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

Every one of them took the fifth

by Ballard Quass, the Drug War Philosopher

October 9, 2020

"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.1

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 religion2 - 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 millennia3. 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 depression4. 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, right5?

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)6.

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 coca7 (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.

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?

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.

Author's Follow-up: March 28, 2024

picture of clock metaphorically suggesting a follow-up

This is why I throw up my hands in desperation when folks in the blog-o-sphere try to tell me that all is well, that philosophers are fully taking into account the insights from psychedelic use -- which is a surprise to me, given the fact that I am the only philosopher in the world who has protested against the outlawing of William James's laughing gas on philosophical grounds.

In other words, I keep getting gaslit on this topic, by niche enthusiasts who fail to comprehend the mass disconnect that exists today between mainstream philosophy and the world of psychoactive medicine8.


1 James, William, The Varieties of Religious Experience, Philosophical Library, New York, 1902 (up)
2 Christian Science is the religion of Mary Baker Eddy, who believed that drug use was wrong because all problems, mental and physical, were to be solved by praying to Jesus Christ. (up)
3 Quass, Brian, Let's burn some plants!, 2019 (up)
4 Quass, Brian, In Defense of Cocaine, 2024 (up)
5 Horses Kill, The Partnership for a Death Free America, (up)
6 Quass, Brian, The War on Drugs and the Psychiatric Pill Mill, 2023 (up)
7 Mortimer MD, W. Golden, Coca: Divine Plant of the Incas, Ronin Publishing, Berkeley, California, 2017 (up)
8 Quass, Brian, You Have Been Gaslit!, 2024 (up)

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Some Tweets against the hateful war on drugs

The best step we could take in harm reduction is re-legalizing everything and starting to teach safe use. Spend the DEA's billions on "go" teams that would descend on locations where drugs are being used stupidly -- not to arrest, but to educate.
The Holy Trinity of the Drug War religion is Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and John Belushi. "They died so that you might fear psychoactive substances with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength."
We need a scheduling system for psychoactive drugs as much as we need a scheduling system for sports activities: i.e. NOT AT ALL. Some sports are VERY dangerous, but we do not outlaw them because we know that there are benefits both to sports and to freedom in general.
Addiction thrives BECAUSE of prohibition, which outlaws drug alternatives and discourages education about psychoactive substances and how to use them wisely.
By reading "Drug Warriors and Their Prey," I begin to understand why I encounter a wall of silence when I write to authors and professors on the subject of "drugs." The mere fact that the drug war inspires such self-censorship should be grounds for its immediate termination.
If media were truly free in America, you'd see documentaries about people who use drugs safely, something that's completely unimaginable in the age of the drug war.
Clearly a millennia's worth of positive use of coca by the Peruvian Indians means nothing to the FDA. Proof must show up under a microscope.
Getting off antidepressants can make things worse for only one reason: because we have outlawed all the drugs that could help with the transition. Right now, getting off any drug basically means become a drug-free Christian Scientist. No wonder withdrawal is hard.
After over a hundred years of prohibition, America has developed a kind of faux science in which despised substances are completely ignored. This is why Sci Am is making a new argument for shock therapy in 2023, because they ignore all the stuff that OBVIOUSLY cheers one up.
I'm told antidepressant withdrawal is fine because it doesn't cause cravings. Why is it better to feel like hell than to have a craving? In any case, cravings are caused by prohibition. A sane world could also end cravings with the help of other drugs.
More Tweets

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front cover of Drug War Comic Book

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You have been reading an article entitled, I asked 100 American philosophers what they thought about the Drug War: Every one of them took the fifth, published on October 9, 2020 on 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 (philosopher's bio; go to top of this page)