If you use drugs, just avoid being caught

AUSTIN, Texas, (U-Wire) — As the presidential race begins to heat up, the drug issue has once again wandered to the forefront of American politics, putting Gov. George W. Bush directly in the spotlight.
Drug legalization advocates have attempted to request pardons from Gov. George Bush for nonviolent drug offenses, citing the hypocrisy of his programs due to his own experiences with illegal substances. However, Bush has not yet gone on the record about his “youthful indiscretions,” indicating that he is already one step ahead of Clinton’s memorable “what is this joint doing in my mouth?” approach. So will Bush eventually pardon drug offenders? The answer is no. Should Bush even consider legalization? The answer is no. But for those looking for a way out, he has left us with an obvious tip: Whatever you do … just don’t get caught.
Our generation is familiar with anti-drug propaganda. Many of us were forced to conform and wear stylish D.A.R.E. T-shirts. Some had pamphlets shoved in their faces, and there are those who remain haunted by television images that included fried eggs — accompanied by everything else besides the rest of the breakfast — divers jumping into empty pools and actresses rearranging their kitchens. Kids know that drugs are theoretically bad, but all the information in the world has not prevented them from trying them. It’s no big mystery — our children use drugs because their parents do.
According to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, 46 percent of parents expect their kids to try illegal drugs. Teens who know of their parent’s experimentation with drugs are at an even higher risk. It’s almost a self-fulfilling prophecy. Even now, drugs are showing up everywhere, from the picket fences of the suburbs to the raves of the urban nightlife. But most importantly, at least 49 percent of all baby boomers have tried marijuana or other illegal substances in their youth. Although this does not necessarily indicate that all our leaders chose pot brownies over Oreos to complement their daily glass of milk, but they have committed their fair share of criminal activity.
If our leaders have done worse, why should those who have merely experimented spend time in incarceration while others end up running our country? The question demands some equity from our government. However, pardons and legalization would set a precedent with consequences that no politician would be willing to take.
Harmful drug use would certainly rise. Dr. Herbert Kleber, a psychiatrist from Yale University, argues that clinical data support the premise that drug use would increase with legalization. “… if cocaine were legally available, the number of cocaine abusers would probably rise … the number of compulsive users might be nine times higher … than the current number.”
Things would only get worse. Crimes perpetuated by turf wars between rival gangs interested in protecting their businesses constitute a relatively small percentage of total drug related crime. A Bureau of Justice Statistics report states that among inmates serving for assault or burglary, roughly four out of 10 crimes were committed under the influence. All of these numbers cannot even begin to compare to the increases in poverty, welfare, social spending, domestic violence, and automobile and on the job accidents that legalization would entail.
When it comes to the drug issue, no one is truly at fault. Why? If used correctly, drugs can be a highly recreational experience, without many of the social and medical consequences that accompany its use. In other words, drugs are fun. Our society has confused the term drug use with abuse. Unfortunately, the law prohibiting its use is necessary because for some, there is no difference.
Those who are in a search for a just solution will remain disappointed. We as a nation cannot afford to loosen our stance on drugs. But if our men and women in power have taught us a lesson, it’s been a very simple lesson indeed. You are free to do whatever you want. Just don’t get caught.

Andrew Lee’s column originally appeared in Friday’s University of Texas-Austin paper, the Daily Texan.