The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Faculty, students examine drug policy’s impact

By Adam Dodson/reporter

It’s been nearly a century since America’s first attempt at forcefully prohibiting adults from ingesting substances the government deems unacceptable. 

That attempt led to an explosion of gang-related crime and violence. As a result, the era and the policy that sparked it ended after 13 years.

TR student Amanda Vang, SE history professor Bradley Borougerdi and TR student Alden Aldridge weigh in on the current drug policy and the legalization of marijuana. Photo by Adam Dodson/The Collegian
TR student Amanda Vang, SE history professor Bradley Borougerdi and TR student Alden Aldridge weigh in on the current drug policy and the legalization of marijuana.
Photo by Adam Dodson/The Collegian

Today, America finds itself over 40 years into another prohibition — drugs. The longest and most costly war in U.S. history has taken its toll on society as a whole.

The result? In 2015, Americans are having the same conversation they did during alcohol’s prohibition.

The main question, posed on TCC to students, faculty and police, is whether the consequences of prohibition are worse than the consequences of the substances that are prohibited.

•••

For many years, SE history assistant professor Bradley Borougerdi has tirelessly beat the drum for marijuana decriminalization. He wrote his doctoral dissertation on the hemp plant and recently finished writing a book on the subject.

Borougerdi isn’t opposed to the legalization of all drugs. However, his primary concern is to decriminalize so sick people could reduce their suffering through medicinal marijuana and receive care without threat of arrest and incarceration.

“Drug consumption is not a criminal issue,” he said. “It is a public health issue, and we need to break from seeing it as a criminal issue.”

Having researched the effects of illegal drugs on the human body extensively, Borougerdi finds the ignorance surrounding the effects of these drugs to be the number one reason for all of the hysteria.

“It’s not the drug,” he said. “It’s the person taking the drug, the reason the person’s taking the drug, how they’re taking the drug, when, why and where they’re taking the drug that determines the relationship that they develop with it. It’s not the drug itself.”

Borougerdi sees the logic in waging war against lifeless substances as reckless and ill-conceived.

“It doesn’t make sense to say you’re waging a war against an inanimate object,” he said. “I mean it can’t fight back. You can’t really fight a war against a commodity.”

He pointed out the statistical absurdity in the claim that marijuana is a gateway to harder drug use and addiction.

“If there’s over 20 million Americans who’ve tried marijuana and there’s only 100,000 Americans that are addicted to heroin, how can you tell me that marijuana is a gateway drug to heroin?” he asked.

•••

At the other end of the new debate on the drug policy’s future are those who feel like NE Campus police officer April Zablosky does.

She sees the writing on the wall.

“I mean as far as laws go, it takes a long process to get them established, and it takes a long process to take them away, so I believe we are on trend to kinda make marijuana like alcohol,” she said.

She definitely doesn’t believe all drugs should be legalized but agrees that police resources would be better spent on issues more pertinent to public safety than coercing people to refrain from using marijuana.

“It is against the law, but I’ve seen through the news a lot of positives as far as marijuana goes,” she said. “I don’t like the harder drugs. I don’t tolerate it. We crack down really hard on it, but I do see the benefits to the state with the marijuana, like Colorado. They allowed it and yeah, the state made so much money on it that I think it would benefit even education ’cause that money could go back into the state and into education. I mean it benefits officers as well because we would be better funded too.”

But Zablosky has seen the negative ramifications of drug abuse up close and personal.

“I’ve seen the behavior, not only from people I deal with on a daily basis,” she said. “I’ve had family members that have been down that road, and it definitely alters their behavior. It’s not a good road at all.”

These days, with so many states changing their laws and the public’s opinion steadily shifting, Zablosky said she’s seen an upswing in drug activity on campus.

“In my experiences, we’re starting to see more and more drugs,” she said. “I don’t know if they’re (students) just getting more and more lazy about it because of the other states, but, yeah, they’re more lax about it, and so it’s a lot more obvious to us.”

She explains that in their department at least, officers aren’t actively out trying to “get” people, so to speak.

“We try not to go out and dig too much because, you know, students are here,” she said. “They’re paying to go to classes. So we have a political standpoint in, ‘Hey, don’t bother them too much.’ But if we see something, we have to act. But, yes, I think students have gotten more relaxed if they are involved in that kind of thing.”

•••

TR student Alden Aldridge hasn’t ever been arrested personally, but he has had friends who were.

“I’ve had friends that served jail time for distribution of drugs,” he said. “That sucked.”

Aldridge is also concerned with one effect of drug prohibition that hasn’t gotten much attention, his First Amendment rights.

“One problem I see as far as rehab programs go is that they aren’t secular, which can kind of be concerning for an atheist,” he said. “One of the primary tenets of it is that you have to accept faith in the treatment program or you will not graduate. And for my friends who are not really believers, that’s just going against our own personal beliefs, so that’s kinda going against freedom of religion right there.”

He also believes the war on drugs creates an atmosphere that gives far too much power to police.

“It kind of leads to more corruption,” he said. “I have friends in Detroit, and they would tell me about how they would be smoking weed on their front porch and the cop would just pull up and steal the joint from them.”

Aldridge sees the decriminalization of drugs going on in other parts of the world as a promising example of how it could be successful here too.

“I know Portugal has had great success with their whole rehab policy,” he said. “Once they started treating users more like victims than criminals, they saw a great turnaround, like much less usage and everything. It kinda removes the stigma.”

•••

TR sophomore Amanda Vang has been a vocal proponent for marijuana decriminalization. She’s written papers for school as well as blogged on the issue. She also petitioned signatures for recent marijuana legislation at the state level.

Vang recognizes the inherent dangers that come with prohibition policies.

“Both alcohol and tobacco are legal because we tolerate their widespread use,” she said. “We tolerate their widespread use because we know prohibition only creates dangerous black markets and that education is a more valuable tool in managing these dangers.”

The ends in this case don’t justify the means, according to Vang.

“The prohibition of these substances would be more dangerous than permitting them,” she said. “Many people can use these products casually and cause no harm to themselves or others.”

She believes it is morally bankrupt to violently subjugate people to supposedly save them from ingesting a substance vastly safer than other substances that are legal and readily available.

“Approximately 0 people die of marijuana overdoses annually,” she said. “There are no proven negative long-term effects of cannabis. However, more and more studies are proving the positive effects of long-term use.”

Her message to legislators: “Just make it happen.”

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