Whitney and the Drug War

By Ted Baehr and Tom Snyder with Tracy Schreiber

Saturday her family and friends – and the whole world – laid renowned singer and actress Whitney Houston’s body to rest.

The previous Saturday night, in the wake of Whitney’s sudden tragic death, singer Tony Bennett said, “First it was Michael Jackson, then Amy Winehouse, now the magnificent Whitney Houston. I’d like every person in this room to campaign to legalize drugs.”

He continued:  “Let’s legalize drugs like they did in Amsterdam. No one’s hiding or sneaking around corners to get it. They go to a doctor to get it.”

Of course, Mr. Bennett’s argument was the archetypal non-sequiter, a conclusion that doesn’t logically follow a factual statement or premise. In fact, in all three cases cited by him (Jackson, Winehouse, Houston), the three people apparently all died from legally obtainable drugs or alcohol. None of these victims had to sneak around corners to get the drugs, alcohol, or meds associated with their deaths.

The other day, Bill O’Reilly weighed in on the issue of legalization. He lambasted all those who favor legalization of such drugs as marijuana, or even cocaine or heroin, because of the damage such drugs and alcohol already do on children and people like Jackson, Winehouse, Whitney, Janis Joplin, Elvis Presley, and countless others.

According to livestrong.com, 40% of all child abuse cases involve drug or alcohol abuse. Use of illegal mind-altering drugs also has been identified as the root cause of child neglect.

One of the arguments that drug legalization activists make is that the War on Drugs is “unwinnable.” When people say it’s an “unwinnable” war, what do they really mean? What does it mean to win the drug war? You can’t possibly mean winning the drug war means no one using drugs, because, by that same logic, the war against violent crime is unwinnable.

This argument is specious. When confronted with such an argument, ask the person, “What level of drug use constitutes “winning” the War on Drugs?” Just because there’s rampant crime of any sort, that shouldn’t make us just give up!

Another argument in favor of legalization has the pro-legalization person asking the anti-legalization person, “If you make drugs legal, would you do drugs?”

The person’s answer to that question probably will be no, but what if it isn’t?

Of course, if they legalized rape or prostitution tomorrow, we ourselves wouldn’t suddenly become a pimp or a prostitute, much less rape anyone. Just because the average person wouldn’t do these things doesn’t mean that a lot of other people wouldn’t do them.

Robbing banks is a perfect example here. If they made robbing banks legal, or-de-criminalized it, the average person probably isn’t going to start robbing banks, but many other people will.

Often, the pro-legalization person cites America’s allegedly bad experience with the Prohibition of alcohol in the 1920s.

The fact is, however, during Prohibition, the consumption of alcohol did indeed decline. Thus, Prohibition did indeed inhibit drinking.

Of course, according to our reading of the Bible, it’s not bad or sinful to drink; it’s only sinful to get drunk and intoxicated. Drinking isn’t the problem, drunkenness and public intoxication are the problem.

In reality, contrary to what the legalization crowd says, we don’t have drug “prohibition” in the United States. What we actually have in the U.S. is drug control and drug regulation, just like we now have alcohol control and alcohol regulation. For example, you can’t privately make hard alcohol. Besides marijuana and heroin, we also don’t allow 200 proof alcohol in legally sold alcohol. Beer can’t have 20 percent alcohol in it.

Thus, society controls all of these things, including the times that bars are open.

Thus, you can buy tons and tons of drugs in the drugstore with a doctor’s prescription, including a handful of “illegal” drugs. Also, certain forms of alcohol are also illegal. So, we really don’t have drug prohibition like we had alcohol prohibition in the 1920s. Therefore, it’s false to make a comparison between today’s war on some drugs with the prohibition against alcohol.

Furthermore, if they made all drugs legal today, hardcore drug users would still commit crimes to do their drugs. Crack is one of the cheaper drugs, but people who use crack still commit crimes.

Also, if they made drugs like marijuana, cocaine, crack, meth, etc., legal tomorrow, Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, Heath Ledger, Jim Belushi, Amy Winehouse would still have killed themselves!

Also, if we make marijuana, crack or heroin legal, why don’t we make a host of other things legal, including 200 proof alcohol?

Conservatives believe in limited government. They don’t believe in no government at all.

For example, border control is designed for the feds and the state police to keep an eye on illegal immigrants, but local police should be able to alert the feds when they find an illegal immigrant, especially one committing a traffic violation or some other crime.

Some libertarians and leftists say using pot or hard drugs is a “victimless” crime. However, why should THAT be the standard? Why should that be the determining factor for legality?

They seem to be arguing in a circle and begging the question here. They’re assuming that THEIR definition of liberty, freedom and victimhood is correct, but they must prove that it is, not simply assert it willy nilly!

In recent years, because of drug legalization supporters like Tony Bennett, our website, www.movieguide.org, has seen increasing examples of illegal drug use and abuse in mainstream movies like THE HANGOVER, BAD TEACHER, and the HAROLD & KUMAR movies. This has happened even though there have been several studies showing that depictions of illegal drug use and abuse in the media encourages such use and abuse in society, especially among children and teenagers.

Ultimately, therefore, Movieguide® is glad for the War on Drugs. It keeps our neighborhoods, and our children, relatively safe and free from drug addicts and potheads.

We can indeed “win” the War on Drugs, but only if we truly take this war seriously. 

There’s really no good reason to turn around and make drugs like pot, cocaine, LSD, heroin, etc., legal, much less available to people under 18. We must work even harder to change attitudes and make movies and TV programs condemning use of such drugs, as well destroy these drugs and imprison those who sell these deadly and disabling poisons.

Finally, please consider America’s children when you decide how you think about the War on Drugs or Whitney Houston’s sudden tragic death. America’s children are already highly susceptible to the temptations of evil drug dealers, even at school. Our local, state, and federal governments have failed to protect them. Legalization of hard drugs, including marijuana, will just make them more susceptible.

Note:  Ted Baehr is Publisher of Movieguide®:  The Family Guide to Movies and Entertainment. Tom Snyder is Editor. Tracy Schreiber is an research associate who helped us verbalize some of the arguments in this column.


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