An American Drug Policy Alliance board member and cannabis legalization proponent has left a drug conference in the Philippines after public disparagement from President Rodrigo Duterte and numerous death threats, according to a report from Leafly.
Dr. Carl Hart, chairman of the psychology department at Columbia University, visited the country to attend a drug policy forum at the University of the Philippines. The neuroscientist is known for his advocacy of progressive drug laws. A paper he co-wrote in 2014 challenged the idea that methamphetamine use causes brain damage.
During the forum in the Philippines, Hart spoke on his views, which stand in direct opposition to the stance taken by the Philippine government and Duterte. Duterte has become infamous for his hardline stance on drug crimes, which has resulted in roughly 7,000 executions and police shootings. The Philippine President claims to be personally responsible for the executions of drug dealers and has encouraged unemployed Filipinos to take it upon themselves to “kill all the drug addicts.”
In a speech at the forum, Dr. Hart said that there was no evidence to backup the government’s claims that drug users are violent and antisocial. Data used as evidence of the relationship between meth and brain damage, Hart said, has come from studies in which animals were fed much higher doses of the drug than human meth addicts usually take.
Duterte then personally attacked Hart in the media, telling the Philippine Star that the esteemed scientist, “said shabu [local slang for meth] does not damage the brain.” “That’s why that son of a bitch who has gone crazy came here to make announcements,” Duterte added.
The President went on to racialize his comments directed at Hart, an African-American, when Duterte attacked another speaker at the forum, Agnes Callamard. Callamard is the UN’s special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions, who needless to say is not a fan of Duterte, a leader best known for his extrajudicial, summary, and arbitrary executions.
“She should go [on] a honeymoon with that black guy, the American. I will pay for their travel,” Duterte said of Callamard. “They should be together and discuss.”
Following the president’s verbal attacks, Hart received a number of death threats on social media, and chose to leave the forum ahead of schedule and return to the U.S.
Commenting on the events, Drug Policy Alliance Board President Ira Glasser released a statement, saying, “The Drug Policy Alliance condemns President Rodrigo Duterte for his implied threats against our board member, Dr. Carl Hart, the world-renowned neuroscientist who chairs Columbia University’s Department of Psychology. In light of the Duterte regime’s murderous history, such targeted statements cannot be taken lightly, or dismissed as rhetoric. Over the course of his presidency, Duterte has made chilling threats to human rights defenders in the Philippines, vowing to kill them if they attempt to intervene in his war on drugs.”
Photo via Wikimedia Commons