Celebrity chef Nigella Lawson was prevented from entering the US due to her past admission of drug use. The Department of Homeland Security confirmed to NBC News that this admission is indeed the reason for her restriction.
However, as fellow celebrity chef, Anthony Bourdain, noted: Rob Ford was not prohibited from entering the US. For those who are unfamiliar with the Mayor of Toronto, Mr. Ford has a penchant for saying outrageous things and a healthy appetite for crack cocaine.
Similarly, Russell Brand is another celebrity who is quite open about his past struggles with drug addiction and alcoholism, yet he has not been restricted from travelling within the US either.
While other celebrities like Boy George or the late Amy Winehouse had faced restrictions, they had been convicted of drug charges.
Lawson has not.
So what is it that sets her apart?
It is a very valid question.
Apparently, admitting to “committing acts which constitute the essential elements” of a crime is enough for border agents to refuse entry. However, it is at the discretion of the agent whether or not to ask about drug use or abuse. In the case of Rob Ford, who was introduced to Americans as “Toronto’s crack smoking mayor,” it appears as if the agent at the time did not ask about his history.
In other words, it is entirely possible that Ford will have a very tough time re-entering the US given Lawson’s refusal for entry.
Why should we care, though?
It is yet one more policy that separates addicts, clean or not, from all walks of life from other everyday citizens. It is one more example of choosing to stick our heads in the sand rather than acknowledge that, unfortunately, drug abuse and drug addiction are global and prolific problems in today’s world. Until we realize and accept that, we will continue to engage in insane behavior by pursuing methods that have been largely ineffective for decades.
It is also problematic, given the direction in which American legislation is moving. Marijuana has been legalized in several states medicinally, while Washington D.C. recently decriminalized possession, and Washington and Colorado have outright legalized it recreationally. While we are all for treatment of addiction and substance abuse (obviously), this sometimes-legal-sometimes-not status for one of the most widely used and abused drugs on the planet makes travel into America an unpredictable prospect.
It also brings up another interesting question. What about those coming to the States for help with their problem? Recovery and the whole idea behind the self-help movement has spread around the world, and it started right here in the US. What does it say if we refuse those honestly looking to come here where the concept began?
Perhaps most importantly, though, is the arbitrary method in which this is applied. When it is explicitly stated that enforcement is discretionary, the only real outcome can be abuse.
Travelling Drug Users
What do you think? Is this an antiquated policy, or still relevant? Let’s hear it!