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How Americans Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Drug War

by Ballard Quass, the Drug War Philosopher


May 15, 2019

t all started in 1914 when bigoted politicians decided that lower-class Americans could not be trusted to use opium wisely. Suddenly Mother Nature went from being a gift-giving goddess to a common drug kingpin. Enter Richard Nixon in the sixties, who decided to further blaspheme Mother Nature by criminalizing a host of additional psychoactive substances that happened to be used by his political enemies.

It's always disappointed me that Americans have thus far hobbled together so little pushback against this denial of a birthright, this outlawing of the freely given gifts of Mother Nature, this unprecedented coup against the therapeutic goddess of humanity. The government took away our right to control our own pain and to control our own psychic condition and Americans seem to have merely sighed, asking their government, "Okay, so you want me to give up my natural birthright? Fair enough. Oh, and you want me to urinate on command to prove that I am faithful to my government? No problemo. Gee, isn't democracy just swell?"

Nowadays, when the DEA asks us to jump, Americans simply say "How high?"

For just one obvious example, browse some mycology pages online. You'll find that many mushroom hunters (professionals and hobbyists alike) want it to be known that they will have nothing to do with psychedelic mushrooms that they happen to come across. "Look at me," they seem to say, "I'm a professional mushroom hunter who is obediently ignoring the most interesting part of Mother Nature at the behest of the U.S. government. So don't expect me to write anything about your tawdry psychedelic shrooms!" Far from screaming bloody murder about their unprecedented loss of human rights, their forced separation from Mother Nature's bounty, many online mycologists pride themselves in pointing out that they study only those plants that their government will allow them to study. Thus they recast their own political timidity as patriotism.

But America's response to this usurpation has been even worse than that. We have rewritten history so that we do not have to confront the fact that we have criminalized Mother Nature in the first place. This can be seen by any regular viewer of the Great Courses program, a collection of videos presenting college courses taught by some of the most popular professors in the world.

Although I am a regular viewer of the Teaching Company's courses, I've yet to see one of their history professors so much as acknowledge the fact that the game-changing Elusinian mysteries of ancient Greece involved the use of a naturally occurring psychoactive substance similar to LSD. I've yet to see one of their biology professors allude to the psychoactive power of mushrooms. I've yet to see one of their anthropologists discuss the crucial role of natural psychedelic medicines in early South American ritual. Nor have I ever seen one of their political science professors ever mention the infamous DEA raid on Monticello in discussing the political legacy of Thomas Jefferson.

I guess this makes sense. It would be too painful for a supposedly free people to remember what we've given up, so we have rewritten history to help us pretend that Mother Nature's pharmacy was never particularly useful to us in the first place. "Humph! Mother Nature: who needs her? Let the government and Big Pharma decide what I need - and when - and at what price, too."

The good news is: modern research is showing us today how so many of the natural substances that our politicians have outlawed are proving to be godsends in therapeutic settings. My hope is that the penny will eventually drop and we'll draw the obvious conclusion from this research, namely that no naturally occurring plant is bad in and of itself, and that, as Terence McKenna once said, it is "ridiculous and obnoxious" to criminalize the freely offered medicines of Mother Nature. Perhaps someday we'll learn the ultimate lesson from today's anti-patient Drug War: that it is both scientifically stupid and a violation of basic human rights to turn Mother Nature into a drug kingpin.

Author's Follow-up: February 14, 2023


Perhaps most astonishing of all is the fact that botanists go along with the Drug War. Michael Pollan is one notable and disappointing example. Has he never stopped to consider that it's wrong for government to dictate which fauna he can legally study? If anyone should see the absurdity (and fascism) in this policy, it should be botanists. To be sure, Pollan is not himself prevented from using psychedelics despite the laws against it, so it's not clear why he thinks prohibition is effective in any case. He is not the only one who can ignore legislation. But the very idea that government could limit his studies of nature should, I maintain, be repellent to him as an American citizen. His motto should be "anything BUT prohibition," as it represents the censorship of science -- never mind the fact that it tells Americans that they cannot think and feel in certain ways. Women protest "Our bodies, ourselves," but surely the more important protest is "Our minds, ourselves," for everything starts with our perception of the world, and when government controls that, we are screwed indeed.

And why does Michael support prohibition? Because he wants to protect a vast minority of young people from themselves, young people whom we have failed to educate about substances but rather attempted to frighten them instead. And what is the result of helping this vast minority? It is that the vast majority of the depressed (and others who could benefit from mind medicine) go without medical godsends -- and those are stakeholders that Michael COMPLETELY IGNORES.

*For Michael's somewhat equivocal stance on prohibition, see page 405 of the hardback version of "How to Change Your Mind."




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Prohibition Tweets

Democratic societies need to outlaw prohibition for many reasons, the first being the fact that prohibition removes millions of minorities from the voting rolls, thereby handing elections to fascists and insurrectionists.
When folks die in horse-related accidents, we need to be asking: who sold the victim the horse? We've got to crack down on folks who peddle this junk -- and ban books like Black Beauty that glamorize horse use.
Today's Washington Post reports that "opioid pills shipped" DROPPED 45% between 2011 and 2019..... while fatal overdoses ROSE TO RECORD LEVELS! Prohibition is PUBLIC ENEMY NUMBER ONE.
The goal of drug-law reform should be to outlaw prohibition. Anything short of that, and our basic rights will always be subject to veto by fearmongers. Outlawing prohibition would restore the Natural Law of Jefferson, which the DEA scorned in 1987 with its raid on Monticello.
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."
Prohibition turned habituation into addiction by creating a wide variety of problems for users, including potential arrest, tainted or absent drug supply, and extreme stigmatization.
If we let "science" decide about drugs, i.e. base freedom on health concerns, then tea can be as easily outlawed as beer. The fact that horses are not illegal shows that prohibition is not about health. It's about the power to outlaw certain "ways of being in the world."
The formula is easy: pick a substance that folks are predisposed to hate anyway, then keep hounding the public with stories about tragedies somehow related to that substance. Show it ruining lives in movies and on TV. Don't lie. Just keep showing all the negatives.
Then folks like Sabet will accuse folks like myself of ignoring the "facts." No, it is Sabet who is ignoring the facts -- facts about dangerous horses and free climbing. He's also ignoring all the downsides of prohibition, whose laws lead to the election of tyrants.
That's the problem with prohibition. It is not ultimately a health question but a question about priorities and sensibilities -- and those topics are open to lively debate and should not be the province of science, especially when natural law itself says mother nature is ours.
I personally hate beets and I could make a health argument against their legality. Beets can kill for those allergic to them. Sure, it's a rare condition, but since when has that stopped a prohibitionist from screaming bloody murder?
I can think of no greater intrusion than to deny one autonomy over how they think and feel in life. It is sort of a meta-intrusion, the mother of all anti-democratic intrusions.
Enforced by the blatantly rights-crushing solicitation of urine from the king's subjects, as if to underscore the fact that your very digestive system is controlled by the state.
Until prohibition ends, rehab is all about enforcing a Christian Science attitude toward psychoactive medicines (with the occasional hypocritical exception of Big Pharma meds).
Philip Jenkins reports that Rophynol had positive uses for treating mental disorders until the media called it the "date rape drug." We thus punished those who were benefitting from the drug, tho' the biggest drug culprit in date rape is alcohol. Oprah spread the fear virally.
This is the "Oprah fallacy," which has led to so much suffering. She told women they were fools if they accepted a drink from a man. That's crazy. If we are terrified by such a statistically improbable event, we should be absolutely horrified by horses and skateboards.
This hysterical reaction to rare negative events actually creates more rare negative events. This is why the DEA publicizes "drug problems," because by making them well known, they make the problems more prevalent and can thereby justify their huge budget.
The Partnership for a Death Free America is launching a campaign to celebrate the 50th year of Richard Nixon's War on Drugs. We need to give credit where credit's due for the mass arrest of minorities, the inner city gun violence and the civil wars that it's generated overseas.
In 1886, coca enthusiast JJ Tschudi referred to prohibitionists as 'kickers.' He wrote: "If we were to listen to these kickers, most of us would die of hunger, for the reason that nearly everything we eat or drink has fallen under their ban."
Drug Warriors never take responsibility for incentivizing poor kids throughout the west to sell drugs. It's not just in NYC and LA, it's in modest-sized towns in France. Find public housing, you find drug dealing. It's the prohibition, damn it!
I don't believe in the materialist paradigm upon which SSRIs were created, according to which humans are interchangeable chemical robots amenable to the same treatment for human sadness. Let me use laughing gas and MDMA and coca and let the materialists use SSRIs.
What prohibitionists forget is that every popular but dangerous activity, from horseback riding to drug use, will have its victims. You cannot save everybody, and when you try to do so by law, you kill far more than you save, meanwhile destroying democracy in the process.
Prohibition is based on two huge lies: 1) that there are no benefits to drug use; and 2) that there are no downsides to prohibition.
The 1932 movie "Scarface" starts with on-screen text calling for a crackdown on armed gangs in America. There is no mention of the fact that a decade's worth of Prohibition had created those gangs in the first place.
The worst form of government is not communism, socialism or even unbridled capitalism. The worst form of government is a Christian Science Theocracy, in which the government controls how much you are allowed to think and feel in life.
The Shipiba have learned to heal human beings physically, psychologically and spiritually with what they call "onanyati," plant allies and guides, such as Bobinsana, which "envelops seekers in a cocoon of love." You know: what the DEA would call "junk."
And where did politicians get the idea that irresponsible white American young people are the only stakeholders when it comes to the question of re-legalizing drugs??? There are hundreds of millions of other stakeholders: philosophers, pain patients, the depressed.
Yes, BUT when they say "drugs plus therapy," they don't mean drugs in general. They mean a small selection of drugs that pass muster with pharmacologically clueless politicians.
I agree that Big Pharma drugs have wrought disaster when used in psychotherapy -- but it is common sense that non-Big Pharma drugs that elate could be used to prevent suicide and obviate the need for ECT.
There are a potentially vast number of non-addictive drugs that could be used strategically in therapy. They elate and "free the tongue" to help talk therapy really work. Even "addictive" drugs can be used non-addictively, prohibitionist propaganda notwithstanding.
We need to start thinking of drug-related deaths like we do about car accidents: They're terrible, and yet they should move us to make driving safer, not to outlaw driving. To think otherwise is to swallow the drug war lie that "drugs" can have no positive uses.
The DEA outlawed MDMA in 1985, thereby depriving soldiers of a godsend treatment for PTSD. Apparently, the DEA staff slept well at night in the early 2000s as American soldiers were having their lives destroyed by IEDs.
Imagine someone starting their book about antibiotics by saying that he's not trying to suggest that we actually use them. We should not have to apologize for being honest about drugs. If prohibitionists think that honesty is wrong, that's their problem.
I, for one, am actually TRYING to recommend drugs like MDMA and psilocybin as substitutes for shock therapy. In fact, I would recommend almost ANY pick-me-up drug as an alternative to knowingly damaging the human brain. That's more than the hateful DEA can say.
A pharmacologically savvy drug dealer would have no problem getting someone off one drug because they would use the common sense practice of fighting drugs with drugs. But materialist doctors would rather that the patient suffer than to use such psychologically obvious methods.
If there's any doubt about this, check out the 2021 article in Forbes in which a materialist doctor professes to doubt whether laughing gas could help the depressed. Materialists are committed to seeing the world from the POV of Spock from Star Trek.
If the depressed patient laughs, that means nothing. Materialists have to see results under a microscopic or they will never sign off on a therapy.
Oregon's drug policy is incoherent and cruel. The rich and healthy spend $4,000 a week on psilocybin. The poor and chemically dependent are thrown in jail, unless they're on SSRIs, in which case they're congratulated for "taking their meds."
Prohibitionists have blood on their hands. People do not naturally die in the tens of thousands from opioid use, notwithstanding the lies of 19th-century missionaries in China. It takes bad drug policy to accomplish that.



front cover of Drug War Comic Book

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



You have been reading an article entitled, How Americans Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Drug War published on May 15, 2019 on AbolishTheDEA.com. For more information about America's disgraceful drug war, which is anti-patient, anti-minority, anti-scientific, anti-mother nature, imperialistic, the establishment of the Christian Science religion, a violation of the natural law upon which America was founded, and a childish and counterproductive way of looking at the world, one which causes all of the problems that it purports to solve, and then some, visit the drug war philosopher, at abolishTheDEA.com. (philosopher's bio; go to top of this page)