Essay date: February 2, 2020

Is Rick Doblin Running with the Devil?

The drawbacks of collaborating with a corrupt system

Is compromise really the best way to regain our human right to access the plants and fungi that grow at our very feet?  Check out these thoughts on Rick Doblin's initiatives to (eventually) legalize psychedelics by working with the DEA.

'm a big fan of Rick Doblin and his attempts to mainstream the therapeutic use of psychedelics through MAPS, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies. Rick is obviously a courageous man with the patience of a saint, given the slow-and-steady mindset that his ambitious project calls for. That said, I'm beginning to wonder if his strategy of compromise does not entail a Faustian pact with the devil - or rather with two devils, as noted below.


Take the DEA, for instance. I realize that Rick is teaming with the DEA for practical reasons, in order to make legal research possible, but I fear that such cooperation tends to legitimize the agency's role as the rightful gatekeeper for scientific drug research, as if the government should be playing such a politicized role in the first place when it comes to scientific investigation. This is the same DEA, after all, that has deprived depressive folks like myself of thousands of potential rain forest godsends for the last four decades, making our lives a shadow of what they might have been, psychologically speaking, in terms of self-fulfillment, self-realization, and the simple, humble appreciation of the wonderful world of nature that grows at our very feet.

Had researchers been given mere scientific freedom to follow up on the breathtaking therapeutic results of the work of Strassman, Fadiman, Grof et al., America would surely no longer be the most depressed country in the world, where a tenth of the population is yet addicted to the handful of mind-fogging antidepressants dealt out by modern psychiatry - an institution for which pill-peddling is unabashedly promoted as the new therapeutic paradigm. But the DEA has long said no to the mere scientific research of psychedelics, classifying them unscientifically as "schedule 1," thereby ensuring the agency's own law-enforcement workload for decades to come, all at the expense of the health, happiness and sheer human potential of the American people.

As one of the countless victims of the DEA's politically motivated crackdown on psychoactive substances (part of an eclectic victims list that runs the gamut from imprisoned minorities to morose nonagenarians wasting away in a nursing home), I can't help but think that our role as freedom-loving Americans is to loudly protest the injustice being perpetrated here, not to play by the rigged handbook of a political institution designed to strictly limit conscious awareness and keep effective medicines out of public hands.

{^When Americans aren't busy submitting sheepishly to drug tests, they are watching Drug War propaganda movies in which the DEA tortures and murders South Americans who are suspected of selling Mother Nature's plants: especially those that American politicians have gone to such trouble to demonize.}{


This points to a second problem with the MAPS back-door approach to psychedelic legalization: it seeks to destigmatize psychedelics by professionalizing their use, by putting them in the hands of materialist scientists who will analyze such substances "every which way to Sunday" in order to find the exact chemical interactions associated with their efficacy. Even if this reductionist analysis prompts the scientific community to "sign off" on the efficacy of psychedelics for treating various illnesses, the folks who will be empowered are not suffering individuals, but rather large pharmaceutical companies. If not otherwise constrained, Big Pharma will soon strip the psychedelics of all consciously noticeable effects, especially those unscientific "hallucinations" that they seem to cause, in an attempt to derive therefrom a socially acceptable "one-size-fits-all" cure for depression, yet another daily pill regimen that they can market aggressively to the statistically over-depressed American people by running slick but ethereal advertisements during commercial breaks for "Dateline NBC" and "48 Hours."

This is why leaders of the Native American Church are, I believe, justifiably leery of the new psychedelic revolution, because it is being advanced under the banner of materialist medicine, not under the banner of human freedom, personal humility, and a sincere desire to learn about oneself and one's place in the universe. To put it another way, it's one thing to destigmatize psychedelics, it's quite another to denude them of all their awe-inspiring qualities, and that's what happens when psychedelics are wrenched from the hands of a shaman and placed under the microscope of a clinician.


Don't get me wrong: I congratulate Rick Doblin on his so far successful, if frustratingly slow, approach to legalizing psychedelic therapy in America, an approach which might be described here as "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em." As for the concerns that I've highlighted above, I'm sure that MAPS is aware of them all and that they are working to obviate them wherever and whenever possible. I write this, not in order to play Sunday morning quarterback, but to remind Rick's fan club (to which I myself belong) that there is another way to address the intertwined problems of unjust drug laws and the lack of effective psychotherapy in America today. This alternative to Rick's strategy of compromise can be easily outlined as the following two-step process:

1) Reclaim the human being's right to naturally occurring substances via appealing to natural law (which, as John Locke writes, gives us unfettered access to "the earth, and all that is therein").

Then, once this basic human right has been reclaimed from power-hungry politicians...

2) Replace psychiatrists with empathic and pharmacologically savvy shamans who will improve their "patients'" psychological well-being with plant-assisted therapy, using ANY PLANT IN THE WORLD that said shaman deems propitious for achieving the goal(s) of the patient in question.

Then again, maybe I am a Sunday morning quarterback, for I see my approach to drug legalization as a kind of "hail Mary" pass, denying the right of politicians to outlaw plants in the first place, whereas Rick's strategy involves gaining a series of fiercely contested first downs by exploiting the various minor weaknesses of his opponent.

Despite our different strategies, however, we're both headed toward the same goal line, i.e. the legalization of psychedelic substances for the psychological benefit of humankind, and I'll be the first to congratulate Team MAPS should they reach the end zone before me.

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


If I want to use the kind of drugs that have inspired entire religions, fight depression, or follow up on the research of William James into altered states, I should not have to live in fear of the DEA crashing down my door and shouting: "GO! GO! GO!"
Next essay: There is no such thing as DRUGS
Previous essay: The Therapeutic Value of Anticipation

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essays about

Open Letter to Rick Doblin and Roland Griffiths
The Lopsided Focus on the Misuse and Abuse of Drugs
Why Rick Doblin is Ghosting Me
Three Problems With Rick Doblin's MAPS


(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

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  • Bilton, Anton "DMT Entity Encounters: Dialogues on the Spirit Molecule"2021 Inner Traditions/Bear & Company
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  • 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
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  • Griffiths, William "Psilocybin: A Trip into the World of Magic Mushrooms"2021 William Griffiths
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  • Head, Simon "Mindless: Why Smarter Machines Are Making Dumber Humans"2012 Basic Books
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  • Illich, Ivan "Medical nemesis : the expropriation of health"1975 Calder & Boyars
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  • 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