Demi Lovato: Her Confessions Prove The Drug War’s Hypocrisy and Failure

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One of the most infuriating aspects of the ruinous “War on Drugs” of the past several decades has been the glaring statistics concerning who gets arrested, convicted and sentenced and who does not. I would not be informing anyone of anything new if I told you that an overwhelming majority of those incarcerated for drug offenses are poor, people of color, or both.

The statistics are plain enough to see. According to the Drug Policy Alliance, 61 percent of all convicts in for drug offenses are non-white. In Mexico, the war has become literal, with over 70,000 killed (most horrifically) in the struggle for the U.S. market. Meanwhile, the Federal government continues to pour billions into drug enforcement plans and schemes and operations and agencies.

But perhaps the most glaring example of hypocrisy in the drug war is of a more recent revelation. As a teacher and a parent, when I first read about her, I was really, really angry. She’s one of the most popular celebrities around. From her early sitcom days to her struggles with bipolar disorder to her hosting of American Idol and her pop hits, she’s climbed to the top. You might not know her, but her face graces dozes on teen and young adult magazines weekly. I’m talking about a former darling of the Disney Channel, Demi Lovato.

Lovato has done a good job recently painting herself as a heroic figure amongst young people. She’s very open about her struggles with depression and mania, and her battle with cocaine addiction. Last year she recounted that at one point her addiction had such a hold on her she couldn’t go more than a half hour without doing a line. Today, according to the young starlet, she’s clean and trying to focus on her health and career. She’s young, rich and beautiful – and talented – and I don’t really have any doubt that her career will continue to grow.

But one article about her in particular infuriated me. Last year, speaking to a reporter from Access Hollywood, Lovato, probably not after consulting with her own P.R. crew, admitted to an extremely serious Federal offense – or rather – and entire class of them. Lovato boasted that at one point her addiction was so powerful that she willingly smuggled and used cocaine during her airborne interstate and/or international travels:

“I couldn’t go 30 minutes to an hour without cocaine, and I would bring it on airplanes,” Lovato revealed. “I would smuggle it basically and just wait until everyone in first class would go to sleep, and I would do it right there. I’d sneak to the bathroom, and I’d do it. That’s how difficult it got and that was even with somebody [with me]. I had a sober companion, somebody who was watching me 24/7 and living with me [and] I was able to hide it from them as well.” (Emphasis mine)

Adults need to back up here. Perhaps teens and tweens will admire Lovato for such a mea culpa, but older Americans know better. What Lovato admitted to was, at the least, unlawful interstate drug smuggling, importation and use. This isn’t the same, from the D.E.A.’s point of view, as someone smoking a joint or two in the privacy of their own home. No, this is huge. These crimes are the very same offenses that hundreds of thousands of young men and women are serving decades-long sentences in Federal and State prisons for. I don’t think I would be exaggerating when I state that there are many young people (in their 20’s and 30’s) serving the near equivalent of life sentences for such crimes either.

But Lovato, our strong, struggling starlet, gets a pass. Others get 20-25 years in a bleak Federal Penitentiary, but Demi gets a round of applause, or two. And now she’s marketing herself as a role model. Hey, Demi, do you think those people in solitary are depressed? Do you think that those hundreds of thousands of women, used by the cartels as drug mules and are now serving decades behind bars, do you think they struggle with dark days? Are you kidding me?

I wonder – and I am doing so honestly – if in the weeks after she made such revelations, she was visited by any of the D.E.A. agents whose partners were gunned down by armed dealers? Or perhaps she received some thoughtful letters from a young Mexican child who lost a parent to a drug cartel? I doubt it.

Look, I’m not calling for the immediate arrest and conviction of Demi Lovato. I wish her well. But her example, her hypocrisy, cannot be given a pass. Lovato’s admission and her crimes, and the failure of the government to follow up on them, are proof that this “War on Drugs” isn’t working. The wrong people are being punished, ruined and obliterated while the rich continue to buy, fuel murderous violence, and go on to brag about it.

Think about that the next time your kid wants you to buy a Demi Lovato poster, or you read of another 20 year conviction of a poverty-stricken 22 year old woman for drug smuggling.

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