Similar Past, Similar Future? – Reclassifying Reefer
Recently, South Carolina congressman, Trey Gowdy, lead a hearing where he questioned the legitimacy of marijuana’s current Schedule I classification. In a nutshell, he said that marijuana clearly doesn’t fit the Schedule I classification as it has absolutely zero in common with the other drugs which share its class, such as heroin.
If Congress is willing to take another look at weed, they should also be willing to take a second look at steroids. They don’t belong in Schedule III any more than marijuana belongs in Schedule I. Steroids also have absolutely nothing in common with the other drugs that share the same classification, such as cocaine and meth.
Gowdy was by no means saying he was for legalizing pot, but the inference is there. Marijuana isn’t treated like other Schedule I drugs by cops or others that process and adjudicate arrests. Steroids shouldn’t be treated like other Schedule III drugs either. The government should go back and reschedule (or deschedule) steroids.
The Perception of Pot
The public’s perception of pot moved further and further away from “Reefer Madness” and more towards social acceptance and legalization. As the layers of the onion are peeled back, the path of destruction its overly-zealous legal status has carved through our cultural and legal landscapes could easily stand as testament to the immense power of government generated bullshit.
Every single reason the lawmakers gave for criminalizing marijuana has proven itself to be untrue. In many cases, science has actually proven the many benefits of marijuana – and absolutely none for tobacco, and very few for alcohol.
If you follow marijuana’s path since the mid-1930s until recently, you can easily see the many parallels between marijuana and steroids. The more marijuana becomes decriminalized, legalized, and accepted, the better the chance steroids could possibly follow in its footsteps.
The only obstacle that stands in its way is the truth. As with the case of marijuana, the more truth that comes out, the more difficult it is to stand firm with the lie. Yet, to the bitter end, there will be those who will. Depending on who they are and what they want, the pushback can be immense.
What the Government Told Us About Pot
Take a look at the whopper the government told us about marijuana. The 1936 government-supported propaganda film, Reefer Madness, was intended to be shown to parents as a morality tale, an attempt to teach them about the dangers of “marihuana” use.
The film depicts impossible hyper-melodramatic scenarios – murder, rape, and a descent into madness complete with a straight jacket and a padded cell – all because of smoking weed. The concept today is ludicrous, but in the post-Prohibition era of America, the Puritans had to somehow regain control of the narrative.
“Marihuana is a violent narcotic, an unspeakable scourge, the real public enemy number one!” the film proclaimed, “…leading finally to acts of shocking violence… ending often in incurable insanity!”
If the producers didn’t hire Chicken Little to come up with that crock of shit, then I don’t know who did, because that sky right there is falling. If you watch the film today, you just sit there and crack up (without even getting stoned first) at the ridiculousness of it.
It completely misrepresented the effects of marijuana based on zero research and zero science. Yet it firmly positioned marijuana as something right off the devil’s top shelf, with “harm the children” written all over it. It scared the shit out of an entire generation and helped set the stage for the attitudes about marijuana that persist to this very day.
What the Government Told Us About Steroids
The anti-drug establishment’s first attempt to bamboozle the public about the contrived dangers of steroids came in the form of a 1994 after school special, staring Ben Afflek, called, “A Body To Die For.” Afflek’s roid rage scene is so overblown and pathetic it’s actually worth watching.
These films are proof that you can get people to react to any heap of BS as long as you use the fear of what this horrible stuff can do to our precious youth. Eventually, enough fear and grumbling will get the attention of someone in Washington. Saving our children from anything perks up the ears of vote-hungry politicians who want to be the “salvation” for any cause.
Unfortunately, in both cases, the effect of the propaganda had far-reaching and costly results. For some reason, America has this odd Puritan need to criminalize an adult’s inclination to improve how they feel. People who like a buzz will create a market, and in seeking to eradicate that market they’ve created a burgeoning underground, complete with the usual armed and dangerous players.
This sequence is important to the marijuana-steroid paradox. In the case of steroids, the quest seems to be mired in this “even playing field” nonsense and messages of good sportsmanship we send to our kids. They seek to criminalize anything, beyond spinach, that makes us bigger, stronger, leaner, and faster. And people wanting more muscle mass create a market that the government seeks to suppress.
As a result, we now have hundreds of underground labs across America brewing up Chinese powders into various steroid preparations (of varying quality and sometimes questionable content) that creates its own unique set of problems for the end users.
The government will never score a victory here no matter how often it seeks to define insanity. The insatiable thirst America has for drugs will rule out any victory in this war. In fact, it’s going the other way. Even the DEA will admit that the drugs it targets are becoming more plentiful, cheaper, and easier to get.
Politically, both marijuana and steroids served their purpose. For that very reason, both should be put to rest. The fact that marijuana is seeing light at the end of the tunnel after its role in President Nixon’s charade, could perhaps light the way for steroids now that they’ve outlived their usefulness in George W. Bush’s charade.
Nixon’s War On Pot
In a recent article in Harper’s, President Nixon’s domestic policy adviser, John Ehrlichman, talks about why the United States would mire itself in a drug prohibition policy that’s destined for failure.
According to Ehrlichman, “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”
Nixon prevailed and marijuana and heroin became the scourge of their intended communities and the prison sentences started pilling up. What exactly Nixon got out of all of that is still a mystery.
He was impeached for his role in Watergate and subsequently resigned in disgrace without any real commentary on the net gain of his folly. So, we’ll never know.
Incredulously, every president since Nixon has found this ludicrous endeavor similarly useful.
Bush’s War On Steroids
Steroids were George W. Bush’s target. During his 2004 State of the Union address, he said:
“To help children make right choices, they need good examples. The use of performance-enhancing drugs like steroids in baseball, football, and other sports is dangerous, and it sends the wrong message – that there are shortcuts to accomplishment, and that performance is more important than character. So tonight I call on team owners, union representatives, coaches, and players to take the lead, to send the right signal, to get tough, and to get rid of steroids now.”
That was interesting commentary coming from the managing partner of the Texas Rangers during the time that Jose Canseco was its official “godfather of steroids” and everyone knew it.
Not long after this declaration of war on steroids, then attorney general John Ashcroft read the indictments of Victor Conte and others on charges of money laundering, fraud, and possession with intent to distribute steroids. This sparked the case that would put an asterisk on America’s favorite pastime.
The BALCO scandal would indelibly stain pop culture and its iconic pastime, and sully the images and careers of the likes of Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi, sprinter Marion Jones and two-time All-Pro linebacker Bill Romanowski.
Unfortunately for the President’s justice and PR departments, this giant steroid fishing expedition yielded not the 2,000-pound shark they had thought they’d hooked, but rather a two-inch minnow. When all was said and done, BALCO’s chief had taken the federal government to task in front of every media outlet and emerged hitting a front double biceps pose on the courthouse steps.
The biggest steroid kingpin in federal jurisprudence history, a criminal so elite that his indictment was personally read on TV by the attorney general, whose crime instigated more congressional attention than the economy and the war in Iraq, got just four months in a cushy prison.
Hard Time for Soft Drugs
Almost immediately thereafter, the federal sentencing commission convened to not let that ever happen again. Now, picking up a five year stretch for a few bottles of testosterone has become a reality. Yet despite the overblown DEA scheduling and ridiculously long prison sentences and mandatory minimums, the end result is that today more people smoke weed and do steroids than ever before.
Plainly, scare tactics never work – never have, never will. If anything they make more people try the shit because the stance against it is so transparently false that they assume the stuff must really be good. Next, we have a ton of people behind bars, sucking off the tax rolls, for doing something that should never have been made illegal in the first place.
According to the ACLU, half of all arrests in the US are for drug offenses. Of those, marijuana arrests account for over half. Of the 8.2 million marijuana arrests between 2001 and 2010, 88% were for simply possessing marijuana. To put that into perspective, in 2010 the cops made one marijuana bust every 37 seconds – while whomever mugged and murdered my uncle is still at large.
Of course, the number of steroid arrests pales by comparison, but the burden of this exercise in futility is the same. Cops are wasting precious man hours they could be using to arrest real criminals. Instead they’re chasing otherwise law-abiding citizens who are only trying to look good with their shirt off at the beach.
Arresting and prosecuting juiceheads is no different than locking up a recreational pothead. It ties up the courts and wastes millions of hours of criminal work that could’ve been spent on real bad guys.
Then There’s The Other Money…
States spend $3,613,969,972 every year enforcing marijuana laws. By doing so, they increase their welfare rolls because the arrest usually takes the breadwinner out of a home and causes the remaining family to seek assistance.
Once daddy comes home, he will likely not only be out of work, but he’ll also be further hampered from future work because he’ll have a felony arrest record. He’ll either join the rest of his family on welfare or go out and sell more weed. Usually both. He’ll eventually be back in prison, serving an even longer sentence, costing the taxpayers yet more money. A guy getting popped for steroids is in the exact same boat.
Unwinding the Lies
None, zero, not one of the diabolical elements of marijuana the government tossed into the sausage machine were true, yet eventually marijuana became a Schedule I drug (one with no medicinal value at all, usually a toxin) and the law attached to it created mandatory minimum sentences that tied judges’ hands. At the peak of their madness, if you got busted for weed, even a few seeds, you were going to jail.
It took 50 years of this madness for some lawmakers to start unwinding the lies and pay attention to what science says and what the constituents want. Over 50% of Americans favor the legalization of marijuana and the number grows every year.
If the fiscal success and lower crime rates experienced by the states that have already legalized weed are any indication of the future, then it’s only a matter of time before the rest of the country caves and weed assumes the position it originally should have occupied as an age-restricted item right alongside alcohol and tobacco. As you can see, it takes a long time and a lot of perseverance to undo a lie.
Are Steroids Following Marijuana’s Path?
The demonization of steroids in America is no different than that of marijuana. It’s similarly perpetrated by three equally reprehensible yet powerful groups:
Vocal alarmists with agendas who incite hysteria based on fiction.
The media who reports it as truth.
The vultures in Washington who believe they can do something about it.
In the 80 or 90 years that steroids have been around, they’ve gone from virtually innocuous, unknown medical compounds to a public health menace nearly eclipsing heroin, cocaine, amphetamines and club drugs, with federal penalties for distribution and possession that can put you away for a fairly extended part of your life. All based on lies.
And, if you look at what steroids actually do – help create healthy (in most cases), stronger, bigger, faster people – it adds another element to why Congress fell all over itself trying to stamp them out.
They are compelled to heed the pressure of the sports lobby, seek to preserve its imaginary “even playing field,” and send the right message to our kids. Anything to the contrary ain’t buying votes. So they dress the window with images of public servants insuring the sanctity of sport and our fine upstanding youth that must be protected at all cost. In other words, it’s a perfect excuse for Congress to start making sausage.
Between Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson’s Olympic disqualification in 1988 and into 1990, congressional hearings were held to determine whether the Controlled Substances Act should be amended to include anabolic steroids along with more serious drugs like Valium, opiates, and amphetamines.
Congress was able to call witnesses whose stories would help support criminalization – from the masculinization of a female Olympic athlete, to a pro football player suggesting (without any medical evidence) that his health problems were linked to his past steroid use, to the conditioning coach for the Philadelphia 76er’s who insisted “steroids must be considered a controlled substance, no different than cocaine.”
It was during these congressional hearings that an assistant professor of psychiatry at Yale, basically a government paid shill, came to Washington loaded with the words the politicians wanted to hear. The good doctor testified that “steroid use can cause an addiction with similarities to alcohol, opiate, and cocaine addiction.”
He talked about “dangerous criminal-like behavior while intoxicated on anabolic steroids” and individuals who have “lost control of their behavior” or “became violent.” Basically Reefer-Madness type accusations.
When all the sausage making had come to an end, despite cogent opposition from the American Medical Association, the DEA, the Department of Health and Human Services and the recommendations of an impressive roundtable of knowledgeable experts, President Bush signed the Anabolic Steroids Control Act of 1990 into law, adding steroids to Schedule III of the DEA’s list of controlled substances: the same legal class as amphetamines, methamphetamines, opiates, and morphine.
Subsequently, in 2004, the law was amended to add prohormones and other “steroid like” compounds to the category, thus criminalizing anything that even remotely resembles testosterone or its effect.
Later, the US Sentencing Commission reconvened to raise steroid penalties to the shameful degree that, today, in America, it’s possible to be sentenced to 30 years in prison and fined up to $5,000,000 for the possession and distribution (or importation) of testosterone – the very same hormone that human males and, to a lesser degree, human females, have been endowed with by our creator.
Despite the truth, the media drove America into a virtual attack frenzy, concomitantly criminalizing and vilifying a non-narcotic, non-mind altering drug – a hormone, naturally occurring in our bodies, that can help us be stronger, more muscular, leaner, perform better and add quality to an aging male’s life.
The alarmists got the attention of the media that misstated facts, exaggerated claims, sensationalized accounts, and assigned blame devoid of science and without just cause to make the story sexy. This fettled nonsense wafted past the sensory organs of a politician (who can calculate in his head how many votes putting up a “school crossing” sign will get him) and the only logical thing that could come to his crooked mind is leading another blind crusade against the biggest scam to ever invade politics: “save our children.” Exactly the same as they did with weed.
Make Steroid Use Legal
In marijuana’s case, eventually the government had to do some backpedaling. Enough people were using marijuana, and enough people knew people who used marijuana, to see that the government’s case against it had more holes than an old Buick. Eventually, the anti-marijuana rhetoric was ferociously attacked by science, empirical evidence, and the public’s desire to use it.
Today, using marijuana is no longer looked at as an insidious crime and an insipid attack on the nation’s youth. Nor should it be. The same goes for steroids.
Using either weed or steroids represents zero harm to the community. The black markets fostered by the aberrant laws against these drugs come with their own detriment to the community, but that’s the fault of the ridiculous law, not the underlying substance.
Once you make a drug legal, having it is no longer a crime, so crime rates naturally go down. The sale and distribution of steroids, like marijuana, constitute a crime that’s victimless. The person buying them is just as happy as the person selling them. Buying, selling, and using these drugs does not lead to other crimes.
There are no strung-out steroid addicts with “born to lose” tattoos on their foreheads, knocking over liquor stores so they can score a dime bag of Oxandrolone. In fact, when compared to tobacco and alcohol use, steroid use among healthy adults yields a far healthier outcome, and far less cost to the taxpayers. At least that’s what science and over 50 years of use empirically tells us.
The law is simply wrong. Medically-prescribed steroid use among healthy adults should be looked at more favorably than a shot of tequila or a pack of Camels. And if not more favorably, then at least the same.
If marijuana becomes legal, so should steroids. If either one were brought before Congress today for their legal classification, they would emerge far, far more favorably than their first run. Both these drugs, for the exact same reasons, need a second look.