Rahul Sharma’s Alleged Drug Use Makes Me Confused

I still haven’t made up my mind about how I feel about Rahul Sharma’s alleged use of marijuana, so I wanted to go through the list and hear your opinions:

1) Samir Chopra talked with me today about his Pitch post on the subject. Essentially, he argues that the margins between ‘recreational drug use’ are extremely small, and so there is little substantive difference between whisky, cigarettes, alcohol and, in this case, dope. The quote:

From the back of the police wagon that carried them off to the thana that night, Rahul and Parnell might have glumly wondered why their buddies could drink beers in dressing rooms with opponents and be praised for doing so, while they would be forced to donate their bodily fluids as evidence of criminal wrongdoing. They would wonder why there exists a category of forbidden substances called ‘in-competition prohibited substances’ that includes marijuana, but not alcohol or tobacco.

I’m almost there with Samir, but not yet. For one thing, cricketers are not always praised for drinking, right? We know from the Andrew Symonds and Jesse Ryder episodes that while drinking may be part of a team’s culture, excessive drinking that leads to ruptures within a team, bar brawls, or laziness isn’t completely tolerated. So there’s room for regulation here. Secondly, even if you think most of the industrialized world’s policies on drugs are silly, they exist — if Sharma’s tests do indeed test conclusively positive (which hasn’t happened yet, mind you), then he must be sanctioned according to Indian law. If you want to use this episode to argue for a change in the law or the BCCI’s drug policy, that’s fine with me. But I’m a little wary of dismissing this episode by simply saying, “Boys will be boys, am I right?”

Which brings me to 2): Spend enough time on a privileged American college campus, as I did, and you will have ready access to marijuana. I want to explain to you why this makes me uneasy, and I want to do it without sounding judgmental because while I have never smoked, I don’t want to spoil anyone’s party. Here’s the thing: a) It bugs me that legalizing marijuana gets so many people riled up (and is usually the No. 1 policy suggestion on online petitions to President Obama), but dealing with, say, the unbelievably punitive laws on cocaine/crack/etc. or reducing America’s exploding incarceration system or building more drug courts rarely get buzz. It also annoys me that poor minorities in New York City, where I live, can have their lives ruined if stopped randomly by a ‘stop-and-frisk’ cop, but rich kids get to talk to me all the fucking time about their favorite strand of marijuana, how they “know a guy,” and the funny contraptions that they use when they smoke. When is personal drug use recreational, and when is it another affirmation of wealth and privilege? Is marijuana seen as less threatening now because of its chemical qualities, or because it is increasingly associated with innocuous college white kids and not (as it once was) crazy Mexican immigrants hell bent on unleashing reefer madness? Or am I a buzzkill who thinks no one can enjoy themselves in a world full of misery and injustice?

I don’t want to sound like a narc, because, really, I’m not. 3): These “rave party” raids are terrible. You can read about their hilarious and convoluted legal justification in this post, which argues that technically speaking, even if you invite guests to your home and give them a drink, they could be arrested for not having a permit on them. I was in Bombay after the first bust went down, and the tone in the press was unbelievably offensive — there were dozens of photos of women with their faces covered, as if they had just been accused of a heinous crime that brought shame on their family. The slut-shaming theme was explicit, and the sight of Indian policemen pushing these women into vans for drug testing en masse was nauseating.

So where does that leave me? One, if the rules exist and are broken, Sharma/Parnell should have known and followed them. Two, I have all these weird feelings about marijuana and I don’t know why. Three, the legal instrument used to catch Sharma/Parnell seems like the worst possible use of limited police resources. Fourth, this seems like a such a trifle to derail promising careers.

Comments, please.

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One thought on “Rahul Sharma’s Alleged Drug Use Makes Me Confused

  1. Samir Chopra says:

    Rohan,

    1. Yes, excessive drinking is frowned on, but not always. Re: post-Ashes 2005 celebrations. But the problem is, one puff on a joint is even less tolerated. That is the issue. I was merely trying to point out the tolerance for alcohol as a socially accepted drug/lubricant in our legal schemes.

    2. Spot on. For the record, I think drug laws in general are stupid, misguided, and racist to the core. Look at crack vs. coke sentencing records for instance. Marijuana gets most of the attention because its use is so widespread and culturally entrenched. It’s medicinal properties have also changed the nature of the debate. In general, I think drug laws ignore history and culture to an alarming degree. Let’s not forget too, that the alcohol industry is very invested in keeping pot illegal – their sales would drop alarmingly if pot was ever legalized.

    3. The rave party raids are an abomination.

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