Comment by Mark Kleiman

 Yes, the drug laws and their enforcement are in part the product of a
 cultural struggle. But they are also in part the product of social
 learning about how miserable addiction can make the people subject to it
 and the people around them.

 John seems to assert that all of the non-alcohol intoxicants are alike.
 In this, he mirrors the drug-warrior thinking he intends to criticize.
 Why is it so hard to believe that some illegal drugs are just as nasty as
 any legal drug?

 The avant-garde would always like to believe that it somehow speaks for
 “the masses.” In this country, that fantasy has been transferred to “the
 Blacks.” But in fact the struggle of the users of cannabis and the
 psychedelics for legal access to their favorite drugs touches the struggle
 for survival of the African-American community not at all.

 To assert that heroin and crack cocaine are characteristic of
 African-American culture in the same way that cannabis and the psychedelics
Barloware of what Barlow here calls Bohemian culture is plainly false. Like high
 infant mortality and homicide, heroin and crack are more serious problems
 among poor urban African-Americans than they are in more fortunate parts of
 the population. But the heroin and crack are feared and hated in the
 African-American community, and their users feared, hated, and despised.
 Even the sellers despise the buyers. These drugs are not praised in either
 high-culture works of art or mass-culture products by African-American
 artists: no novel, no poem, no song pays tribute to them.

 As to political discourse — street politics and highbrow radical
 politics, as well as electoral campaigning — the availability of these
 drugs in Black neighborhoods is an oft-cited grievance. Kurt Schmoke, the
 most prominent African-American leader to offer a radical critique of
 current policies, does so from the viewpoint of the side-effects of
 enforcement, not the benefits of drug-taking, and while his views are no
 secret in Baltimore’s African-American community, neither does he play them
 up when he campaigns for office.

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