Essay date: August 12, 2020

Marijuana Critics Just Don't Get It

It's the criminalization, stupid!

've started to run across online articles that fret over the excessive use of marijuana by young people. (See, for instance, "America's Invisible Pot Addicts" by Annie Lowrey in*)

Fair enough. The argument can be made that some young people overuse marijuana - although even this concern is often based on unconscious assumptions about what constitutes the good life. The average capitalist American is constantly on the go, and so they're naturally shocked by a lifestyle that does not involve intense ambition and a constant desire to amass more material goods than one's neighbors.

Nevertheless, fair play. The overuse of marijuana is something that can be rationally discussed in a country that values rational analysis of social problems.

The problem is that as I read these articles, I can just hear the knee-jerk mental process of the average western reader saying, "Oh, dear: If this is so, we really must criminalize marijuana after all!"

And that is the whole problem of the Drug War: it gives us this knee-jerk reaction to all so-called "drug problems": that is, criminalization.

No one thought about psychoactive substances like this in the past. The knee-jerk reaction of yore following a so-called "drug death" was to denounce the way that the substance in question was used - that is, to denounce a lack of educated and informed use -- not to denounce the substance itself as somehow "bad" in and of itself without regard for the circumstances in which it was employed. That is a blatantly anti-scientific way of thinking about the world, to denounce a substance rather than the circumstances of its use. And so when it comes to the modern boogieman of "drugs," western thinking today is far more superstitious than it was in the past. It is superstitious because it attributes to amoral substances (aka "drugs") the goodness and badness that actually resides only in the way in which such substances are used.

Take the drug MDMA. That drug basically brought about "peace, love and understanding" on British dance floors during the 1980s, during the rave scene, until it was criminalized after one - count 'em - ONE well-publicized death in 1995. One!

That response was about as counterproductive and unscientific as can be, especially from a country that purports to value a rational approach to problem solving. First, it ignored the glaring fact that the death in question was caused by a lack of honest information and research about drugs: not by drugs themselves. (Had Leah Betts been made aware of the proper hydration requirements for using E in a high-stress environment, she would be alive today.) Second, by banning Ecstasy, the Drug Warrior ushered in a wave of crack and fentanyl use that quickly turned the British rave venues into shooting galleries that required the intervention of ex-special soldier forces to keep the peace.

Plants are under no requirement to meet FDA safety standards.

-Brian Quass, the Drug War Philosopher.

Result: the knee-jerk mindset of the Drug Warrior ushered in far more death and violence than ever, all in response to a self-created problem involving one of the safest drugs in the world.

This highlights the unspoken truth about the Drug War: it causes all of the problems that it claims to fix. It caused the death of Leah Betts by E, since it suppressed research of such substances and criminalized them, making them available only from doubtful sources. It brought about the end of a peaceful dance scene, from which British society (and even the world) could have learned much, and ushered in the violence and death that the Drug Warrior claims to be fighting.

The Drug War is even responsible for the overuse of marijuana, to the extent that we agree this is a real problem. The Drug War criminalizes thousands of plants that can help bring about a sense of peace of mind and transcendence, including cocaine, opium, and hundreds of psychedelic plants that have been shown to conduce to personal insight and self-understanding when used advisedly (i.e., by educated people in a free country). Why are we surprised when this lopsided legalization of one solitary psychoactive plant results in excessive use of that one particular plant? (especially in a world where superstitious Drug Warriors keep shouting "drugs, drugs, drugs" at the top of their hypocritical lungs, thus bringing the use of psychoactive substances front-and-center in the minds of young people who might have otherwise ignored the topic entirely).

If the world were to criminalize all but one sports car, car lovers would flock to car dealerships in order to buy that one particular model of sports car. If we as a society find this problematic, the answer is to open the car market to all models, not to fret over the problems caused by this one model that we have grudgingly allowed out on the sales floor.

So, let's be honest, not just about marijuana, but about all drugs. Let's be honest enough to say that a drug like "E" can help bring about peace and harmony, even if it is politically incorrect to say so (even if the British government prefers gun violence to such honesty). Let's be honest enough to say that cocaine and opium can be used responsibly if education is available for that purpose. (Sigmund Freud and Benjamin Franklin could have told us as much). Let's be honest enough to say that properly guided psychedelic use can help us fight addiction and get a new and better outlook on life. (The anecdotal evidence of this fact dates back to prehistory and the Vedic religion.)

Until the Drug Warrior is open to this kind of real-world honesty, I'm going to be suspicious of their criticism of marijuana, thinking to myself, "Great, now they're out to take away the one bit of mental freedom that they've grudgingly provided me, when the real question is: why are they limiting my choice of freedom to this one single solitary substance in the first place? If that substance is problematic, give me some alternatives: don't yield to the Drug Warrior's knee-jerk temptation to criminalize the market entirely."

Check out the irony of the title of Annie Lowrey's piece mentioned above: "America's Invisible Pot Addicts": this from a reporter whose articles ignore the great addiction of our time: the fact that 1 in 4 American women are addicted to Big Pharma meds (source: Julie Holland). Given this huge blind spot on Annie's part, the reader can't help but assume that her article on pot addicts has been written to further some political or social ideology about drugs rather than to spread the unvarnished truth about what's actually happening viz. addiction in the real world.

Related tweet: October 19, 2022

Response to Kevin Sabet's tweet regarding Obama's original plan to make marijuana a schedule I drug:

It's a violation of natural law for government to affirm marijuana as illegal. It's like saying that the sun or the rain is illegal. Plants are under no requirement to meet FDA safety standards.

October 19, 2022

Here's a comment that Brian sent to Kevin after responding to his tweet (see above)

The government has no right to "affirm" that a plant is illegal. That's a violation of natural law. (See John Locke regarding our right to the use of the land "and all that lies therein.") Yes, we need to tell the truth about marijuana, but we need to tell the truth about ALL DRUGS -- including the mind-numbing anti-depressants upon which 1 in 4 American women are dependent for life!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Who is going to write a book about that dystopia, a real-life Stepford Wives? Not the Drug Warriors!!!!!!!!!!!!

I invite you to read my views on these matters:

Brian Quass
The Drug War Philosopher

PS If you want to be more helpful, teach how marijuana can be used as wisely as possible; don't aid and abet the Drug Warriors by falling into their game of demonizing substances: teach wise use!!!!!!!!!! The Drug War is a demonization campaign and the enforcement of Christian Science with respect to psychoactive medicine. There are no such things as drugs as defined by the Drug Warrior, since there are no substances that have no good uses, ever, for anyone. Even Botox and cyanide have reasonable uses. Moreover, psychoactive meds have inspired entire religions!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

October 19, 2022

Brian couldn't help himself, he launched a second barrage five minutes later. (This is why I tell Brian not to read tweets at the end of a busy day.)

The DEA made marijuana deadly in the '80s by spraying it with paraquat, a weed killer that causes Parkinson's Disease.

Your work gives great solace to those who are Nazifying the language over drugs, causing civil wars overseas, killing thousands of inner-city blacks each year, denying morphine to kids in hospice. censoring scientists who cannot study drugs that might cure Alzheimer's. Your book stokes the fire of substance demonization that has turned the world into a police state and eggs on the DEA who raided Monticello in 1987 in violation of natural law. PLEASE!!! Stop demonizing, start teaching. Your Drug War has created a psychiatric pill mill to which 1 in 4 women are addicted and upon which I've been a "junkie" my entire life. I've yet to see any author wring their hands about MY fate. No, I'm paying lifetime annuities to Big Pharma stockholders.

Related tweet: June 10, 2023

Check out these prohibitionists who whine about the popularity of weed. It's like they outlawed steak and pork and then they complained about the popularity of chicken. I'd be more than happy to diversify my medicine cabinet once these clowns stop outlawing mother nature.

The Links Police

Pull over to the side of the Web page. I caught you back there scrolling past some related links!

Kevin Sabet and Drug War 2.0
Why Kevin Sabet is Wrong
How the Atlantic Supports the Drug War
What Obama got wrong about drugs

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

Next essay: How Cocaine could have helped me
Previous essay: MDMA for Psychotherapy

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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