To sports fans, Len Bias was a college basketball star who died too young of a drug overdose, a symbol of what might have been. To those of us who oppose the War on Drugs, however, Len Bias is a symbol that was exploited and abused by posturing politicians, resulting in the passage of the “Len Bias Law,” also known as the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986.
It was among the very worst legislative excesses in the war on drugs, specifying mandatory minimums, asset forfeiture, and the infamous 100-to-1 weight ratio in sentencing for crack cocaine. Pete Guither describes it, with only a little hyperbole, as a “near-genocidal attack on the African American population in the United States. Or at the very least, the systematic disenfranchisement of African American males.”
Bias was pretty much the worst case, but celebrity deaths are often a seed for sowing moral panic that destroys freedom. There was a small anti-drug panic following the deaths of John Belushi and Chris Farley. The death of Princess Diana in a car crash caused an anti-paparazzi frenzy that threatened freedom of the press for fandom and traditional news reporters.
So now that Whitney Houston has died, and even though the medical examiner’s report isn’t in yet, people are attributing her death to her reputed heavy use of illegal drugs. And over at Jack Marshall’s Ethics Alarms, the moralizing has begun:
That she didn’t say no to drugs, and is dead because of it, was the direct result of an American culture that does not give its constituency a clear message and verdict. Instead, the clearest and most unequivocal signal from the culture, the fact that recreational drugs are illegal and that America enforces the laws against them, is progressively weakened by ridicule, attack, popular culture, and the defiance or hypocrisy of role models and public figures.
Oh good God. Apparently it’s not enough that these drugs are illegal in every state and at the national level, that the War on Drugs costs billions of dollars a year, that armed police are invading people’s homes, that the Fourth Amendment has been gutted, and that hundreds of thousands of people are arrested every year. No, Jack won’t be happy unless we unless we also say we love it.
Whether they are preventing the culture from rejecting drug use because enforcement is expensive, or because they have a relative or friend in prison for drug-dealing; whether they are calling for legalization because they are libertarians and academics or Ron Paul, or because they are public officials who see a new revenue source; whether they are longing for the halcyon days of Haight-Ashbury and the Strawberry Alarm Clock, or just like getting stoned, these are the people that killed Whitney Houston, as surely as if they had shot her between the eyes.
Screw you, Jack. The only person who killed Whitney Houston is Whitney Houston.
I would say that if their insistence on legalization is followed, and the nation’s laws join the popular throng in pronouncing addictive and life-destroying drugs as legitimate “options,” many more like her will die…except there aren’t many more like her. But there are countless lives to destroy, and unimaginable losses to families, businesses and America to be endured.
I guess he prefers the current system, in which we destroy lives and families by throwing drug users in prison. I wonder how many Americans never got to fulfill their promise because they got thrown in jail first.
This time, let’s not pass any more laws. Let’s not turn a tragedy into an atrocity.
Mark is a computer programmer, website builder, photographer, and sometimes journalist in Chicago, where he also writes the long-running Windypundit blog.