The Society gathered for its fourth debate this semester to consider: Resolved: Drugs have won the war on drugs, and it is time to concede. Mr. Warren Wilson (SFS ’15) of Florida keynoted on the affirmation with, making his induction, Mr. Daniel Ernst (COL ’18) of Massachusetts. Ms. Tricia Correia (MSB ’15) of Minnesota keynoted on the negation with, making his induction, Mr. Jack Musgrave (COL ’18) of Indiana.
Right from the start, Mr. Ernst declared that the war on drugs, first waged by Nixon against Public Enemy No. 1, has failed. Indeed the United States is No. 1 in the world, but “in very few categories” (to most members’ chagrin) and not excluding its incarceration rate driven up by non-violent drug abusers. Such incarceration, with little treatment of addiction and discrimination against minorities, leads to recidivism instead of rehabilitation. On drug affordability, “all hail the invisible hand” that sets the prices. What’s more, “no nation can preserve its freedom in the midst of continuous warfare.” Arming our police with grenades and criminalizing a health issue, we are waging a warfare that cannot be won. It is time for a fundamental rethinking, dictated by love.
With the first Musgrave induction debate in mind, Mr. Jack Musgrave framed the negation as twofold: the war has not been lost and legalization does no good to society. We have “not lost, simply losing” because the war on drugs, starting from 1961, cannot accountable for the destruction of all families – we have personal responsibilities. Secondly, legalization offers a false promise, making drugs readily available for young people under the “curse” of free market. Choosing the lesser of the two evils, we should continue criminalization because legalization, just as the repeal of Prohibition, would lead to an increased drug use rate. Hailing personal responsibility, he challenged what absolute concession would say about us as a people.
Mr. Wilson took on both statements, asserting that “there never was a real war” with opposing sides and we have not achieved our goals to reduce the use and sale of narcotics in U.S. To address racial injustice and economic inequality within the war on drugs, we should concede and “cut off the sources of violence at the head.” What’s more, the war on drugs is not just about cutting back drug use rate (Don’t forget the organized crimes in Prohibition), but also a cultural and political war. Shunning drug users, we expose them to mental addiction directly correlated to social environment, supported by the example of Vietnam War soldiers. With illegal drug transactions, we are also funding transnational crimes and terrorism. Thus, legalization is a “human issue” that we should affirm.
Ms. Correia posited that “we have been fighting the wrong enemy,” the minority drug-users targeted by presidents for political gains. So while we have lost battles after battles, we have not lost the war. Drug legalization will include a wide range of drugs from Meth to alcohol and tobacco, both of which prevailed as No. 1 and No. 3 leading causes of death due to a lack of criminal consequences. One million deaths each year from drug use constitute a horrendous crime, not to mention the technical difficulty in regulating legalized drugs. She ended by urging us “to fight, and fight again, and keep fighting, for only then could evil be kept at bay, though never quite eradicated.”
Citing alcoholism, Ms. Kurek pointed out that drugs are not “clean scientific calculations” but rather “a social idea of harm and causes.” We are “not protecting everyone” by legalizing equally damaging alcohol but outlawing the drugs of marginalized communities. But Mr. Fletcher warned against the danger of legalizing all drugs exactly because these communities are the ones most tempted by a little escape in “conditions of survival.” Mr. Ahmed countered that fighting a better war of poverty is not punishing drugs users. Invoking The Wire, he entreated us to treat drug users in “moments of vulnerability” like human beings. Ms. Hernick, however, found it necessary to fight drugs because if “cute little nerdy Georgetown freshmen” were offered some LSD rather than alcohol during NSO, they might suffer terrible consequences from that first use (It is truly never NSOver).
Mr. Jatovsky, from the unequivocally affirmative state of California, redefined the affirmation as “a re-approach and a different mindset” in response to an ineffective war. Mr. Patrick Musgrave, however, led us from classic country music Okie From Muskogee straight to Aristotle because they both endorsed the same doctrine of Eudaimonia – “livin’ right, and bein’ free,” without life-ruining drugs. But Vice President Thanki noted the importance of reaching out a hand, which a massive criminalization scheme cannot achieve on the cultural level.
Mr. Perez-Reyes subsequently quieted the floor with a startling account of his uncle’s mental illness caused by LSD use. He urged us not to concede to this evil when criminalization could still produce significant disincentives – “We may not win the fight but we have to try.” Mr. Bade (COL ’14) contested that drug addiction is not an army but a disease that cannot be wished away. Inhumanly criminalizing drugs moved “the problem further away from you, but not further away from everyone.”
Ms. Ringwald, however, stressed that college students should abandon the disrespectful “us vs. them” sympathy and take on their responsibilities not to directly fund crimes elsewhere in the world. Suggesting to redirect fund to drug companies, Ms. Vallory Vial (COL ’18) further argued that we have the freedom to do things to our bodies. Having skied alongside a drug user, Ms. Allie Little (COL ’18) countered that drug use also does harm to others. But we are no Winston Churchill, Mr. Kendrick argued, we are instead the Imperial Japan in World War II, asking ourselves how many more people shall be killed before we surrender. Acting in terms of reality, we will “give up a senseless war that we cannot win.”
Drug addiction is a mental illness, Ms. Egan declared, and “our biology always betrays us.” Giving drug users the ability to choose only exposes them to materials that deprive them of that ability. When someone has already fallen into the river of drug use, it is no use saying “I love you nonetheless” because that person is “irrevocably harmed.” Instead, we should establish a barricade of laws to prevent this illness.
Introducing the Jenkem popular in West Africa, Mr. Edgar called drug addiction “not a disease, but a symptom” due to the lack of education. Socially isolated, drug users in U.S. likewise cannot make real and informed calculations regarding drugs. Ms. Coccia then suggested a middle ground of decriminalization where users receive medical treatment and dealers remain illegal. She defined addiction as a behavioral pattern that renders people not fully in control of themselves under “a voice stronger and louder than [their] own,” calling it “a deep memory disease.” We should not make ourselves slaves to this new master of drug.
Mr. Mouch asserted that we can never be sure whether legalization produces Dickies or Mickies without future data. But we can be sure that it reduces racial injustice and systematic discrimination in the war on drugs. We have the data from Colorado, Ms. Christensen responded, and “drugs hook you” just like extortion. We’ve been fighting a war against people who use drugs, for political gains and for the profits of private prisons – “We have not tried yet”. But Ms. Grace posited that the war on drugs should not be “fought as a war” with guns and grenades. She defined drugs as an “insurgency” not to be fought through conventional means of war but through social understanding. Accepting her definition, Chancellor DiMisa proposed fighting drug dealers on the top. Quoting the Sociologist book Gang Leader for a Day, he lamented the limited agency of young drug users.
In defense of the rule of law, Mr. Young condemned the war on drugs as the “second nullification crisis that wasn’t” because state and federal drug laws conflict with each other. But Mr. Wang argued against changing courses with limited knowledge about the outcome, for respect to the lives of the past. In response, Mr. Willis cited evidence both in the action of Vietnam War veterans and in an experiment of Rat Happiness with heroin to prove the importance of circumstances in drug use.
Reclaiming the podium, Ms. Correia claimed that drugs, instead of incarceration, cripples communities and actions, instead of mindset, solve problems. She called the battle against external circumstances new tactics for the same war on drugs, “but the war continues” to set a legal barrier to drug use. There is no guilt in the necessary war on drugs. But war is not how human beings should think about human beings, according to Mr. Wilson. With concrete evidence of drug funding terrorism and private prisons, we need “a fundamental and radical reform” instead of mere “policy tweaks”. We have already “gone to the end, oblivion and moral catastrophe” and now is the time to build a supportive community.
Mr. Jack Musgrave responded that the war on drugs doesn’t necessarily shun people while amending a policy is not abandoning it. When dangerous drugs are made legally available, both underprivileged communities and teenagers will gain easy access to them – barring access prevents addiction. Thanking the Society for curing his loneliness alongside Doctor Who, Mr. Ernst considered liberty the second thing we lose in war – after common sense. In fact, every jail in this country contains drugs and drug addiction rate doesn’t even amount to 5%. Only legalization guarantees government regulation of this public health issue “not to be conquered by ourselves”.
The Society then voted to award Merrick points to the five most eloquent speakers that night:
- Ms. Christensen – 1 point
- Ms. Coccia – 2 points
- Mr. Perez-Reyes – 3 points
- Ms. Egan – 4 points
- Mr. Wilson – 5 points
And this brings the Merrick totals to:
- Ms. Coccia & Mr. Wilson – 6 points
- Mr. Dinneen – 5 points
- Ms. Egan – 4 points
- Ms. Christensen & Mr. Edgar & Mr. Perez-Reyes – 3 points
With a vote of 35-3-33, the affirmation has indeed won the war on drugs! But most importantly, congratulations to our two eloquent inductees! Huzzah!