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Prisoner Education Guide

Articles by Maia Szalavitz

There’s No Rational Way to Justify America’s Drug Laws

People assume a medical committee sat down to consider which recreational drugs were the safest and least addictive, and this wise group decided alcohol and tobacco should be legal, while marijuana and everything else shouldn’t. That’s not what happened.

by Maia Szalavitz,

In 2013, CNN’s medical correspondent, Sanjay Gupta, offered a rare public apology. He admitted that he was wrong about medical marijuana and had been “too dismissive” of patients’ claims about its effectiveness, lumping them in with “high-visibility malingerers, just looking to get high.”

The story of his reversal reveals a fundamental and ongoing problem with the way the media and public view our drug laws—and why we need to understand their origins to move forward.

Admissions of error from either journalists or doctors, of course, are unusual in and of themselves. But this one was triply exceptional in that its author recognized that he’d been taken in by conventional wisdom. To wit, Gupta said:

“I mistakenly believed the Drug Enforcement Agency listed marijuana as a schedule 1 substance because of sound scientific proof. Surely, they must have quality reasoning as to why marijuana is in the category of the most dangerous drugs that have ...


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