Story and photo by Melina Paris/Opinion writer/@parismelina
More than 300 people attended a lecture Thursday, May 12, by Dr. Carl Hart, a professor of psychology and psychiatry known for his research on drug abuse, drug use and addiction.
The Columbia University professor is the first tenured African American professor of sciences there.
Hart spoke in the Hall of Champions gym and had much to say on the role drug science has played in marginalizing specific minority groups.
Hart is the author of the memoir, “High Price: A Neuroscientist’s Journey of Self Discovery that Challenges Everything You Know about Drugs and Society.”
Growing up in the hood in Miami, Hart came from a community in which drug use was prevalent. He kept a gun in his car, engaged in petty crime and used and sold drugs. After high school, he joined the Air Force, which put him on the course he is on today. Eventually, Hart said, he wanted to fix addiction and crime and poverty.
Environmental science major Ken McClintic, 59, said, “The drug war is not working and drug policies are not working. We need to find new ways of talking about and dealing with drugs. We need to listen to people like Dr. Hart and change our discussion about drugs.”
Hart said it is important for him to be at LBCC because he sees diverse faces that mirror how America looks.
Hart said his main message about drugs is to help students to understand many of them are part of a select group. They are minorities and what they are told is inaccurate. Policies have subjugated communities they are from.
Hart wants them to see the connection and to apply critical thinking to the challenge. Hart gave many in-depth examples of how society is misled, such as on the use of cocaine and crack. He said the only difference between the two is the route of administration. But people are told the results are different, which allowed people to make draconian laws around their use, punishing the use of crack harder.
“As we think about drugs and drug policy, this is not new, Hart said. “It’s always been used as a way to further marginalize those on the margins.”
Hart wants to develop solutions to the skewed, negative perspective and disproportionate views the public has about drugs and the impacts to specific groups U.S. policies have.
First, Hart’s position is now legalization of all drugs. He said people have to call out discrimination as they see it.
Leaders also have to change the narrative of who is a drug user. Sometimes he noted, they are even the president of the U.S. Bill Clinton, George Bush and Barack Obama all admitted to using marijuana as a youthful indiscretion.
He closed by saying he knows what he says is not popular. He is more concerned about the truth and leaving a better world for the next generation and beyond.
Assistant professor Annahita Mahdavi introduced Hart.