As we all know, Whitney Houston died yesterday. The cause of her death is “undetermined” but it’s a safe bet that drugs played a role in shortening her life if not outright killing her. You can expect to be hearing a lot about her in the next few days, and there will undoubtedly be some kind of memorial tribute for her at tonight’s Grammy Awards.
I was never a big fan of Whitney, but that’s because during her best years I was more into rock music. But it would have been hard to make it thru the late 80′s and early 90′s without being aware of her work.
In 2009, the Guinness World Records cited her as the most-awarded female act of all time. Her list of awards includes two Emmy Awards, six Grammy Awards, 30 Billboard Music Awards, 22 American Music Awards, among a total of 415 career awards as of 2010. Houston was also one of the world’s best-selling music artists, having sold over 170 million albums, singles and videos worldwide.
She starred in a couple hit movies too.
In 1992 Whitney married Bobby Brown, and in the years that followed rumors began too circulate about their drug use. Her behavior started to become erratic and she began showing up late for interviews, appointments and rehearsals and canceling concert appearances. When she did appear it was noticeable that she had lost weight. Although Whitney denied using drugs it was obvious she wasn’t being truthful.
When the reality television show Being Bobby Brown aired in 2004 people were shocked by the behavior and deteriorated appearance of Whitney. To say that the clips of her were unflattering would be putting it mildly. Whitney separated from Brown in 2006 and filed for divorce. During the past few years until her death she was working on a career comeback.
Her autopsy will reveal whether she had put her demons behind her or not. But heavy drug use takes it toll – quitting does not repair the damage it only stops it from getting worse.
Which brings me to my point. When we see a great talent like Whitney’s ruined by drugs it is easy to react by demanding that such substances be made (or remain) illegal. The ravages of alcohol abuse were the reason for Prohibition.
But prohibition cures nothing and brings along evils of its own. Cocaine has been illegal in the United States since before any of us were born. Nixon announced the War on Drugs in 1970. Crack cocaine was singled out for special treatment in 1986 when the Federal Sentencing Guidelines were amended to increase the penalty for possession and sale to 100 times that of powdered cocaine.
The War on Drugs is invariably a war on drug users. The vast majority of people arrested with drugs are busted for possession for personal use. Most drug dealers do so to finance their own addictions. We are putting people in prison to protect them from drugs.
When it comes to personal behavior I am very libertarian. I am an adult, so as long as I am not harming anyone else what right does the government have to tell me what I can and can’t do? Drug prohibition did not save Whitney Houston. She made some bad choices, but they were HER choices.
Would locking her in prison have been a better answer?
The downside of freedom is that some people misuse it. Some problems just don’t have solutions.
Filed under: Uncategorized