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Sep 23, 2006 12:28 pm

Andrew Jackson, Cocaine User

NYT columnist John Tierney has been criticized lately for repeating himself. He's getting hoarse saying that drugs should be legalized. Today, once again, he repeats his message. (Click here to read his column--if, that is, you hold the keys to the Magic Kingdom of 42nd Street.)

His problem is that his material is getting stale. How many times must we be told that the war on drugs has been lost and that it is turning honest farmers into outlaws? How many times must we hear the tired analogies with Prohibition? I suggest that Tierney try a new approach. He can begin by talking about Andrew Jackson's use of cocaine. (How's that for a tease. Click on the READ MORE button if you want to know more about this.)

It's true.

In his old age, after he had left the White House, Jackson began using cocaine to ease his many ailments, many of which could be traced to the bullets he took in several duels. (Odd, though he fought in several wars he never seems to have been injured in any of them, unless you count the slash to the forehead he received as a teenager when a British soldier struck him during the Revolution.)

Jackson was so taken with the munificence of the drug that he began telling friends about it and advised them to follow his example. Cocaine, he noted, eases one's pains and puts one in an exhilerating mood. Sounding like Timothy O'Leary, he praised the higher consciousness he seemed to reach when under its influence.

I don't happen to have a position on the legalization of drugs, and I am wary of legalizing hard drugs like cocaine. (Is cocaine a hard drug?) But I'm happy to contribute to the debate. It's time the advocates use fresh arguments.

Footnote: If you are reading this Mr. Tierney and want more information, I would direct your attention to H.W. Brands's fine biography of Jackson, which quotes some choice lines from Jackson.

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