Essay date: June 15, 2023


how to protest the 1987 DEA raid on Monticello

Listen to this misguided tour of Jefferson's Monticello.

In 1987, the DEA stomped onto Monticello and confiscated Thomas Jefferson's poppy plants in violation of the Natural Law upon which he had founded America. Yet the Thomas Jefferson Foundation has never complained about the raid nor even acknowledged that it happened.

This is a betrayal of Thomas Jefferson's legacy. And it is long past time that someone speak up for Jefferson, since the foundation that is charged with that task is clearly afraid to do so.

You can help by writing to the Thomas Jefferson Foundation and asking them to acknowledge the DEA raid and complain about it on behalf of Thomas Jefferson and Natural Law, which tells us that we have a right to the use of what John Locke called the earth "and all that lies therein."

Meanwhile, why not write a letter to the Sites of Conscience website and tell them that Monticello should not remain a "Site of Conscience" as long as the estate's overseers, the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, refuses to acknowledge the raid, let alone protest its violation of the Natural Law upon which Jefferson founded America.

Below you can find my attempts to contact the Thomas Jefferson Foundation on this subject. I received a prompt response from the Manager of Guest Services, David Blumenstock, but he simply told me that he was sorry that I did not think that the Foundation had adequately covered the event and said he'd let the staff know how I felt. I replied that, as far as I was aware, the Foundation had not covered the event AT ALL. I then asked that the Foundation tell me otherwise if I was wrong. But I have yet to hear back from them.

Bookmark this page and check back to read my latest letters whereby I hope to do right by Thomas Jefferson and his shamefully neglected legacy of inalienable rights.


MAY 26, 2023

Dear Sir or Madam:

I think it is a shame that your organization has hushed up the DEA raid of 1987. That raid was a betrayal of the Natural Law upon which Thomas Jefferson founded America. Please be honest with your visitors and tell them how that legacy was betrayed in the name of fear mongering. Instead of burning t-shirts that showed poppy plants, you should create t-shirts that show the DEA confiscating those plants.

That event may not have bothered the Foundation, but the opium-loving Jefferson was surely rolling in his grave when the government marched onto his estate to confiscate a plant!

Nothing shows the outrageousness of the Drug War more than the 1987 raid. The only thing more unforgivable, would be an attempt to pretend that the raid did not even happen. Sadly, that's what the Foundation has done thus far. How can you remain a "site of conscience" when you pretend that nothing even happened. You owe it to the country and free debate to tell the story of the DEA raid.

Dear Brian,

MAY 31, 2023

Thank you for reaching out to us with your concerns. We regret to learn that you feel that we are not covering this story of the poppy plants as fully as you might want. We strive to give our guests an experience that meets their expectations and I have shared your feedback with the appropriate staff for consideration in future communications about this unique aspect of Monticello's history. Thanks once again for sharing your feedback with us, we appreciate your interest in Monticello.

Best regards,


JUNE 1, 2023

Thanks, Dave.

If you are covering the story at all, I'd be interested in learning how. Are visitors being informed of the 1987 raid? Are they told that the raid violated the natural law upon which Jefferson founded America? Are they told that Jefferson would have considered the raid an anathema and the ultimate violation of Jeffersonian principles?

I realize that no organizations like to confront the Drug War. There's typically nothing to gain by it and plenty to lose. Unfortunately, the Thomas Jefferson Foundation is between the proverbial rock and a hard place on this topic. It cannot help but take a side in this question. If you are silent, then you are implicitly signing off on the overthrow of the natural law upon which your benefactor founded America.

If you deny that the raid was such a violation, then you owe it to your visitors to explain what Thomas Jefferson meant by natural law. For if the right to Mother Nature is not guaranteed by natural law (as John Locke himself affirmed in his Second Treatise on Government), then it is no longer clear what Natural Law even means.

I would say that you should "cover the controversy," but that should not be an option when one's opponents (the Drug Warriors) believe that they can overthrow natural law with impunity and stomp onto private property in order to confiscate plants. In other words, there are not two rational viewpoints here; there are those who believe in Jeffersonian principles and those who do not; and the Foundation should be unashamedly on the side of those who do.

The 1987 raid came at a time when fearmongering was at its height, a time when kids were encouraged by the Reagan administration to "turn in" their parents for using plant medicines of which politicians disapproved (a practice that Stalin himself would have happily endorsed). If Jefferson is to have any credibility and relevance in 21st century America, then the raid needs to be not only acknowledged, but denounced by those who claim to support Jefferson's legacy.

Not only does the Drug War overthrow natural law, but it denies us the pursuit of happiness upon which Thomas Jefferson founded America, as drug expert Dr. Carl L. Hart explains in his new book "Drug Use for Grown-Ups."

In short, I believe that the Foundation does not have the luxury of being neutral about the Drug War. You can be for the Drug War or you can be for Jefferson, but not both. By saying nothing on these topics, you merely choose the side of the Drug War, thereby leaving your Foundation open to all-too-credible charges of hypocrisy.

Sincerely Yours,

PS Thanks in advance for sharing my concerns with the appropriate staff members.

And here's the letter that I wrote to the Sites of Conscience, from which I'm still waiting to hear back. Monticello is listed on its website as a Site of Conscience, a designation that I believe should be withdrawn until such time as the Foundation that runs Monticello acknowledges the DEA raid of 1987 and complains about it, for that raid was a violation of everything that Thomas Jefferson stood for in the way of natural rights, those rights upon which he founded America and which he believed were inalienable.

MAY 26, 2023

Dear Sir or Madam:

In 1987, the DEA stomped onto Monticello and confiscated Thomas Jefferson's poppy plants in violation of the natural law upon which he had founded America. The Thomas Jefferson Foundation quickly caved to all demands and even burnt t-shirts that showed pictures of the poppy, without even having been asked to do so. Of course, they were under legal duress at the time and employees could have even been jailed for not playing ball with the DEA. However, that does not excuse the fact that, since that time, the Foundation has never told the story of that raid to the public. They have pretended that the raid never even happened.

This is a betrayal of Jefferson's legacy. It is a coverup.

The Jefferson Foundation should tell that story to its visitors and donors.

The failure to do so, I strongly believe, should deny the Foundation its privilege of being classified as a "Site of Conscience." Surely, the least that can be expected of such a site is that its representatives speak up against injustice. Instead, they have pretended that the injustice did not even happen.

The hallowed ground of Monticello is no longer hallowed and will not be, until the Foundation starts defending those principles that Thomas Jefferson himself stood for: natural law and what John Locke himself called the use of the earth "and all that lies therein."

I believe that if the title of "Sites of Conscience" is to remain meaningful, you must insist that the Jefferson Foundation acknowledge the raid and disclose all relevant details to the public.

SIncerely Yours,
Baye, Virginia

Oh, dear. Looks like I'm being stonewalled by the Sites of Conscience AND by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation. So I wrote this follow-up letter to the Cavalier Daily, the student newspaper of the University of Virginia, UVA, the university that was founded, of course, by Thomas Jefferson himself and located less than a stone's throw from campus.

JUNE 15, 2023

Attn: Ava MacBlane

Dear Ava:

I am writing to inquire if the Cavalier Daily has ever run any stories about the 1987 raid on Monticello by the DEA. That raid, I believe, violated everything that Jefferson stood for in terms of natural law, and it bothers me that the Thomas Jefferson Foundation is pretending that it never happened. John Locke wrote in his Second Treatise on Government that we have a natural right to the land and all that lies therein. The 1987 raid, which confiscated poppy plants, was a violation of that principle and a daylight coup against the Natural Law upon which Jefferson founded America.

If you can direct me to any articles on this subject that have appeared in the Cavalier Daily, I would appreciate it. I would also urge the paper to begin covering this situation vigorously today. I often come to Charlottesville to visit my elderly mother, and I sigh every time I pass the signs calling the area "Hallowed Ground," because I know that this ground has been violated by Ronald Reagan's DEA -- and surely Jefferson won't rest easy in his grave until we stop pretending that the event never happened.

I look forward to hearing from you soon on this topic.

Here's another missive I sent to the news department at the Daily Cavalier. I want to be nice and give them more than one way to ignore me!

JUNE 15, 2023

Hi there.
My name is Brian Quass and I am located in Shenandoah County about 80 miles to the west of Monticello. 

I am writing to ask you to consider covering the fact that the Thomas Jefferson Foundation is betraying the legacy of Jefferson by failing to acknowledge, much less protest, the 1987 DEA raid on Monticello to confiscate poppy plants in violation of the natural law upon which he founded America. 

Surely the school that was founded by Jefferson should be aware of this betrayal and willing to set things right.  As you know, John Locke was Thomas Jefferson's "go-to" man when it came to Natural Law, and Locke maintained that we have a natural right to the use of the earth and all that lies therein.  In other words,  government cannot justifiably outlaw Mother Nature. Our whole republic was founded on these ideas.

When I pass the road signs calling the area "Hallowed Ground," I sigh, because the DEA violated that sanctity in 1987.  Far worse, however, is the fact that no one is standing up for Jefferson after this affront. Jeffersonian institutions are pretending that the raid never happened. This is betrayal.

Please stand up for Thomas Jefferson and remind your readers of what is, after all, an ongoing story: namely, the fact that the Thomas Jefferson Foundation is failing to inform and educate its visitors about the raid and that this raises great questions about Jefferson's legacy.  For if the raid is considered to be justified, then what are we celebrating Jefferson for?  He founded a country based on certain natural rights -- and if those rights can be stomped on by government thanks to the fearmongering of demagogues, then Jeffersonian ideals have been soundly defeated in America.  

No one likes to stand up to the Drug War, but UVA and Monticello are in a position where they cannot remain silent any longer without thereby betraying the legacy of their benefactor.  

Sincerely Yours,

I had to forward my letter to several other recipients before I received this all-too-typical response from Brayden Paynter at the Sites of Conscience.

JUNE 16, 2023

Hi Brian,

Thanks for being in touch and thanks as well for helping us sort through busy in-boxes.

You've put your finger on one of the challenges of public history at a site as rich and multi-layered as Monticello, what to highlight in the limited space and time they have. Monticello is no stranger to this question, as there is a well documented and ongoing public debate about the site's interpretation of slavery stretching back decades. That conversation has produced noticeable and meaningful changes in the site's approach over that time period. These sites are constantly negotiated and renegotiated and we hope you will engage the site positively in continuing the effort of imagining its future.

For the Coalition, supporting more than 350 sites around the world, it is important that we not dictate to Sites which stories are most critical to their communities. There is no one path to connecting past and present, no single approach to building more just and humane futures. We have found the greatest learning and impact occur when we approach each member's choices with curiosity and humility.

Thank you again for connecting with us and for being engaged in larger conversation about how these sites can best serve their communities.

To which I responded...

JUNE 16, 2023

Brian Quass

Thanks for the quick response. I can understand your not wanting to dictate policy for the various Sites of Conscience. However the raid in question was a violation of all that Jefferson believed in. Our country was founded on Jefferson's natural rights, and the DEA raid violated those rights. For the Foundation to remain silent about that raid is WORSE than a silence about slavery because slavery could not be ended without appeal to the very natural law doctrines that the DEA trampled upon in 1987.

I am sorry to hear that the Sites of Conscience does not care about this matter and has no intention of speaking up.

That's the sad thing about the Drug War: it silences even those who should know better.

PS Well, at least you contacted me.

The Holocaust Museum has not even seen fit to respond to my suggestion that the Drug War, by creating "scumbags" and "filth" out of "drug dealers," has militarized police forces around the world, overthrown the rule of law in Latin America, and given the 2016 election to Donald Trump. How? By removing millions of black voters from the voting rolls.

I was not asking you to dictate anything. I was asking you to reconsider your designation of Monticello as a Site of Conscience. A conscience must be manifested in the real world -- and the TJ Foundation has refused to do that for more than three decades now. The raid went against everything Jefferson stood for. It's sad that neither your organization nor Monticello thinks that the world needs to know about this. You apparently do not see how fundamental this is to what Jefferson was all about. Monticello is not really a site of conscience until they level with the public about their abject betrayal of Thomas Jefferson, who rolled over in his grave when the DEA confiscated his poppy plants -- PLANTS! -- in 1987. The government confiscated PLANTS! Is this not a front-page headline for you!

Remember Fahrenheit 451! The government confiscated books that helped one think outside the box. Now we have Fahrenheit 452! The government confiscates plants that help you think outside the box.
This really calls into question the validity of all your choices when it comes to "Sites of Conscience."  Sure, you don't run these various organizations, but you should be sure that they stand for the things that they PURPORT to stand for.

Related tweet: June 16, 2023

A request for YOU: Every now and then, respond to a Tweet about Jefferson's Monticello estate by asking when the TJ Foundation is going to tell its visitors about the 1987 DEA raid. Let's pester them, without spamming them, until they stop rewriting history with their silence.

The Holocaust Museum ignores the Drug War. Monticello ignores the Drug War. The organization that certifies Monticello as a "Site of Conscience" ignores the Drug War. Academics ignore the Drug War. America is in complete denial. The Drug War is an Hypnotic Cult.

Next essay: David Chalmers and the Drug War
Previous essay: Drug War: the Musical!

More Essays Here

essays about

The Dark Side of the Monticello Foundation
How the Monticello Foundation betrayed Jefferson's Legacy in 1987
How the Jefferson Foundation Betrayed Thomas Jefferson
A Misguided Tour of Monticello
My conversation with the Thomas Jefferson Foundation

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How the Jefferson Foundation Betrayed Thomas Jefferson
The Dark Side of the Monticello Foundation
How the Monticello Foundation betrayed Jefferson's Legacy in 1987
A Misguided Tour of Monticello
My conversation with the Thomas Jefferson Foundation
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5% of proceeds from the sale of the above product will go toward getting Brian a decent haircut for once. Honestly. 9% will go toward shoes. 50% will go toward miscellaneous. 9% of the remainder will go toward relaxation, which could encompass anything from a spin around town to an outdoor barbecue at Brian's brother's house in Stanardsville (both gas and the ice-cream cake that Brian usually supplies).

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Face it, even your friends sometimes tick you off: Show them your true feelings with this novelty gift card -- and don't worry, the inside text reads: PSYCH! Just kidding.

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old time radio playing Drug War comedy sketches

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. It outlaws substances that have inspired entire religions, Nazifies the English language and militarizes police forces nationwide.

It bans the substances that inspired William James' ideas about human consciousness and the nature of ultimate reality. In short, it 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.

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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    • Zuboff , Shoshana "The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power" 2019 Public Affairs
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