I just watched Vice's special on our broken prison system where president Obama sat with several convicted felons in a federal prison, the first time ever for a siting president. It was pretty fuckin' good, I have to say. Vice knows how to do some really good reporting. Several inmates were profiled and their situations highlight just how broken America's prison system is. According to the show, about 97 percent of people arrested and charged with non-violent drug offenses plea guilty to lesser sentences because the mandatory minimum laws passed in the 80s and 90s are so stiff. Once you serve your time you'll often actually be charged fees for your public representative and for your parole, putting you in debt. Combine this with the fact that having a felony conviction makes it very difficult to find a job, especially without an education, and it prevents you from applying for food stamps, public housing, or getting federal aid for college, the recidivism rate is 67.8 percent after 3 years. And so the cycle goes on and on and on, generation after generation, and no community is hit harder than the African American community.
Watching the show reminded me of my life growing up. I was raised by a single mother. I grew up in the inner city - not in the worst of neighborhoods, but definitely not the best. Many of the friends I knew during high school and immediately after were dropouts who often engaged in petty crimes like vandalism, graffiti, and low level drug dealing. When I went to college I stopped hanging out with them and made new friends and took a new path. I now hang out with people who have a much better mindset and I have a good job that affords me a comfortable middle class life. Watching the show made me realize just how good I have it. I am really, really lucky. I cannot stress that enough. I have it ridiculously good compared to so many people. For one thing, I'm a middle class person living in a first world country. Right there I have it better than about 90 percent of the world's population.
That got me thinking. Given how the inmates profiled in the show were convicted of low level drug offenses, I want to offer some advice to the readers out there. I've done plenty of drugs in my life, and I'm not against responsible drug use. I'm a libertarian in the sense that I don't think the state should be telling people what they can and cannot put in their body for the most part. So given this, here is some advice for responsible recreational drug use.
- First, not all drugs are equal. There is nothing cool about crystal meth, or crack, or heroin. It is very hard to do these kinds of drugs recreationally. So don't do them. At all.
- Second, the safer drugs are marijuana, ecstasy, psychedelic mushrooms, LSD, and maybe cocaine, but cocaine is tricky. Cocaine can be used recreationally but can get very addictive very fast. That's why you must use extra caution about coke. If you have an addictive personality, you should stay away from it.
- Third, do drugs indoors. You have a much lower chance of getting arrested if you do drugs inside a safe residence that isn't a place that drugs are sold out of. Doing drugs in a park or on the street should be avoided and should only be done with the highest precaution.
- Fourth, be mindful of the company you do drugs in. Some people get drunk or high and their personality does a 180 degree turn and they get violent, impulsive, and prone to other criminal behavior. You cannot do drugs with these kinds of people. They will do something stupid while high or drunk and will get you arrested in the process. Avoid them and do drugs in the company of normal, calm people who know how to handle themselves. And if you are the type to get erratic and violent while drunk or high, you shouldn't get drunk or high.
- Fifth, it goes without saying then, that you should not commit any crimes while high or drunk, especially if you are carrying drugs on you. You will have a higher chance of getting arrested, and if you do the police will find the drugs on you and you will get convicted of that in addition to your other crime.
- Sixth, be mindful of your race. If you are a black or Latino male, take the above much more seriously. You have a much higher chance of being arrested, convicted, and doing a longer sentence than if you are white. It's fucked up, but until the system and culture changes, that's how it is.
- Seventh, be mindful of whether you are using the drug or the drug is using you. When I was doing cocaine a lot in college, it started getting out of hand. And so I stopped. If your primary social activity starts to become centered around drugs, and the thought of hanging out without doing drugs seems pointless, then the drugs are using you and you need to check yourself. Drugs should always be a side activity to make an already pleasurable experience better. It should not be the focus of all social interaction. You may need to stop hanging out with friends who are addicted.
- Eighth, make sure you have a reliable drug dealer who is level-headed. Good drug dealers don't get caught and behave like responsible people. Choose your supplier wisely.
- Ninth, if you're on parole and getting arrested for a drug offense could get you many years in prison, it is wise to not even do drugs at all.
- Lastly, be careful about having sex while on drugs. It can make you less likely to use protection, increasing your chances of getting an STI or an unwanted pregnancy, and in some cases it can even make you impotent if you are a male.
That's all I can think of for now. If you take the above seriously you can use recreational drugs safely with a very low chance of getting addicted or arrested. The culture in America is moving towards liberalization of drug use. I predict that in the next 15 years marijuana will be legal in all 50 states. But even so, doing drugs is a responsibility, just like driving a car, and owning a gun. It takes a certain level of knowledge and maturity to responsibly use recreational drugs. And just like how alcoholics shouldn't ruin alcohol for everyone, drug abusers should ruin drug use for everyone. In the end, knowledge and maturity are your best weapons.
Just say know!