Dr. Feelgood – 

Jan. 12, 2021 – Hart knows this. He knows about the discomfort his readers might feel when they encounter his full-throated endorsement of opiates for recreational use. He offers the information in a spirit of radical transparency because he believes that if “grown-ups” like him would talk freely about the role of drugs in their lives, we wouldn’t be in the mess we are in, a mess brought about by our ruinous drug policies, which have had such profound — and profoundly unequal — consequences for those who fall afoul of them.

For Hart, it wasn’t always so. Coming up in hard circumstances in Miami, Hart too bought into the widespread belief that “smoking crack is like putting a gun in your mouth and pulling the trigger,” as one particularly memorable public service announcement put it. In 1986, he listened in “disbelief” as James Baldwin, his intellectual hero, argued for the legalization of drugs, believing that the recently passed Anti-Drug Abuse Act would be used disproportionately against poor and Black people. Of course, we now know that Baldwin was right: Our drug policies have resulted in the wildly disproportionate imprisonment of Black Americans. As Hart argues, the drug war has in fact succeeded, not because it has reduced illegal drug use in the United States (it hasn’t), but because it has boosted prison and policing budgets, its true, if unstated, purpose. In his last book, “High Price,” Hart described his evolving views on drugs and those who use them, a gradual rejection of the overly simplistic idea that drugs are inherently evil, the destroyers of people and neighborhoods.

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