Coke And The Constitution

X iancimark decision handed down in December 1976 by Roxbury, Massachusetts« District Court ¿Judgu Blwncid McKinney has declared cocaine "an ¿acceptable recreational drug" and has ruled that "cocainc regulation as it now stands is clearly un* /constitutional." ,

| Richard Wilier, busted for possession of coke, is a free man—not because he was proved innocent, but ¥ because cocaine was proved Innocent in a court of ¿law.forthe first time in history.

After a kngthy inquiry into the effects of coke on ) J individuals and society» the court labeled it "one of tf he benign drugs1' and determined that "cocaine is an irrational addition to federal and state narcotic drug i; Cocaine is not a narcotic drug« although it is classified as such,..,This erroneous classification» | arid the attendant legal ramifications, results from generations of ignorance, from myths connected | with the drug and from blatantly racist attacks on ^ cocaine users, all of which are now destroyed by V reliable scientific data." ifj ; -

A successful challenge to cocaine prohibition has teen thu dream of thousands of dopers for decades. J For Miller, a 36-year-old black man who was busted r:0t\ Roxbury for possession of Jess than 320 worth of eoke^the dream has come true. The state's case of simple possession against him was uncontested, and /Judge McKinney dismissed the charges against him. i; fnfcleadi cocaine itself went on trial.

At the hearing; held last October, the prosecution | failed torefute any of the expert testimony presented by the defense. Instead, it urged the court to "ignore ^ the facts and leave to the legisloturt the business of • iieciding what the law should be." Judge McKinney £/refused "to follow this direction, believing...that a court shamefully shirks-its duty if facts are ignored, constitutional infirmities are left uncorrected and the buck is passed to a legislative committee. Ac-i; cordingly, this court has chosen to resolv*. the issue 0 'now aj hand/'

f In part, Judge McKinney's decision declares: "The i> current drug laws are harmful in that they are not in >1 accord with medical evidence, in that they are ¡¿ hypocritical and thus breed disres;>ect for the law in l^that they label as criminal otherwise normal, re-| sponsible, law-abiding people, in that they inhibit valuable medical research and in lhat they diver! use ;!ftrom rational priorities of money, time and effort in law enforcement."

Mc^lnney's decision lists 125 "findings of fact" ■ about cocaine. Since none of thesn findings were challenged either by substantive cross-examination br by rebuttal witnesses» the court necessarily judged them to be factual, and the legal conclusions became inevitable. "Indeed/* states the decision, "it is the . Commonwealth which carries the burden, a heavy fe one. in attempting to justify its dtsire to prohibit and ^.pVinish the personal and private use of cocaine."

judge McKinney has since dismissed seveíáí other similar coke case& As for the future, the judge says "the entire regulatory scheme... as applied to co-Tcameencroaches oh a const ítuiíorieáiy pro|ected ari(J fundamentally personal liberty. Consequently, as/ jfsuming that there is a valid pubUc purpose in controlling cocaine, the Commonwealth theless employ, t he least resi^j^Uwe method to : athiuve thatccontrol^/.Certainly, ¡t be Jes§

restrictive to treat!cocaine separójtdy from 'hard * drugs' and to use control I ¡rig .m£cb^ ble to thosL usedTof alcoh; '1 consumption/Thus, for example, there might be an age jimit for cocaine use, as exists for publtc^icohol cons^jjtionv^fth penalties for the distributionJpf cocaihé^ ^rsdnsunder that age. Alternatively; civil penalties might be im- ? posed upon cocaine risers or sellers •«fid/various taxes and tariffs might be att&ched to its distribution until the Commonwealth ¿has^démonitrated th|& in-^^ adequacy ofsuch methods %achie veid-,-: -purposes." : Uiifc^-^iK«^

Under ordinary circumstances, the-gbvétnmeat can- ■ not appeal a judge s ruling to dismiss the complaint s against a defendant ;buf>,in- extraord in ár y cases Massachusetts I aw pe rmit s Ih is prosecutor to approach the states Supreme Court to seek añ enter? gency ruling within hours^/The high/j&ourt rilled that Judge McKinney a c t edfj^ppeiiy end with in h is power. As for a review of the lower cburtV decision, the Supreme Court said it would take the matter "under advisement/'

McKinney1» decision isn't bindiug oh any other judge in the country including>him$elf, Jthere is hip reason to get euphdric just- yet. This is; a breakthrough, all rí¿ht: lawyers^iow have a precedent they can use to clear coke's reputation across the country. Hut for the* morijent il is aj largely symbolic one. The real identity of cocaine has just :* l:egun its long trek through t}je complex Ic^aJ-polit^ cal proving grounds. But if the American;public could endure the embarrassment r,f W^fergat^, it can surely accept the embarrassing revelations of a costly little blunder like the imprisonment of JhM-Ji sgnda of eccaihe users over-the -p^tte^r^g^^l

could afford ihe risk and ihe higher prices black-markei products always command.

The newspapers of ihe lime give a ralher different piclure. According lo ihem hardly anyone used cocaine between 1914 and 1930 except ihe blacks, ciiminals, and poor whiles whose use of ihe stuff, had frightened legislatures into banning it. A view quite contrary to common sense, for until prevented from doing so by administrative flat, doctors were able to prescribe all ihe drugs banned by the Harrison Acl. Their patients were not the poor, who rarely visiisd a physician even when seriously ill. For ihe first few years after Harrison, then, ihe affluent had easy access lo cocaine, while the less privileged classes had lo buy from dealers at inflated black-market prices. If anyone did without cocaine, it wasn't the rich. And money being what it is, they retained ihe upper hand even after police harassment cut off the prescription route. As the health commissioner of New York said in 1919,'The rich have the advantage in that they can buy in quantity while the poor are robbed by vendors who charge high prices and adulterate the drug." (The same holds

'"Cocaine for horses an* not for men.

They say it kill you but they don't say when/'

Huddie Ledbetier ("Leadbelly") "Take a WLviff on Me;' 1936

true today, of course.) Another health o£D<iial of ihe period had no doubts about who was using cocaine: Dr. Ernest Bishop knew that ihe working class was still indulging, but he also observed that the number of people from the '"upper wonkf" who used cocaine and other prohibited drugs was "'legion,'1 and *'lhey induded judges, physicians, lawyers, and ministers/"

Apart from criminalizing its users, the chief result, of ihe laws enacted against cocaine was its transformation into an elite drug. The people's friend had become ihe rich man's high. Before the Smith Anti-Cocaine Bill, of 1907, pure cocaine went for 10 cents a gram in New YorkH By 1908 druggists were selling it for 57 cents a gram, street dealers for 10 cents a blow. "Regular" citizens a druggest felt, he could trust were paying five to six limes more than they had ihe year befoie, while the riffraff_ shelled out 50 limes as much, By the Twenties, the respectable cognoscenti had lo layout $ 1.50 to $2 for a gram. Those with more money than knowledge of the scene paid as much as $10 to $12. Tallulah Bankhead, according lo her biographer, paid street merchants $50 for a tea-bag-sized packet.. Miss Bankhead raled cocaine as "'absolutely divine.'*

Then the Great Depression ushered in ihe Gieat Cocaine Drought... The newspapers, filled during the Twenties with stories of ''coke rings'* and '"huge caches'* uncovered by dedicated narcs, rarely mentioned cocaine during the Thirties. And the police, who had spent 20 years helping lo create the "cocaine menace," seemed to have forgotlen its existence. They now attributed the country's ever present ''crime wave'" lo ihe killer weed, marijuana. And in truth, with ihe exception of a few smalL pockets of activity, cocaine was no longer much in evidence. Money was in short supply, the people were gloomy, and an expensive '"fun"' drug simply didn't fit the depressed temper of the times.

But the introduction of ihe amphetamines in the eauly 1930s was manna from heaven for anyone who could no longer afford cocaine and stUI wanted a stimulant... They were legal and exceedingly cheap. One could happily speed along for several hours for a tiny fraction of what it would cost lo be high on coke for half an hour. The high wasn't the same, but ihe brew was much stronger and amphetamines became ihe prefeiTed drug of millions.

"He said he wanted Heaven hut praying was too slow

So he bought a one-way ticket on an a i dine made of snow."

Hoyi Axlon "Snovvblind Friend,' ' 1968

Of coarse cocaine had not completely disappeared. The rich who wanted it could «certainly still afford it-and where there is a demand, there is always someone to fill it. It was still around ia Harlem and oilier black enclaves too, though in short supply and in heavily adulterated form.

Like Sleeping Beauty, cocaine was too attractive to sleep forever. The rock stars, crown princes of the Aquarian Age, rediscovered it and initiated a great Cocaine Revival. . And by 1969 cocaine's new reign was well enough established that Easy Rider whose heroes finance their escape from the mundane world with a sizable sale of coke-could attract a large, appreciative audience. in the next few yea re cocaine made its way into every level of American society. And only its high cost kepi it from being as popular as marijuana. For just as in the late 1960s marijuana emerged from the "drug culture" and became a drug enjoyed by the professional and business Glasses, so too did

Paul Nemmui wearing gold r.tzar blade

cocaine in the early 1970s. By 1974, or 1975 at the latest, few adults who smoked marijuana had not at least tasted cocaine. The dealers who sold them grass also carried coke, and it was inevitable' they be turned on either by them or by then* friends.

Fairly regular use was something else again. Cocaine was expensive and is more expensive now. In 1970, ounces of pure Bolivian flake the highest-quality illicit coke-could be had for around $700, and grams for $40. By 1972 the price had risen to $60 a gram and $800 to SI,000 an ounce. After 1973 the situation got steadily worse. Pure ounces of good coke were going for $1,200 to $1,500 when they were available, and unless you had a good connection they weren't available. By earjy 1975 the $2,000 ounce was no longer a dealer's fantasy. By 1977 an ounce of the best coke had reached $2,500 and $100 grams were commonplace. Cheaper coke was available: not too badly overcut stuff was around for Si,500, and Cuban dealers offered bargain-basement $800 ounces. This merchandise is to cocaine as commercial white bread is to bread: rarely containing more than 25 percent of the essential ingredient, .

But anyone with a hankering for a steady diet of real cocaine, or a reasonable facsimile, has to be in receipt of a very sizable income. Which is why the heaviest concentration of steady cocaine users work in the upper echelons of the music, television, and film industries, and the great bulk of users are among those living the affluent life in America's major cities. They are in every profession and business. They tent) to be relatively young, and they tend to pursue a moderate course of cocaine, buying no more than a gram or two a month. And they usually gel fairly decent cocaine for quite high prices. And they usually think that what they are getting is considerably better than it in fact is. But with cocaine, price is no assurance of quality.

This brings us to an obvious question. Why are so many apparently sane people willing to pay such exorbitant prices for cocaine? After all, it is not, like heroin, a drug the user must have to avoid the pains of withdrawal . It doesn't even promote psychological dependency. And this, paradoxically, is precisely why cocaine commands the prices it does. For what can more quickly set one above the common herd than paying outrageous sums for a subtle, short-lived, unnecessary experience? That it is a forbidden pleasure only increases the distance between the elite and the multitudes. Snorting cocaine, in short, is the status symbol of the decade-the modern equivalent of feasting on the tongues of nightingales.

Mother of Peart

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The Kit fields, Mazzaril (alt 4500 ft) in Rif Mountains of Morocco.

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Psilocybe cubensis

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