For those of you who spend a lot of time researching and discussing drug policy, it can be very easy to fall into the trap of mostly talking to others who are knowledgable on the subject. This gives a warped perception regarding the overall level of knowledge/acceptance in the population. It’s important every now and then to talk to ordinary folks whose knowledge level is pretty much that some drugs are illegal and that some people use them anyway.
It’s not that they’re stupid. Just that they’re paying more attention to gay rights, or gun rights, or the cost of insurance, or whether Seventeen Magazine is using Photoshop. And that’s fine — everyone’s got their own interests and it’s impossible to be competently informed about every issue.
But it’s hard to get to know drug policy well when it’s only consumed as a side dish — particularly all the sordid details regarding the self-interest of prohibitionists. For years, this has been a major challenge for us. If people only pick up a smattering of info, they’re more likely to believe the government line (“They say marijuana causes cancer, so it probably does. What reason would they have to lie about that?”) And if you try to explain to them that the government is lying, you suddenly see the glazed look that says they’re imagining a tinfoil hat on your head.
We’ve done a great job of increasing the overall level of skepticism in the minds of the public. That’s a huge step. But we still shouldn’t fool ourselves into believing that they’re fully informed.
Most of my friends know I write about drug policy reform (I certainly haven’t been secretive about it), and some even read Drug WarRant on occasion.
I always find it amusing when one of them comes up to me and, in a somewhat conspiratorial whisper, indicates that they also support legalization, or that they’ve read something recently that talks about legalization.
You can tell that they think they’re being some kind of counterculture rebel espousing a risky viewpoint. And I’m thinking “Uh, no. You’re actually mainstream and don’t realize it.” This isn’t like saying you support NAMBLA. The legalization and regulation of illicit drugs is a position supported by most of the top thinkers in the world, including many former and current heads of state, an entire organization of former law enforcement officers and judges, and two Presidential candidates.
But I forget that they’ve been conditioned to think that supporting legalization is the same as supporting drugs and drugs are bad, M’kay?
So get out there and talk to some people who don’t know what you know. It’ll be good for you and them at the same time.