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Future Hindsight is a weekly podcastthat takes big ideas in civic life and democracy and turns them into action items for everyday citizens.

Jul 2, 2021

American Ideals

The Declaration of Independence clearly lists the promises Americans are entitled to: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. If people want to use drugs to pursue that happiness, they have a right to do so under the Declaration of Independence. Thomas Jefferson himself argued that a government deciding what we are allowed to ingest would be like living under tyranny. Drug prohibition policy, which is based on lies about the negative effects of drug use, would be un-American to him.

Legalization and Decriminalization

Legalization is the foundation of a humane drug policy because it makes room for regulation. Regulation can generate tax revenue and allows for quality control, which in turn ensures users are not taking adulterated substances that may not be safe. Decriminalization of drugs means you will not go to jail for using or owning certain drugs. However, selling drugs is still a criminal offense. America needs both legalization and decriminalization.

Average Users

The average drug user in America is the average American across all income brackets. The vast majority of drug users are responsible adults who hold jobs, pay taxes, are good parents, and will never be addicted. They consume drugs in the way most people use tobacco or alcohol. Only between 10-30% of drug users—even of substances like heroin and alcohol—are addicted. The false narrative that drug users are criminals, addicts, or mentally deficient is harmful and perpetuates prohibition drug policies.


Dr. Carl L. Hart is the Chair of the Department of Psychology at Columbia University and the Ziff Professor of Psychology in the Departments of Psychology and Psychiatry. Professor Hart has published numerous scientific and popular articles in the area of neuropsychopharmacology and is co-author of the textbook Drugs, Society and Human Behavior (with Charles Ksir). He has appeared on multiple podcasts, radio and television shows—including Real Time with Bill Maher—and has also appeared in several documentary films including the award-winning “The House I Live In.” His essays have been published in several popular publications including The New York Times, Scientific American, The Nation, Ebony, The Root, and O Globo (Brazil’s leading newspaper).

You can follow him on Twitter @drcarlhart.