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July 8, 2004 - The Shepherd Express (WI)

Drug Hypocrisies -- Then & Now

And 'For Donald: He Is An Honorable Man'

By Dave Berkman, retired UWM Mass Communications professor and host of "Media Talk", heard locally on WHAD/ 90.7FM, Fridays at 5pm.

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

In considering the insanity of a legal system punishing people for ingesting illegal substances -- a matter off the agenda of the mainstream media -- it's worthwhile to look back at how those once legal, became illegal and, in the case of alcohol, once illegal was re-legalized. The prescription license my father, a New York dentist, displayed, explicitly included in its title, "marihuana" -- which only became illegal in 1937. Which means that pot was once accepted as having medical benefits.

Today, despite its proven value in treating glaucoma and the nausea associated with chemotherapy, pot is federally banned from use as a medicine -- a ban not applied to opiates, even though they're in the same class of hard drugs as heroin.

During Prohibition, a few distilleries were allowed to continue producing bottle-bonded liquor for distribution to doctors and dentists for "medicinal purposes," at the rate, I recall my father saying, of two fifths a week. Neighborhood bootleggers throughout America would make regular rounds of doctors and dentists -- including my old man -- buying up the booze for five bucks or so a bottle, the equivalent of $40, today. In fact, prior to 1913 -- except in a few states where alcohol bans had been enacted before nationwide prohibition -- no substances were illegal.

Magazines were full of ads for patent medicines loaded with opium and cocaine. (The original Coca-Cola formula included the drug in active form.) Up through the '60s, you could go to any drugstore and buy the opiate codeine in a widely used, over-the-counter cough suppressant. Paregoric, another opiate, was sold OTC for administration to teething infants. Nose inhalers saturated with liquid benzedrine, were also available without prescriptions.

Before 1913, there were no drug rings corrupting whole neighborhoods and the criminal justice system.

Today, we just freed Afghanistan so it could supply, according to the U.N., three-quarters of the world's opium.

- - Speaking of Afghanistan, why has so little attention been paid to the fact we've not only lost the "War on Drugs" there, but that its president, Hamid Karzai, has invited the Taliban to participate in Afghan affairs -- and that outside of the capital of Kabul, it's not democracy, but the warlords with their personal militias, who rule now? Which means we lost the overall war, as well.

- - How did our freedom-loving economic ally, China, "celebrate" -- their word! -- Anti-Drug Day? By executing 17 drug dealers and sentencing "scores more" to death!

- - Some good news: The CIA has stopped withholding anti-pain drugs from prisoners undergoing interrogation. The bad news: The CIA had been withholding anti-pain drugs from prisoners undergoing interrogation.

- - Still more about drugs -- in this instance, legal ones. Here's something I wish someone would explain: The "liberal position" on excessive drug costs is to allow pharmaceutical imports from Canada, where prices are up to 80% lower. But I've yet to hear anybody go the next step that common logic calls for: the United States is the only Western nation that doesn't regulate drug prices.

Yet no public figure points this out and then demands legislation to require our government to do what the rest of the world's industrially advanced countries do. I can understand why Republicans don't. More than 80% of the massive drug industry's political contributions go to the GOP. And, as we know, the only lives Republicans seem to care about are those of the unborn, not any live folks who are sick or elderly. But where are the Democrats?

- - All but one of the Iraqi torture probes are Army investigations of itself. The one "independent" examination, by a four-person panel appointed by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, includes ex-GOP congresswoman Tillie J. Fowler, who's ruled Rumsfeld out as a target.

He is, The New York Times quotes her proclaiming, "an honest, decent, honorable man, who'd never condone this type of activity." I know the word associations that always leap to my mind when I hear "Don Rumsfeld," are "honest" and "honorable."

- - Why didn't those aware of the prisoner abuses in U.S. military-administered facilities speak up? Well, it seems that the high U.S. Defense Department and military officials who've expressed their horror over this are the same folks who, according to USA Today, had told soldiers and interrogators serving at Guantanamo, that they "are not required to give defense attorneys statements about 'personal treatment of detainees' or any 'failure to report actions of others.'"

- - The next time a local anchor throws out the logical-less banality about a murder victim's relatives joyfully anticipating the murderer's execution, so that they can experience "closure" -- all anchors seem to read robotically from the same cliche-ridden script -- they might keep in mind what Journal Sentinel columnist Mike Nichols quoted Bud Welch, the father of Marquette student Julie Welch, who died in the Oklahoma City bombing, had to say on the matter. He'd spoken with many other relatives of those who were murdered in the tragedy, after the execution of the bomber, Timothy McVeigh: Yet, he told Nichols, "I have yet to have a family member ... say, 'I feel better because Tim McVeigh is dead. I have had a number ... say, 'It didn't do for me what I thought it would.'"

Kathy, Joyce, Carole, Unca Jerry: You might want to keep this in mind next time you're tempted to slake your viewers' blood thirst.

- - Why are no GOPers livid over the bad example Dick Cheney's naughty language is setting for America's children?

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