Drugs have been for years a part of the national dialogue in all sectors of American culture – political, social, and, most noticeably, in popular culture. It seems that a sizeable segment of the population has a desire to get high, and a cursory look at history hints that this has long been the case. Drugs have probably been used by people for almost as long as there have been people. Many currently illegal drugs, such as marijuana, opium, coca, and psychedelics have been used for thousands of years for both medical and spiritual purposes. If the use of drugs is such an innate and enduring part of human culture, why is it viewed as criminal behavior worthy of the expenditure of huge amounts of our society’s resources (economic, political, social, etc.)?
Any number of answers to this question may have at least some basis in reality. One answer is supported in large measure by the visible facts, but is not based on any scientific assessment of the relative risks of these drugs. This answer has everything to do with who is associated with certain drugs. In other words, it’s the people who have been associated with drug use that makes drug use worthy of our best efforts to criminalize drug use.