Tuesday, July 29, 2008

An Oxymoron? Or Is It Sarcasm?

What exactly does “controlled substance” mean? It’s in the name of the federal legislation (The Controlled Substances Act) that declares certain recreational drugs illegal. But it seems to me that the government throws this term around willy nilly without really thinking about its meaning. In what way are controlled substances controlled? In particular, I’m talking about the Schedule I substances. How in their wildest imaginations can the folks in our government refer to these drugs as controlled? You’d think they’d always be cracking up about it. Like during speeches. At the very least, snickering whenever they said it. But I digress.

Substances classified in lower schedules which have medicinal uses are controlled by requiring a prescription for their possession and use. Their manufacture and distribution are fairly strictly controlled by the government, the pharmaceutical industry, and physicians. But because Schedule I substances have no medical uses, none of those groups have any involvement in their manufacture or distribution. Schedule I substances are grown/manufactured and processed under unknown conditions by unknown, and often unskilled, people. Their quality and purity are not guaranteed nor consistent. They are imported freely. They are sold anywhere, anytime to anyone regardless of age and with no concern for possible health risks. And of course “control” for the government must include a tax. Any commodity that is not taxed in one way or another by the government cannot be considered controlled.

So maybe Schedule I substances should have their own separate legislation. Why lump them in with the other substances that really are controlled? Something like the “Substances We Don’t Want You To Use, But Can’t Stop You If You Really Want To” Act. Or possibly the “We Could Be Collecting Taxes, But Instead We’ll Spend Lots Of Money Trying To Stop You From Using These Substances” Act. Or maybe the “Hey Kids, These Substances Are Much Easier To Get Than Alcohol” Act. I could go on.

On the other hand, if we keep the legislation as is, including it’s name, perhaps we should come up with some equally fanciful job descriptions for the people and institutions who derive their livelihood from it. For example, although the title “Drug Czar” does conjure up images of oppression and brutality, which is an appropriate metaphor in this case, it’s too reality-based. How about Exalted Grand Poobah of Altered Consciousness? The DEA could be called the Mystical Order of the Holy Truth. That would make DEA agents Defenders of The Truth. And of course prisons would be called Labyrinths of Lost Souls. And then when the EGPAC and the DTTs got together (wearing long robes with stars and moons on them and pointy hats) they’d talk about controlled substances while trying to keep a straight face. And maybe play some D & D or cast a spell or two.

Sorry, I seem to have drifted off into a fantasy world where the government actually calls things what they really are. (I think in that world, the Patriot Act had another name too, but I can’t remember it.) But I’m back now. Back to the real world where, fortunately, controlled substances are not.

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