Here's What Happened When I Went On TV To Convince America That The Drug War Was Stupid

Friday night I was briefly on Current TV’s addicting “The Young Turks with Cenk Uygur.” I was picked up in a black sedan (networks normally offer this, except for when they don’t) and driven to a satellite studio in Miami that smelled weird.

A couple minutes before going on, I used the studio’s computer to re-read a few articles I had bookmarked about the war on drugs — swiftly committing statistics to memory; for instance, that more than 91% of those surveyed globally believe the war on drugs has been a failure. And also some choice quotes from Virgin Group chairman Richard Branson, who has recently thrown his good name behind ending the war on drugs (his decision is based in no small part on the results of Portugal’s brave 10-year decriminalization effort).

The studio’s earpiece was simultaneously extremely loud and almost impossible to hear, so when I discerned what sounded like Cenk Uygur asking me a question, I deciphered what I could and lunged into a verbal thesis statement.

At the last moment, I decided to abandon my statistics, and recount instead the story of a young mum of 4 who was sentenced to 12 years in prison for a $31 marijuana transaction. If the recent Trayvon media firestorm has taught me anything, it’s that statistics breeze right past people, while individual stories of misery hit home.

Maybe that’s what it takes. Enough stories of misery for people to wake up and say, hey, I’m not OK with imprisoning a non-violent mother of 4 for buying a substance so ubiquitous that its nickname is “weed,” a substance that is impossible to overdose on, a substance significantly less harmful than alcohol, a substance which the late television astronomer Carl Sagan has credited with making him even more brilliant, and — finally — a substance which Thomas Jefferson and George Washington are believed to have grown without fear of a no-knock raid or warrantless GPS monitoring or cruel and unusual prison sentence.

But who am I kidding? For every person like me who is OK with calling out the war on drugs, there are a hundred pharma lobbyists waiting in the wings, with checkbooks open and fake broad smiles deployed.

For every person like me who ends up on a TV show to briefly talk some sense into the drug-phobic public, there are dozens of sham self-help gurus who have a rehabilitation centre to fill, an addiction book to sell, an Oprah endorsement to lock down.

Because it’s a weekend, here’s an embed of Daft Punk’s “Television Rules The Nation”:

    ↵ Use original player Daft Punk: television rules the nation/around the world. By Thanning YouTube

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