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Worst Crime: Drug Use

Once upon a time, I spent eight months in jail for possession of about 10 mg of heroin. The one good thing about my sentence was that I was given no "tail"--no drug program, no probation. I consider myself lucky. I was in jail with many people who were spending as long as a year and a half waiting to be placed in a drug treatment program. And after they get out, these guys still have between three and five years of formal probation.

The Liquor Store was closed; I guess we'll just do the heroin. I dread the idea of probation because I am a drug user and probation is much worse for drug users than it is for, say, rapists. When a rapist comes in to see his PO, the PO can't give the rapist a urine test to determine if the guy's been raping anyone. The same goes for a murderer: there is no "violence" test to make sure that the murderer has been a good boy. But there are tests for drugs. So while a murderer will only get in trouble if the police find out about his violence, a drug user will get in trouble for using a drug even if his use is casual and responsible.

The straight community would doubtless respond to my observation with, "but drug offenders shouldn't be using drugs--especially when on probation!" But that statement misses the point of the observation: drug offenders are punished more than violent offenders simply because the technology allows them to be.

This is the time when anti-drug people point out that the violent offenders get drug tested as well. But as usual the anti-drug people are wrong. If a violent offender has no drug "abuse" history, he may file so that he cannot be tested. But even if he were tested, the testing would not really apply to his crime; it would tell him, "violence is okay, drugs are not."

And this is what the society is telling itself through the persecution of drug users: drug use is worse than violence. The drug warriors are always on about "sending a message" (mostly to kids). Most of their messages are pretty ridiculous: drink beer, not opium! But this one is probably the worst.

by Dr. H © 2001


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