Essay date: October 9, 2020

I asked 100 American philosophers what they thought about the Drug War

Every one of them took the fifth

American philosophers are afraid of speaking out against the War on Drugs

"No account of the universe in its totality can be final which leaves these other forms of consciousness quite disregarded. How to regard them is the question--for they are so discontinuous with ordinary consciousness." -- William James.

I recently sent a 16-page pamphlet to 100 American philosophy professors, urging them to fight back against the philosophical absurdities by which the Drug War has bamboozled Americans into renouncing natural law and embracing the government-mandated religion of Christian Science. I reminded these philosophical giants how this Drug War demonizes all psychoactive products that are not created by Big Pharma, meanwhile imprisoning a record number of minorities and creating civil wars overseas out of whole cloth. I pointed out how the Drug War creates all the problems that it purports to solve and turns a politically created category called drugs (chiefly meaning "mother nature's plant medicines") into an all-purpose scapegoat for social problems.

I went on to explain how the corrupt DEA -- which has used chemical weapons against "its own people," and with impunity -- has lied about psychoactive plant medicines for almost 50 years now, also with impunity, leading us to believe that the agency has so much power now that its very existence is a threat to the democratic process. I then expatiated at length upon the DEA's role in quashing medical and botanical research, including the study of plants that show promise for treating Alzheimer's disease, decrying the anti-scientific nature of the prohibitions in question and likening them to the impediments that the Church of Galileo's day erected for the 16th-century cosmologist.

In short, when I came away from the local post office after licking 300 stamps (two 25's and a 10 per envelope) I was pretty happy with myself: I had woken up the philosophical world to the mother of all American calamities: the overthrow of natural law and the establishment of Christian Science as America's state religion - a calamity that the layperson more commonly refers to as "the Drug War." Surely it would not be long now before these academic worthies started speaking truth to Imperial power, right? (Hey, we go overseas to burn plants that have been used responsibly by non-Western cultures for millennia. How's that for imperialism?)

I know what you're asking right now: after spending three days and $50 to send this snail mail heads-up to the best American philosophers of our time, how many responses did I get back in the course of two months or so of patient waiting on my part? Hmm?

May I have the envelope, please?

[drum roll]

Zero. I received exactly zero responses. Hmm. Maybe Stephen Hawking had a point about philosophy being irrelevant.

Then you can hardly blame them. They really could be driven from their universities, should they have the gall to point out that the emperor is wearing no clothes. After all, Americans' bias against mother nature's psychoactive plant medicines has been beaten into them for half a century and more, chiefly by the propaganda of omission, whereby we Statesiders never - but never - see or read about the positive and life-affirming uses of criminalized plant medicines by people and societies. Indeed nowadays, you merely have to say the word "cocaine" in public to give a Drug Warrior a coronary, so used are they to an obedient silence on the topic of that officially hated substance - never mind the fact that Sigmund Freud considered it a godsend for the treatment of depression. Besides, Americans know that all substances magically start frying the brain the very second that they are criminalized by politicians. Hey, this was shown in an actual TV ad: it has to be true, right?

So philosophers better lay low indeed. We Americans are all now confirmed Christian Scientists, when it comes to plant medicine. Just say no, we cry, as we reach for another Adderall or Zoloft. Speaking of which, 1 in 4 American women are hooked on Big Pharma meds while Americans in general are the most drug-taking race on earth (thanks largely to today's psychiatric pill mill) but, to cite the catchphrase from those old Leslie Nielsen movies, "that's not important right now." The important thing (to have our politicians tell it, anyway) is that we hold mother nature's psychoactive plant medicines in contempt, like all good scientistic Christians. Just let go and let medical science (addict you, that is).

Given this addle-brained zeitgeist, why should an academic risk his or her career by speaking out? Besides, maybe they have other priorities, like (oh, I don't know) say, slamming patriarchy? or proving that we're all living in a Matrix? or that we're all brains in a vat? or else explaining why morality is an artificial construct?

Well, in THAT case, let's hope that morality IS an artificial construct, otherwise it's downright immoral of these philosophers to ignore the Drug War like this and the many evils that it brings about daily, in inner cities via gunfire, in nursing homes via the government prohibition on godsend mind meds, and overseas via the civil wars that are created when one idiotically outlaws a natural substance that has been used responsibly for millennia by non-Western cultures. Philosophers are the people who are supposed to think straight when everyone else is caught up in the passionate lies of the times. Why this roaring silence from the ivory tower?

Of course, I can't presume to know why these 100 philosophers stonewalled me to a man (and/or to a woman). Perhaps they really fear for their jobs. Perhaps they're all Christian scientists (every mother's son of them, and every father's daughter) and they all considered me a heretic. Search me.

But to show you just what a principled guy I am, I am not going to "call any of them out" here by publishing their names in order to task them for their nonresponse. That would just plain be wrong. Sure, I was (how should I say this) a trifle "wounded" by their unanimous indifference to my admittedly humble person, but hey, I'm a big boy now, I'm strong. Revenge would be a sign of weakness. Take Professor Kit Fine, for instance, at NYU. I am definitely NOT going to call her out for ignoring me. What would be the point of that? I'm also going to overlook the oversight of her colleague David Chalmers in this regard. Mercy before justice, say I. As for Professor Steven Diner of Rutgers: his status as a non-responder is a secret that I'm going to take to my grave - along with the never-to-be-mentioned fact that Princeton Professor Elizabeth Harman "cut me" ruthlessly in the self-same manner. Live and let live, say I.

Of course, there's always the off chance that my entire mailing list considers me a nobody and therefore felt no compunction in failing to acknowledge my (ahem) somewhat painstakingly compiled pamphlet (for which I made two trips to Staples, by the way, to buy all the relevant envelopes, labels and copier paper, not to mention the opportunity cost of spending an hour at the post office licking stamps).

Snarkiness aside, however: all I really want to do is end the war on drugs and re-legalize all of mother nature's plant medicines, meanwhile not only abolishing the DEA but holding its leaders responsible for poisoning Americans and lying about Mother Nature's godsend plant meds. (If we could reaffirm the demagogue-thwarting principle of Natural Law while we're at it, that would be so much gravy.) Should my pamphlet eventually prod just one of these so-far tight-lipped academics to help me check off these desiderata on my philosophical bucket list, then I will consider my epistolary exertions in that quarter to have been a success. As for their indifference to me personally, all will be forgiven. No harm, no foul. Namaste, padres. Namaste.

That said, would it really have been so difficult for just one of them to say, "Thanks for the reminder about the need for immediate action against this great hydra-headed injustice, Brian. Well done, you"?

What? I'm just sayin'.

September 27, 2022

Brian's not alone in being rudely "cut" by academia. When author W. Golden Mortimer was performing research on his eye-opening book about coca (spoiler alert: turns out coca and cocaine are two very different drugs)... he wrote to hundreds in academia -- not to persuade them, as Brian had done, but merely to get their input on the subject of coca. And guess what? Almost no one responded. Worse yet, those who did were actually indignant that he would dare even write about such a subject. That's where our policy of substance demonization has gotten us: now we cannot even investigate the subject of medicines that have inspired entire religions. Instead of protesting against the very concept of free research, academics should be protesting the fact that they are discouraged and even forbidden from investigating medicines thanks to the US government. But American academics have yet to realize, let alone to admit, that they are censored by their government just as much as Galileo was censored by the church. And today's censorship is far more insidious because it is reinforced by so much propaganda (chiefly the propaganda of omission whereby we ignore all positive use of demonized medicine), that the censorship is completely invisible to modern scholars.

W. Golden Mortimer. "Coca: Divine Plant of the Incas." January 01, 2017.

Author's Follow-up: September 30, 2022

Speaking of academia, Great Courses/Wondrium had a live online meet-up with Philosopher Patrick Grim. I decided to attend this meeting virtually so that I could ask Patrick a simple question: how can one fairly and fully evaluate topics like mind and reality and consciousness in the age of a Drug War when we're not allowed to follow up the powerful leads that psychoactive substances give us concerning consciousness and reality, etc.?

I saw distinct Mesoamerican imagery after consuming peyote in Arizona four years ago. How does materialism account for that, Patrick?

Speaking Truth to Academia

Spoiler alert: Patrick avoided the question entirely. This is not to pick on Patrick, for almost every modern philosopher reckons without the Drug War. The philosophers say with Mistress Quickly in Merry Wives of Windsor:

"I'll ne'er put my finger in the fire, and need not."

What was really disconcerting was, my question for Patrick was automatically deleted by some Wondrium algorithm which had "decided" that I was a troublemaker or a troll. Why? Because I was talking about "drugs." I found that rather chilling, that even to mention the subject of drugs in other than a demonizing light is to become an enemy of the people, someone whose views are no longer to be tolerated in polite society. Fortunately, when I complained about my post being automatically deleted, Wondrium was willing and able to salvage it and re-post it.

Buy the Drug War Comic Book by Brian Quass, featuring 150 hilarious op-ed pics about America's disgraceful war on Americans


For those who want to understand what's going on with the drug war from a philosophical point of view, I strongly recommend chapter six of "Eugenics and Other Evils" by GK Chesterton.
The American Philosophy Association should make itself useful and release a statement saying that the drug war is based on fallacious reasoning, namely, the idea that substances can be bad in themselves, without regard for why, when, where and/or how they are used.
Next essay: How the Atlantic Supports the Drug War
Previous essay: What You Can Do

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(seemingly useful organizations)

Sana Collective
Group committed to making psychedelic therapy available to all regardless of income.

You have been reading essays by the Drug War Philosopher, Brian Quass, at Brian is the founder of The Drug War Gift Shop, where artists can feature and sell their protest artwork online. He has also written for Sociodelic and is the author of The Drug War Comic Book, which contains 150 political cartoons illustrating some of the seemingly endless problems with the war on drugs -- many of which only Brian seems to have noticed, by the way, judging by the recycled pieties that pass for analysis these days when it comes to "drugs." That's not surprising, considering the fact that the category of "drugs" is a political category, not a medical or scientific one.

A "drug," as the world defines the term today, is "a substance that has no good uses for anyone, ever, at any time, under any circumstances" -- and, of course, there are no substances of that kind: even cyanide and the deadly botox toxin have positive uses: a war on drugs is therefore unscientific at heart, to the point that it truly qualifies as a superstition, one in which we turn inanimate substances into boogie-men and scapegoats for all our social problems.

The Drug War is, in fact, the philosophical problem par excellence of our time, premised as it is on a raft of faulty assumptions (notwithstanding the fact that most philosophers today pretend as if the drug war does not exist). It is a war against the poor, against minorities, against religion, against science, against the elderly, against the depressed, against those in pain, against children in hospice care, and against philosophy itself. (For proof of that latter charge, check out how the US and UK have criminalized the substances that William James himself told us to study in order to understand reality.) It outlaws substances that have inspired entire religions (like the Vedic), Nazifies the English language (referring to folks who emulate drug-loving Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin as "scumbags") and militarizes police forces nationwide (resulting in gestapo SWAT teams breaking into houses of peaceable Americans and shouting "GO GO GO!").

(Speaking of Nazification, L.A. Police Chief Daryl Gates thought that drug users should be shot. What a softie! The real hardliners are the William Bennetts of the world who want drug users to be beheaded instead. That will teach them to use time-honored plant medicine of which politicians disapprove! Mary Baker Eddy must be ecstatic in her drug-free heaven, as she looks down and sees this modern inquisition on behalf of the drug-hating principles that she herself maintained. I bet she never dared hope that her religion would become the viciously enforced religion of America, let alone of the entire freakin' world!)

In short, the drug war causes all of the problems that it purports to solve, and then some, meanwhile violating the Natural Law upon which Thomas Jefferson founded America. (Surely, Jefferson was rolling over in his grave when Ronald Reagan's DEA stomped onto Monticello in 1987 and confiscated the founding father's poppy plants.)

If you believe in freedom and democracy, in America and around the world, please stay tuned for more philosophically oriented broadsides against the outrageous war on godsend medicines, AKA the war on drugs.

Brian Quass
The Drug War Philosopher

PS The drug war has not failed: to the contrary, it has succeeded, insofar as its ultimate goal was to militarize police forces around the world and help authorities to ruthlessly eliminate those who stand in the way of global capitalism. For more, see Drug War Capitalism by Dawn Paley. Oh, and did I mention that most Drug Warriors these days would never get elected were it not for the Drug War itself, which threw hundreds of thousands of their political opposition in jail? Trump was right for the wrong reasons: elections are being stolen in America, but the number-one example of that fact is his own narrow victory in 2016, which could never have happened without the existence of laws that were specifically written to keep Blacks and minorities from voting. The Drug War, in short, is a cancer on the body politic.

PPS Drugs like opium and psychedelics should come with the following warning: "Outlawing of this product may result in inner-city gunfire, civil wars overseas, and rigged elections in which drug warriors win office by throwing minorities in jail."

Rather than apologetically decriminalizing selected plants, we should be demanding the immediate restoration of Natural Law, according to which "The earth, and all that is therein, is given to men for the support and comfort of their being." (John Locke)

Selected Bibliography

  • Bandow, Doug "From Fighting The Drug War To Protecting The Right To Use Drugs"2018
  • Barrett, Damon "Children of the Drug War: Perspectives on the Impact of Drug Polices on Young People"2011 IDEBATE Press
  • Bernays, Edward "Propaganda"1928 Public Domain
  • Bilton, Anton "DMT Entity Encounters: Dialogues on the Spirit Molecule"2021 Inner Traditions/Bear & Company
  • Boullosa , Carmen "A Narco History: How the United States and Mexico Jointly Created the 'Mexican Drug War'"2016 OR Books
  • Brereton, William "The Truth about Opium / Being a Refutation of the Fallacies of the Anti-Opium Society and a Defence of the Indo-China Opium Trade"2017 Anna Ruggieri
  • Burns, Eric "1920: The year that made the decade roar"2015 Pegasus Books
  • Carpenter, Ted Galen "The Fire Next Door: Mexico's Drug Violence and the Danger to America"2012 Cato Institute
  • Chesterton, GK "Saint Thomas Acquinas"2014 BookBaby
  • Filan, Kenaz "The Power of the Poppy: Harnessing Nature's Most Dangerous Plant Ally"2011 Inner Traditions/Bear & Company
  • Gianluca, Toro "Drugs of the Dreaming: Oneirogens"2007 Simon and Schuster
  • Griffiths, William "Psilocybin: A Trip into the World of Magic Mushrooms"2021 William Griffiths
  • Grof, Stanislav "The transpersonal vision: the healing potential of nonordinary states of consciousness"1998 Sounds True
  • Head, Simon "Mindless: Why Smarter Machines Are Making Dumber Humans"2012 Basic Books
  • Hofmann, Albert "The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants: Ethnopharmacology and Its Applications"2005 Inner Traditions/Bear & Company
  • Illich, Ivan "Medical nemesis : the expropriation of health"1975 Calder & Boyars
  • Irwin-Rogers, Keir "Illicit Drug Markets, Consumer Capitalism and the Rise of Social Media: A Toxic Trap for Young People"2019
  • James, William "The Varieties of Religious Experience"1902 Philosophical Library
  • Lindstrom, Martin "Brandwashed: tricks companies use to manipulate our minds and persuade us to buy"2011 Crown Business
  • Mariani, Angelo "Coca and its Therapeutic Application, Third Edition"1896
  • Miller, Richard Lawrence "Drug Warriors and Their Prey: From Police Power to Police State"1966 Bloomsbury Academic
  • Mortimer MD, W. Golden "Coca: Divine Plant of the Incas"2017 Ronin Publishing
  • Nagel, Thomas "Mind and Cosmos: why the materialist neo-Darwinian conception of nature is almost certainly false"2012 Oxford University press
  • Newcombe, Russell "Intoxiphobia: discrimination toward people who use drugs"2014
  • Partridge, Chiristopher "Alistair Crowley on Drugs"2021 uploaded by Misael Hernandez
  • Rosenblum, Bruce "Quantum Enigma: Physics Encounters Consciousness"2006 Oxford University Press
  • Rudgley, Richard "The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Substances"2014 Macmillan Publishers
  • Shulgin, Alexander "PIHKAL: A Chemical Love Story"1991 Transform Press
  • Shulgin, Alexander "The Nature of Drugs Vol. 1: History, Pharmacology, and Social Impact"2021 Transform Press
  • Smith, Wolfgang "Cosmos and Transcendence: Breaking Through the Barrier of Scientistic Belief"0
  • Smith, Wolfgang "Physics: A Science in Quest of an Ontology"2022
  • St John, Graham "Mystery School in Hyperspace: A Cultural History of DMT"2021
  • Szasz, Thomas "Interview With Thomas Szasz: by Randall C. Wyatt"0
  • Wedel, Janine "Unaccountable: How the Establishment Corrupted Our Finances, Freedom and Politics and Created an Outsider Class"2014 Pegasus Books
  • Weil, Andrew "From Chocolate to Morphine: Everything You Need to Know About Mind-Altering Drugs"2004 Open Road Integrated Media
  • Whitaker, Robert "Mad in America"2002 Perseus Publishing
  • Site and its contents copyright 2023, by Brian B. Quass, the drug war philosopher at For more information, contact Brian at