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March 21, 2010

The Right to get High

By Allan Goldstein

Drug prohibition is a disaster. I propose this 28th amendment to the Constitution. "A well-regulated mood being necessary to the pursuit of happiness, Congress shall make no law abridging the right of the people to get high."


Every year or two some public figure gets in trouble and I feel compelled
to write yet another version of my drug-prohibition injustice column.
Last year it was Lance Armstrong. This time it's Ron Washington.

For those of you who don't know, Ron Washington is the manager--for the
moment--of the Texas Rangers baseball team. He tested positive for
cocaine last year; he said he used it once.

I hope that's a lie, because he's had to abase himself enough to cover an
eight-ball. That one high got him three weeks in rehab, and now he can't
take a leak without some putz holding a cup under his putz. All because
he wanted to have a little fun, off the field, on his own time, with
demon coke.

So here we go again. Another victim of our crazy buzz-phobia. Ron
Washington isn't going to jail for his sin, but he could have.

Railing about our inhumane, ineffective, counterproductive and just plain
evil drug policies is an exercise in futility, the Super Bowl of

Sisyphus had it easy. He only had to roll a rock up a mountain. Trying
to change our drug laws is like rolling a mountain up a rock. Sisyphus
was a sissy.

Well, I'm done with half measures. If you are trying to do the
impossible, you might as well ask for the impossible. Once and for all.
No more compromises, no more nibbling around the edges, no more happy
talk and BS excuses. The whole drug law edifice is rotten, rotten to the
core. It must go.

The most damaging thing about drugs isn't drugs. It's jail. Drug
prohibition is a murder machine powering failed states. The most
poisonous drug is lead.

Drug laws aren't about social control, they're not about crime, they make
crimes, they're about sin, they're the product of theocracy.

A free, secular, society is one where nobody has to power to dictate what
you can put into your body. In a free society, you own that body. You
can put whatever you want into it and you can put it into what and
whoever consents.

It's taken a couple of hundred years but we've finally allowed the
latter. The sodomy laws were religious laws as well. Homosexuality was
banned because it was considered a sin; there is no other reason, or
rather excuse, to justify criminalizing that ineradicable human behavior.
So now it's legal to commit sodomy, a mere three thousand years since
they invented it in Sodom.

There is no difference with drugs. Pills, powders or penises, it's all
the same. It's your body. It's your choice. You are free to do as you

Otherwise freedom is a lie. What good is freedom if you are only free to
do what the government deems "good?" You have the right to get high.

The Founding Fathers left that out of the Constitution. They left out
the right to bear arms, too, but they quickly jammed it into the bill of
rights. We've been paying for that freedom ever since. Supposedly it's
helped keep tyranny at bay. But there's still plenty of tyranny around
when it comes to what we're allowed to do with our bodies.

It is time to rectify that mistake. I hereby propose this 28th amendment
to the Constitution.

"A well-regulated mood being necessary to the pursuit of happiness,
Congress shall make no law abridging the right of the people to get

Just that simple. No, I'm not advocating intoxication in critical places
or times, so I don't want to hear any silliness about loaded drivers,
pilots, cops and surgeons. It should be illegal to get high anywhere and
everywhere it is illegal to drink. And nowhere else.

There is no difference between drinking and getting high. Everybody
knows this, it's a truism, a cliché, but society acts surprised every
time anyone says it. Oh no, they say, surely you can't mean cocaine, you
can't mean marijuana, you can't mean heroin, for god sakes!

Yes, that's exactly what I mean. I don't care if the drug kills you dead
on the toilet. Or rather, I do care, because if there was a right to get
high, intoxicants would be included under the pure food and drug laws and
it would be a felony to sell unlabeled poisons.

Here's how it would work. You go to your friendly neighborhood liquor
store. You say, I'd like a gram of cocaine please. The clerk would say,
domestic or Peruvian, then he'd ask for your ID and say, that'll be a
hundred dollars.

Then you'd get your drugs and drive home. If the cops found you with
"open bindle" on the way you'd get the DUI you deserve. If you took it
out and started snorting off a park bench you'd get busted for public
intoxication. But if you did what you're supposed to do, the same thing
you do with that Remy VSOP you bought at the same time, take it home and
use it alone, or offer it to your adult guests at a dinner party, there
would be no legal consequences.

Addiction is no excuse for drug prohibition. We have come to see that
there are countless types of addiction, drugs, sex, gambling, video
games, internet porn, even work. You don't go to prison if you can't
pull yourself away from the blackjack table, your kids don't lose their
father, and your employer doesn't get to test your fingers for casino

You can damage yourself, your relationships, your loved ones, you can
even lose your life if you overdo any of those freedoms. That's the
price we pay for freedom.

But a mere taste, a little buzz, a one-time indulgence at a party can
ruin your life, if you get caught. Not because of what you did to
yourself, or what the drugs did to you, but because of what people did to
you, when you violated their arbitrary, theocratic, tyrannical laws.

I'm done compromising on this issue. Either we are free or we're not.
We have to have the courage to speak the truth about a practice that
millions upon millions of Americans indulge in, always have and always

Let it start with one courageous congressperson, let the 28th amendment
be offered upon the floor of the House. "Congress shall make no law
abridging the people's right to get high."

Who knows, maybe in three thousand years it will pass.

Submitters Bio:
San Francisco based columnist, author, gym rat and novelist. My book, "The Confessions of a Catnip Junkie" is the best memoir ever written by a cat. Available on, or wherever fine literature is sold with no sales tax collected.

For those seeking more detail on yours truly, the following is from my website,, where you can partake copiously, and for free.

"Allan Goldstein lives in San Francisco with his wife, Jordan, and a minimum of two cats. His op-ed newspaper column,"Caught off Base," has appeared in San Francisco's West Portal Monthly for the past decade. Satire, invective and humor are specialties.

He also blogs regularly on and on under the pseudonym Snark Twain. Other work has appeared in Spitball, The Baseball Literary Review, The Potomac Review, and several magazines including Rock and Gem and Pilot's Preflight. He is currently at work on his third novel."