Applying the drug-use practices of an Irish drunk

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014

If you do drug policy and you’re asked whether you use drugs, Mark Kleiman notes, you’ve got two choices:

“You can say, ‘Yes, I’m a lawbreaker. Please come arrest me and ignore everything I say, because I’m a bad person.’ Or, ‘No, actually, I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about.’ Since neither of those is an advantageous admission, I don’t answer the question.”

He was more forthcoming about psychedelics. He told me to look up a YouTube video that captures a raucous conference organized in 1990 by the Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies. Kleiman, appearing alongside Timothy Leary and Ram Dass, wears a tie-dyed T-shirt and speaks about a future of “performance-enhancing” drugs. Kleiman told me, “I’ve never met anybody who used cocaine thirty years ago and says, ‘You know, I really learned a lot from my cocaine use.’ But you know the Steve Jobs quote about how Windows would be a better operating system if Bill Gates had dropped acid just once?” One of Kleiman’s books is called “Against Excess” — the title refers both to the war on drugs and to drug use. Leary, he told me, was undone by excess: “The tragedy of the sixties is that people managed to apply the drug-use practices of an Irish drunk to a very different chemical.”

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