irresponsible, worthless wrecks have been criminally persecuted and incarcerated for their drug use.

And neither does anyone – neither the HP article nor the commentators – find it either problematic or acknowledge the fact that drug addiction is an illness that requires medical treatment of those who are using drugs, instead of criminal retribution.

No one is wondering, or is the least bit bothered, that instead of health and treatment these people are being treated to prison instead. “Hell [typo and I am keeping it there] Help is readily available” one commentator casually states. When in reality, no actually, help is not readily available.

The fact that these people have been booked and charged with a crime instead of being sent to rehabilitation to treat their illness should have given you a clue. That, and that in this country trying to get insurance companies to pay for meaningful drug rehabilitation programs is almost impossible, not to mention that government-run rehab programs, as far as they do exist, are terribly funded, ineffective and hard to get into.

So no, it is not “readily available.” Where have these people been? Canada? Germany?

Most importantly, there is a human being behind every mug shot depicted in this PSA; a human being with their own life’s stories, paths and trajectories. No one knows what has taken place in their lives leading them to resort to drug use and the addiction that comes from it. To judge them as if one did is mendacious.

Sending someone who suffers from the disease of addiction to jail is no different than incarcerating someone suffering from cancer or Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s.

Moreover, since low-income and/or racial minorities are disproportionately incarcerated for drug use, this undertaking has, essentially, become another way of criminalizing the poor for being poor.

Now what if all the taxpayer money that’s used arresting, processing, trying, probably public defending and jailing drug addicts  were instead used toward social programs that would support such people in the first place? What if instead of jail time, we offered help? How about trying to find out what those ills were that got them into heavy drug use in the first place, instead of making this ridiculous, callous assumption that they are there because they enjoy being there, because they made that choice and because they devalue their lives?

Although I do wonder how people who have been outcast and thrown away by society as disgusting, irresponsible worthless wrecks are going to “love themselves.”

People in this country tend to criticize “government hand-outs” and talk about the social safety net like it’s a giant waste of taxpayer money—a “wealth redistribution program” to steal rich folks’ money and give it to the poor. And they do not see the moral failing in such an argument because the same people that talk about social safety net programs as being a waste of money have no problem seeing that very money be used to send sick people to jail (or support defense contractors, oil companies, corporations, banks and the wealthy in the form of tax exemptions etc).

Unworthy of Help

The thinking that one needs additional negative consequences for harming one-self assumes that whatever situation one finds one-self in is not sufficient consequences. Even if someone is in an incredibly terrible situation of their “own making” (which is an extreme oversimplification as no one lives in a vacuum)  somehow that’s not enough punishment in and of itself.

The thing I truly abhor about this kind of rhetoric and way of thinking is that even if, given the same set of circumstances, I or Joe Green over there, would have emerged differently than someone else: So what? Different people are different.

And even in cases where someone is in a terrible situation because of their own making and bad choices: So what? Why is that justification to not help them?

I fully understand the value of consequences for harming others. I will, however, never understand the alleged value of consequences for harming oneself.

This calculated, cultivated lack of empathy in our society for anyone who isn’t successful, healthy, wealthy and “wise”, is very disconcerting and quite visible in the face of every person in these mug-shots.

Love, empathy and compassion are necessities if we are going to make it as a peoples and nation. They are not luxuries.

I wish people who just casually judged, blamed and dismissed a person in peril like that, praying self righteously to their “God” that the drug addicts in the mugshots may not have any children, would, instead, pray to their “God” that these people who are undoubtedly suffering, get the help they need – which would necessitate voting for programs that aide such people as opposed to voting for policies and politicians that do everything they can to dismantle the programs that aide these people.

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The Consequences of Making Pot Illegal

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Now that the state of Colorado has legalized marijuana for recreational use starting January 1 with Washington state following suit shortly after, the pot legalization debate is getting a fresh perspective with new voices chiming in, either praising or scolding the new direction two of our states have taken.

One of the arguments many people make in favor of making marijuana illegal is that it creates crime and/or turns neighborhoods into crime zones with shady characters roaming the streets.

The reality is that all the things one associates with illicit drug use, in this case marijuana – such as shady neighborhoods, drug rings, gangs, crime, prostitution, back-door alleys and a host of other such crimes and shady characteristics – exist precisely because drugs are illegal.

See, when you make something illegal, such as pot, you create a certain kind of atmosphere and milieu that becomes conducive to those very things you want to avoid, such as shady neighborhoods, back-door alleys, gangs and criminals. When an otherwise law-abiding citizen has to go into the underground to get his supply, that person will soon be at the mercy of criminals whose least offense probably is the sale of marijuana.

If people were able to get their supplies from within a well-lit, clean store in a legitimate business center, without feeling conspicuous and paranoid that they may get caught or doing something wrong, then those criminal elements and shadiness people are complaining about would disappear.

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One great example to the point is the Hustler Hollywood store on the Sunset Strip near West Hollywood. From the outside, it looks like just any other retail space on the strip: the windows are tall and clear instead of dark and tinted with a few mannequins wearing tasteful lingerie on display. When you enter the store, it is bright and clean – with a few tables here and there where various T-shirts and sweaters with the Hustler logo and other kinky slogans are neatly folded. There is a book and magazine section, a smoothie bar, a lingerie and sex paraphernalia section, dressing rooms and employees that are dressed in civilian clothing, looking like they may be working at J.Crew.

The Hustler store in Hollywood

The Hustler store in Hollywood

The area that contains the porn DVDs is sectioned off for those who are 18 and above, but it is not behind some red curtain that has a neon sign above it reading “XXX.”

I have been to that store a few times with friends and never felt shady, sleazy and dirty and I also never got dirty looks from people one would perceive as shady, sleazy and dirty. In fact, the people I saw in there were the same kind people I may encounter in any retail clothing store. The Hustler Hollywood store has effectively managed to take what people often perceive as seedy and derogatory into the light, literally, so that people no longer have to sneak around and feel like sleazy assholes simply because they enjoy sex.

Wanna know what makes sex shops dirty? The dark covered windows that have NUDE GIRLS and XXX printed on them, the dark, badly lit interior where truly shady characters can hide behind some dark corner jerking off to women’s lingerie or some porn magazine with the employees themselves looking like they had just done a few lines of coke on urinals.

See, it is not porn itself that creates such an atmosphere and milieu, but the fact that porn is viewed as evil, out of place, dirty, perverse and illicit with lawmakers and a few religious, moral crusaders driving those businesses into shady neighborhoods where they are forced to cover up their windows in black tape and hide the fact that people not only have kinky sex but also enjoy it. By turning porn into something dirty to be hidden from society and ashamed of and thus a crime basically, you in effect aide in setting up the foundation for criminal elements.

Such a milieu, in turn, becomes the perfect breeding ground for all sorts of shady people with dubious priorities and agendas – including human traffickers, heroin dealers, petty criminals and even elements of organized crime.

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To be clear, this is not an argument in favor of legalizing heroin (although there is a legitimate point by some experts in doing that as well); the point is that making something illegal creates a host of liabilities and thus the very kind of milieu and environments that people associate with drug use and are using to oppose drug legalization in the first place.

In reality, we probably wouldn’t even be having all those criminal elements lying around if people could conduct their business – be it buying pot or porn – in a nice, clean, well-lit  and thus legitimate environment.

Life Sentence for Selling Marijuana

The reason I am talking about this today is that The Human Solution, a pot advocacy group,  revealed that while marijuana is becoming legal for recreational use in two of our states with other state legislators considering legalization as well,  at least 25 people have been condemned to live out their days behind bars because they were involved in the marijuana trade.

One such individual is James Romans, a divorced 42-year-old father of three from Indiana who dabbled in selling pot to support his family and accidentally got himself into the illicit business of a much larger, multi-million dollar drug cartel. It was eventually found out that he’d been a major player in a trafficking organization responsible for transporting more than 10,000 kilos of marijuana into the U.S. from Mexico – you know, from those cartels across the border that hack off your hands, feet and head and throw the bodies in a landfill  so they cannot be identified – those kinds of people.

Romans entered prison in April of last year. A few weeks after his arrival, his parents and sister suddenly stopped getting calls from him. They later found out that a group of inmates had rioted, prompting the guards to lock everyone in their cells for a two-week stretch.

Several months after that, according to Romans’ sister, Elizabeth Bishop, Romans returned from lunch to find guards in his cell and blood spattered all over the walls and the beds. “Somebody attempted to murder his cellmate,” his sister explained.

Romans has never been convicted of a violent crime, and Bishop, for her part, insists he’s as gentle as can be, despite the evidence that he had guns and ran the smuggling ring. “Scared of a spider” was how she put it.

The U.S funded the Guatemalan military during the 1960s and 1970s anti-insurgency war, despite awareness of widespread human rights violations. Among the recipients of U.S military funding and training were the Kaibiles, a special force unit responsible for several massacres. Former Kaibiles have joined the ranks of the Zetas drug cartel.

The U.S funded the Guatemalan military during the 1960s and 1970s anti-insurgency war, despite awareness of widespread human rights violations. Among the recipients of U.S military funding and training were the Kaibiles, a special force unit responsible for several massacres. Former Kaibiles have joined the ranks of the Zetas drug cartel.

And yet he’s sentenced to spend the rest of his life under the same roof as men like Ricky Mungia, a Texan who went on a shooting spree with some white and Latino friends in 1994, hunting down black men in the streets of Lubbock and shooting them from a car with a short-barreled shotgun.

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The war on drugs is not only a pointless one but an illegitimate one. If Romans was in the state of Colorado today doing exactly what he did back then, running a marijuana business and selling pot, he would be free and a legitimate business owner, even helping his state raise much needed revenue.

However, because marijuana is illegal federally, he was not only driven into the arms of heinous Mexican drug cartels whose least offense probably is the selling of marijuana, but he also has to spend the rest of his life with actual criminals in prison, costing tax payers around $60,000 a year just to take care of him. Moreover, his children will grow up without their father at their side and probably burned by the stigma of having a parent in prison who, any day, may be killed, raped and hurt.

I ask you, what is the bigger detriment to society? Selling pot to people or what is being done with and to Romans?

That is not justice, nor does it help better society. Romans can easily be a productive member of society because his “crime” was a faceless one (and non existent as far Colorado and millions are concerned). Him selling that pot didn’t hurt anyone, and his incarceration, aside from not being just, is an unnecessary and completely avoidable burden to society.

And that, dear reader, is the real cost we as a society pay when making marijuana illegal. Romans has now been placed in that very environment that those opposing drug legalization are trying to avoid by making drugs illegal in the first place.

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