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“Think of it as the international projection of a national psychosis.”

01 Aug
Ethan Nadelmann speaking at TEDGlobal 2014, South, Session 3 - Crossing Borders, October 5-10, 2014, , Copacabana beach, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo: James Duncan Davidson/TED

Ethan Nadelmann speaking at TEDGlobal 2014, South, Session 3 – Crossing Borders, October 5-10, 2014, , Copacabana beach, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo: James Duncan Davidson/TED

Recommended viewing. Ethan Nadelman

“It’s like it’s my country’s history with alcohol prohibition and Al Capone times 50,” he says, beginning a blistering talk. “Think of it as the international projection of a national psychosis.”

“The reason some drugs are legal and others are not has nothing to do with science or health or the risk of drugs, and everything to do with who uses, and is perceived to use, certain drugs,” says Nadelmann. “If the principal smokers of cocaine were affluent older white men and the principal users of Viagra were young black men, using Viagra would land you time behind bars.”

And with that, he brings up another point: that the War on Drugs is largely about kids. “It’s about every parents’ desire to put our baby in a bubble, and our fear that drugs will pierce that bubble,” he says. “Obstacles to reform lie not just out there, but within each and every one of us. It’s our fears and lack of knowledge and imagination that stands in the way of real reform.”

“So how do you talk to kids about drugs in this world that Nadelmann imagines? His message to teens is: “First: Don’t do drugs. Second: Don’t do drugs. But! If you do do drugs, there are some things I want you to know, because my bottom line as your parent is: Come home safely at the end of the night.”

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