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From the Archive: Columbia Prof. Carl Hart Fights to End the War on Some Drugs

Back in 2013, PBC interviewed Columbia Prof. Carl Hart, an outspoken opponent of drug prohibition.  With a new book, Drug Use for Grownups, he argues that some people are more addiction-prone than drugs are addictive.On April 5, 2021 Hart appeared on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah and confirmed recent comments about his own use of heroin and other drugs.  He argues that many adults can use drugs that are considered highly addictive without becoming addicted. You can watch that interview here.

Since our interview with Hart in 2013, much has changed.  Democratic leaders are promising to repeal the federal regulations for marijuana, as New York becomes the latest to legalize adult use.  Oregon has recently decriminalized possession of most drugs, including psychedelics, and polls show that most Americans now believe that the “war on drugs” has failed.

Here is the original text for this podcast interview:

Carl Hart once sold weed on the street in Miami, now is an associate professor at Columbia University.  He shares his amazing personal story and challenges conventional wisdom on drug policies.Click here for free audiobook and generate $15 for the PBC Podcast!

Your humble host noted Carl Hart’s appearance on Bill Maher’s HBO show a few months ago.  His book is a real eye-opener: High Price: A Neuroscientist’s Journey of Self-Discovery That Challenges Everything You Know About Drugs and Society.  He shares his life experiences in quite revealing ways:  his father was a drunk who beat his mother; Carl was raised by a grandmother and other relatives; he was a poor student who only excelled in math; high school hoops steered him away from drugs and gangs, though he sold weed;  he is a big fan of Gil Scott-Heron; he joined the Air Force and went to college in England, then Maryland, Wyoming before teaching at Columbia.

Interwoven with his life story are facts and arguments that challenge drug prohibition.  We talk about Joe Biden’s role in passing the draconian crack law, despite the scientific evidence that crack is no more addictive than powder cocaine.  Similarly, Hart warns that hysteria over methamphetamine could lead to the same policy blunders as the crack war.  He notes that the chemical structure of meth is only slightly different from widely prescribed drugs for ADHD.  And he politely, but firmly, pushes back on my comments about heroin, which Hart argues has many beneficial uses.  His book is fascinating, and highly recommended.