Ivy League Professor — And Heroin User — Makes Case for Drug Legalization

Carl Hart describes his recreational habit in the new book "Drug Use for Grown-Ups"

Professor Carl Hart
Professors Carl Hart (left) and Mark Kleiman attend Blunt Talk at The New Yorker Festival in 2014.
Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for The New Yorker

The United States is presently going through a watershed moment when it comes to drug legalization. Marijuana — whether for recreational or medical use — is legal in a growing number of states, and some cities and states are also exploring psychedelics. Earlier this month, Oregon officially decriminalized the possession of small amounts of drugs, and is now issuing fines or directing those cited towards treatment.

It’s a significant shift in public policy. But even someone who might applaud these decisions could still be taken aback by the argument made by Columbia University professor Carl Hart in a new book. That book, titled Drug Use for Grown-Ups: Chasing Liberty in the Land of Fear, takes a contrarian approach to the drug policy debate: Hart makes the argument that many drugs can be safely used recreationally, and that their illegal status does more harm than good.

In a candid interview with Andrew Anthony at The Guardian, Hart discussed his book and his own experiences that led him to write it. And by “candid,” we mean that Hart talked about his five years of recreational heroin use in both the book and the interview. He’s also fairly open about other drugs, telling Anthony “it’s nice to have a stimulant like an amphetamine or cocaine” when at social events.

Anthony poses hard questions to Hart, including some regarding withdrawal from heroin. In reading the article, one suspects that neither party has completely convinced the other of their position. But it’s an interesting argument to take in, and a very different perspective on national drug policies.

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