Vice Squad
Wednesday, March 17, 2004
Not 'Politics As Usual' in Illinois For Once

Last night, Illinois State Senator Barack Obama won the Democratic primary, and will compete in November for a US Senate seat. If he wins, he'll be the only African-American in the Senate. This guy is awesome - great ideas, level-headed, rational. And he beat out candidates with big political machines and big money to win last night's race.

What does this have to do with vice you might ask? Well, one of the other candidates, Blair Hull, the former frontrunner, was plagued by a messy divorce in 1998, and admissions that he used cocaine and sought treatment for alcohol in the 80's. The Chicago Sun Times today, in its coverage of last night's election, briefly noted that Obama has also admitted to using cocaine and marijuana as a teenager. I didn't know this about him.

Here's why it matters. Mr. Obama is one of millions of smart, successful individuals with great ideas and the passion to make a difference in this world, who happened to use an illegal substance. He is not one of millions of smart, would-be-successful individuals with great ideas and the passion to make a difference in this world who happened to use an illegal substance and get caught. He got lucky. There are literally millions of people out there who have tried illegal substances, and nothing bad happened to them. There are millions of others who regularly use illegal substances, and nothing bad happens to them either. In fact, they are productive and successful members of society. They are the lucky ones.

It's not simply enough for our leaders to say, "yes, I tried A, B, and C when I was a kid." That statement is usually followed by, "but A, B, and C are terrible, terrible things and you shouldn't do them." Right, if you try them you could end up holding national office. It's time that our leaders recognize the harm that this country's drug laws inflict on so many people, and stop being hypocrites. It's time for them to be honest.

Here's my dream speech for Senator Obama on the issue: "Yes, I tried A, B, and C. Here are the dangers, here's why I wouldn't want my kid doing that on a regular basis. Here are some regulations and constraints we should have regarding these substances, as they are not completely harmless, but my god it is simply unjust to keep locking people away, destroying lives, and decimating our inner cities for something that I, and probably 90% of the people on this stage with me, have also done."

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