August 20, 2020
What Obama got wrong about drugsby Ballard Quass
Although President Obama's views on drug law were a great improvement over those of his Stalinist predecessors (Reagan and the two Bushes who shamefully called on kids to "turn in" their parents for using substances of which politicians disapprove) his desire to be "scientific" about drugs raises at least three major problems of its own.
1) Why need we turn to science to justify the legalization of plant medicines that were unconstitutionally criminalized in the first place? Surely, a country founded on natural law cannot justifiably deny its citizens the right to access the plants and fungi that grow at their very feet. To turn the discussion to science is to yield unnecessary ground to the drug warrior, saying in effect: "Yes, of course, citizens cannot be trusted with free access to all of Mother Nature's bounty, but let's decide which plants can be legal on a scientific basis." That's as much as to say, "Yes, drug warrior, we agree on one thing: that common law must now triumph over natural law, given the prevalence of all these nasty drugs out there in Mother Nature."
2) Natural law aside, the subject of drugs is not merely a scientific issue. It is also an aesthetic, spiritual and political one. This is because illegal substances can endow the user with a whole new view of life, especially viewpoints that are thought to be left-leaning, including a love for nature and a feeling of unity with all of humankind. It is therefore tyrannical and partisan to render such new outlooks criminal. It is an attempt on the part of government to discourage certain ways of thinking about the world. It is thus the ultimate form of governmental mind control. And that is not a tyranny that science is going to solve for us: it is a question of fundamental freedom in a modern democracy: either we have the freedom to entertain new outlooks that these substances can facilitate or we don't.
Consider how the eccentric character Augustus Bedloe saw the natural world around him with the help of morphine in the Edgar Allan Poe story entitled "Tale of the Ragged Mountains":
"In the meantime the morphine had its customary effect- that of enduing all the external world with an intensity of interest. In the quivering of a leaf- in the hue of a blade of grass- in the shape of a trefoil- in the humming of a bee- in the gleaming of a dew-drop- in the breathing of the wind- in the faint odors that came from the forest- there came a whole universe of suggestion- a gay and motley train of rhapsodical and immethodical thought."
I don't know about you, but I want that kind of wide-awake life, rather than to drowsily trudge through God's scenery with dull eyes and shuffling step, and science's view on my desires is irrelevant. Science may play an advisory role in telling me the downsides of morphine use as a means to living such a lifestyle (no doubt there are safer means through, say, the guided use of certain psychedelics), but their advice will be laughably hypocritical to me until the day when they are free to tell me both the subjective good sides and the objective bad sides of ALL psychoactive substances, including Big Pharma pills and alcohol. Instead, most "drug information" focuses on the negative properties of illegal substances alone, thereby reinforcing drug war propaganda which says that substances can only bring about evil once they have been criminalized by American politicians.
Which brings up the final problem with the "scientific" approach to drugs:
3) Even science is political when it focuses only on specific aspects of a supposed problem. That's why science today has zero street cred in lecturing me on drug misuse. This is because it completely ignores the fact that 1 in 8 American men and 1 in 4 American women are addicted to Big Pharma meds. If 1 in 4 American women were addicted to morphine, conservative politicians would be screaming for martial law to be put in place, allowing the government to do constitutionally shady things to quash the scourge of drug abuse. The last thing they want is a drug being popularized which gives the user a "touchy-feely" outlook on life: it might cause them to vote for Democrats, after all.
But what is the difference between me being addicted to the daily use of morphine and me being addicted to the daily use of Big Pharma meds? There's no doubt which I would personally choose if I had to be addicted to SOMETHING. It's really a no-brainer: do I want morphine to facilitate deep insights into the world around me, or do I want my emotional life to be "tamped down" by Big Pharma meds? Um, I'll take the morphine, please, hold the moralizing. Why? Because addiction itself is not necessarily a problem if a safe supply of one's chosen poison is reliably available to the user: the problem is being addicted to a substance that keeps you from attaining self-actualization in life.
Relax, Drug Warriors: I'm not advocating morphine use: rather I'm advocating free but informed decision making regarding all substance use, which is nothing more radical than the status quo that existed in the American Republic until 1914, when racist politician Francis Burton Harrison first outlawed a plant in violation of the natural law upon which America was founded.
Dr. William Stewart Halsted, co-founder of Johns Hopkins medical school, was a lifelong morphine addict. Sound shocking? Well, check your hypocritical astonishment at the door, because thousands of famous and worthy men today are addicted to Big Pharma meds and use them every single day of their life. As Thomas Szasz reports in "Ceremonial Chemistry," Halsted was able to adjust his dosage so that he appeared eminently sober while yet having the increased energy and focus that the drug facilitated in him. Interviewed late in life, his colleagues professed astonishment that he could have done so much IN SPITE OF his morphine use, never stopping to think that he may have done so much BECAUSE OF his morphine use. If Americans thought rationally about drugs, they would reserve their astonishment for folks who achieve a great deal in life while yet taking modern-day anti-depressants, since those latter drugs have been shown to conduce to emotional flat-lining in long-term users.