Marijuana, Phelps, American Hypocrisy

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[Speaking Truth To Power]

We now see maddening American hypocrisy at its worst.

A picture of Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps smoking marijuana, from a bong, has been totally overplayed in the media.

USA Swimming suspended Phelps, who won eight Olympic medals in Beijing, for three months. This disciplinary action includes barring him from competition and withholding his $1,750 monthly stipend.

"We decided to send a strong message to Michael because he disappointed so many people, particularly the hundreds of thousands of USA Swimming member kids who look up to him as a role model and hero," USA Swimming said in a statement. Phelps also lost several endorsements.

The Phelps story is another illustration of the duplicitous backwardness of many in American society. While "mainstream media" was focused on Phelps, a far more egregious story has been unfolding regarding New York-based pharmaceutical giant Pfizer.

On February 4, 2009 three Nigerian-based Pfizer employees, Dr. Segun Dogunro, Lere Baale and Bashir Bello, appeared in a Nigeria court to face a 65-count indictment. Criminal conspiracy and culpable homicide are included in the charges in this case, regarding the administering of an experimental Pfizer-drug, Trovan, during the 1996 meningitis outbreak in Kano, Nigeria.

Apparently, this drug caused 11 deaths and some 189 other cases of deafness, blindness, paralysis and brain damage. Nigerian officials are also seeking the extradition of several US-based Pfizer employees including former Pfizer CEO William Steere in connection with this crime. The case is adjourned until March when Pfizer’s jurisdictional challenge will be heard. Also, on January 30, 2009 a New York appeals court ruled that lawsuits filed by the victim’s families can proceed in American courts.

I mention the Pfizer story to say this: the most dangerous drugs being administered to the public aren’t being provided by Black, or, Latino males on the street corner as popular but false narrative would have people believe. The most dangerous drugs are pushed by pharmaceutical cartels.

Given the fact that pharmaceutical drugs are legal some will say this charge is absurd. Yet isn’t dependency on legal drugs equally insidious? Anyway, let’s examine the criminalization of drug use for one moment.

For years now, we’ve heard about a "war on drugs." That’s never been true. What’s true is: there’s been a war on Black people due to the collective criminalization as prevalent drug abusers.

Although drug use has been characterized as having a Black face, the rate of abuse is higher in White America. Yet, we typically don’t see drug busts in white suburbia, where people live in gated homes? Well-manicured lawns do not mean that drug abuse don’t occur in those dwellings.

"Most drug offenders are White, but most of the drug offenders sent to prison are Black," Jamie Fellner, a senior counsel with Human Rights Watch, has observed.

"The solution is not to imprison more Whites but to radically rethink how to deal with low-level drug offenders," he added.

Some will lecture about the violence associated with drugs. There’ll always be violence in economically depressed communities between interests wrestling for financial dominance of any lucrative "vice."

A report, authored by Fellner, entitled "Targeting Blacks: Drug Law Enforcement and Race in the United States," found that Blacks are incarcerated, in 16 states, at rates between 10 and 42 times higher than Whites.

Now, the other thing to ponder in this drug debate is the morality question; which has been used to stigmatize and criminalize Blacks. For, although Blacks represent a mere 12 percent of the American population they represent half of the two million people in prison. "Drug offenders" represent a large percentage of that million.

Ironically, some of the very same ethical folk who deem drug use "immoral" don’t seem to see high rates of homelessness, increasing joblessness and child poverty as "immoral" in the United States, the wealthiest country in the world.

Isn’t the greatest immorality the greed characterized by the excesses on Wall Street and Washington; especially, as we’ve witnessed the consequences in terms of the ongoing economic terror of massive job losses?

There’s a greater philosophical question here: how much control should the government exercise, if any, over our bodies and what we choose to do, especially in a democracy?

The Roe v. Wade Case is a great barometer. That decision upheld a woman’s right to terminate the life of her unborn. Obviously, the abortion battle is far from over, for some, and conservatives remain hell-bent on reclaiming control over women’ bodies.

While we respect women’s right to make such decisions, how can we in good conscience put people in prison for using drugs? Some will argue that drugs are dangerous. Question: Are tobacco and alcohol less lethal? Aren’t there numerous foods Americans consume daily that equally as dangerous, if not more so?

Moreover, many of these drugs can, and are applied for beneficial medical treatments if there’re used intelligently, and, not abused.

Cocaine was used by Native Americans for thousands of years as a treatment for: malaria, ulcers, asthma and as an anesthetic.

Mirroring California, the Ancient Egyptian "Ebers Papyrus" describes the use of medical Marihuana. They used it, among other things, as a suppository to heal hemorrhoids. Marihuana is now being used to fight the "wasting," or loss of body mass, of those suffering from cancer and AIDS.

Marihuana has medicinal benefits too numerous to mention here. Consider this: the Department of Health and Human Services was awarded a patent (#6,630,507) named "Cannabinoids as Antioxidants and Neuroprotectants." The patent states that Cannabinoids are "useful in the treatment and prophylaxis of a wide variety of oxidation associated diseases…" and others "such as stroke and trauma, or in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and HIV dementia."

Another issue to contemplate is: why are so many Americans suffering from depression, insomnia and eating disorders?

Societal stresses, perhaps? I submit the answer is central to solving the problem of overindulgence in toxic drugs and foods.

America has officially entered an era of "change." So, shouldn’t we work to change the immoral criminalization of drugs; especially, since the real immorality and criminality resides on Wall Street?

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