The Fix's #Drugpol Debate Bursts With Ideas

By Bryan Le 02/07/13

Everyone from feisty netizens to the federal Office of National Drug Control Policy joined our #drugpol Twitter chat with gusto.

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Did you catch #drugpol on Twitter, co-hosted by The Fix and Phoenix House? Participants from all over—recovering addicts, treatment specialists, addiction writers, opinionated netizens and even the federal Office of National Drug Control Policy—butted heads over the next moves our country should make regarding drugs and addiction. Should we legalize or decriminalize drug use? Most in the discussion leaned towards legalization and regulation, rather than just hands-off decriminalization—although plenty answered "neither." The House I Live In filmmakers tweeted: “We should 'tax and regulate' - just as we do with alcohol... which is, after all, more destructive.” The Office of National Drug Control Policy disagreed: “legalization leads to greater availability, greater use, and greater damage to public health.”

The discussion then focused Colorado and Washington's experiment with pot legalization, which met with varying degrees of enthusiasm. Phoenix House CEO Howard Meitiner thinks it's important the US follows its own path, rather than relying on other countries' examples: “Some think Dutch experiment = failure, some success,” he tweeted. “What's the truth? Need to chart our own course.” Blogger and Fix contributor Dirk Hanson feels the wide insistence upon the relative harmlessness of pot is wrong: “We barely acknowledge the existence of marijuana addiction and withdrawal, let alone plan for treating it in CO, WA.” Former White House adviser Kevin Sabet agreed: "Good luck with treatment and prevention efforts if drugs are legalized, thus advertised, and normalized everywhere." Meanwhile Rafael Lemaitre, communication director of the Office on National Drug Control Policy, emphasized that legalization won't stop marijuana abuse: “Note that data show legal, taxed, and regulated prescription drugs now kill more people than heroin and cocaine combined.” 

Later on, HLN host and Fix video columnist Jane Velez Mitchell argued, "Drug laws shouldnt penalize 1 segment of population based on race or socio-economic status which is what’s happening now." Meanwhile social worker and Fix columnist Jeff Deeney warned that legalization would have its downsides—ones that not everyone might imagine: "I work daily w young drug sellers. Will wipe out big economic lifeline for many," he tweeted. "Like it or not hustling pays a lot of rent, buys a lot of diapers, puts a lot of food on a lot of tables in poor neighborhoods." Almost everyone agreed, however, on the benefits of harm reduction. “We're in the business of saving lives,” tweeted New Futures, Inc. “Harm reductions are necessary AND they connect those who need help w/ those who can help.” But as for congress: “President Obama first President in history to lift Federal ban on needle exchange funding,” tweeted Lamaitre. “Congress reinstated :(“

Many thanks to Phoenix House and everyone who participated—and if you missed the debate yesterday, you can still search for #drugpol on Twitter to catch up.

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Bryan Le grew up in the 90's, so the Internet is practically his third parent. This combined with a love for journalism led him to The Fix. When he isn't fulfilling his duties as Editorial Coordinator, he's obsessing over fancy keyboards he can't justify buying. Find Bryan on LinkedIn or Twitter