There is probably no drug more vilified these days than meth, and Missouri is often said to be the capital of meth production. That's not something to be proud of considering many people think the average meth user smokes bathtub cleaner chemicals before arrested for biting -- with their last two good teeth -- the face of a convenience store worker in a botched attempt to steal a carton of Marlboro Reds.
But a new report from Dr. Carl Hart, a neuropharmacologist at Columbia University, says there are a lot of misconceptions about meth. In fact, it might not be as bad as we think it is.
In the study, titled "Methamphetamine: Facts vs. Fiction," Hart compares the current meth scare to the crack scare of the 1980s. Misinformation during the Reagan era led many to hold the common belief that a hit of crack would cause first-time users to get addicted and the drug caused many dangerous and deadly side-effects.
This, partially caused by media reports that sensationalized the facts about crack use, led to 1986 Anti-Drug Abuse Act that set mandatory minimum sentences of extreme and disproportionate lengths, compared to other drugs, in particular cocaine, which crack is almost identical to chemically. Crack was more common in black neighborhoods than white neighborhoods during the 1980s, so the law disproportionately affected black people.
See also: The Justice System is On Crack
The law stated that a person convicted of selling 5 grams of crack cocaine was required to serve a minimum sentence of five years in prison convictions involving 50 grams of crack carried a minimum sentence of 10 years. To receive similar sentences for trafficking in powder cocaine, individuals needed to have been caught selling (or intending to sell) 500 grams and kilograms of cocaine, respectively.
Eager to profit off the drug scare for political purposes, many state politicians created their own anti-drug laws, including here in Missouri, where the Prior and Persistent Drug Offender statute was created in 1987. That law gave a mandatory sentence of 10 years to life for anybody convicted of a third drug felony. As a result, many people convicted with very small yet felonious amounts of drugs served extreme sentences. For example, a few grams of crack could and still does get people 10 to 20 years in Missouri.
Hart says the same fear-mongering that led to illogical and unjust legal policy in the 1980s is happening again, this time with meth.
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