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Michael Pollan and the Drug War

by Ballard Quass, the Drug War Philosopher

October 17, 2022

ow can a great botanist like Michael Pollan agree with the Drug War proposition that folks should be arrested for accessing the bounty of Mother Nature?

It's very simple. Like the majority of academia these days, Michael recognizes only one stakeholder in the war on drugs: namely, the anxious American parents who don't want their Johnny to have a bad trip.

Of course, even if this were the only concern, it's not clear how the Drug War is going to help Johnny, since the policy of the Drug War is to demonize certain politically chosen substances, not to teach about them. That's why Leah Betts died after taking Ecstasy in 1995, not because Ecstasy was a horrible drug (in fact, it's one of the safest psychoactive substances on the planet) but because the Drug Warriors never told the 100-pound raver that she needed to stay hydrated while using it. Indeed, the original charter of Biden's Office of National Drug Control Policy tells members to avoid all mention of safe and beneficial uses of "drugs," for fear of "sending the wrong message," and so it's government policy itself which keeps folks like Leah in the dark.

But granting that Johnny would be harmed by re-legalizing all plant medicine, and granting that we don't have what Locke called a "natural right" to the use of the land "and all that lies therein," our hapless Johnny is not the only victim of the prohibition that Michael continues to champion (albeit reluctantly).

There are millions, if not billions, of silently suffering victims of the Drug War, who cannot reach down and use the medical bounty that grows at their feet, those "mass of men" who, according to Thoreau, "live lives of quiet desperation." But such stakeholders in the Drug War have no front page articles written about them, describing their desperation and desire for positive change. Their silent halfhearted wish to die is never chronicled on the evening news. Meanwhile, the Drug Warrior need dig up only one hapless, drug-addled ex-hippy to scream triumphantly in a front-page article in the New York Times that psychedelics are drugs from hell and that we must slow still further our glacial progress toward their re-legalization in America.

And yet these are not the only stakeholders that Michael and company overlook in advocating continued prohibition. Scientists are adversely affected stakeholders as well, since the Drug War forbids and otherwise discourages them from finding cures for Alzheimer's and autism. Yes, scientists are censored by the Drug War, though, unlike Galileo, they do not acknowledge such censorship, having been so thoroughly indoctrinated in the Drug War habit of demonizing medicines. There is, nonetheless, a prima facie case that psychedelics in particular, which can promote neuronal growth, could play a huge role in fighting conditions like Alzheimer's, and yet American scientists are afraid to go there -- or else they are daunted by the psychological and financial hurdles of pursuing such research, research that reputation-conscious funders are afraid to support.

There are still other stakeholders in the Drug War: the blacks who die yearly in inner cities from the gangs that were armed by prohibition. The kids who die in the civil wars in Mexico and Colombia, etc. The once law-abiding citizens who are denounced as "scumbags" for dealing in plant medicines that were considered divine by previous civilizations.

I could go on and on enumerating the unmentioned stakeholders in the Drug War whom Michael ignores. I might even mention the one in four American women who are chemically dependent on Big Pharma for life, since the Drug War gave a monopoly to the psychiatric pill mill.

But surely I've made my case already: that there are more stakeholders involved in drug-war prohibition than are dreamt of in Michael Pollan's philosophy.

Author's Follow-up: December 17, 2022

I've hitherto refrained from pointing this out, because Michael Pollan seems like a genuinely good guy, not to mention the fact that he is a writer who is many orders of magnitude in advance of my own feeble achievements. But the fact is that I find it irritating for any writer to use psychoactive substances themselves while yet telling us that we must keep these substances illegal for the masses. It smacks of hypocrisy and elitism, saying in effect, "I am, of course, intelligent enough to use these substances wisely, but the average Jane and Joe will never be able to do so." And this is, in fact, the pernicious party line of the Drug Warrior, who is constantly telling us by implication that the average human being will always be a baby when it comes to psychoactive medicine -- which, of course, is a self-fulfilling prophecy, since the government is officially pledged to the goal of scaring us about such medicines, not teaching us about them, let alone telling us how to use them as wisely as possible should we decided to partake.

Next essay: Majoring in Drug War Philosophy
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Some Tweets against the hateful war on drugs

In the 19th century, author Richard Middleton wrote how poets would get together to use opium "in a series of magnificent quarterly carouses."
The December Scientific American features a story called "The New Nuclear Age," about a trillion-dollar plan to add 100s of ICBM's to 5 states, which an SA editorial calls "kick me" signs. This Neanderthal plan comes from pols who think that compassion-boosting drugs are evil!
There are hundreds of things that we should outlaw before drugs (like horseback riding) if, as claimed, we are targeting dangerous activities. Besides, drugs are only dangerous BECAUSE of prohibition, which compromises product purity and refuses to teach safe use.
Prohibitionists have the same M O they've had for the last 100+ years: blame drugs for everything. Being a drug warrior is never having the decency to say you're sorry -- not to Mexicans, not to inner-city crime victims, not to patients who go without adequate pain relief...
Q: Where can you find almost-verbatim copies of the descriptions of religious experiences described by William James? A: In descriptions of user reports of "trips" on drugs ranging from coca to opium, from MDMA to laughing gas.
This is why America is creeping toward authoritarianism -- because of the prohibitionists' ability to get away with everything by blaming "drugs." The fact that Americans still fall for this crap represents a kind of collective pathology.
The Drug War is the most important evil to protest, precisely because almost everybody is afraid to do so. That's a clear sign that it is a cancer on the body politic.
The drug war has created a whole film genre with the same tired plots: drug-dealing scumbags and their dupes being put in their place by the white Anglo-Saxon establishment, which has nothing but contempt for altered states.
Someone tweeted that fears about a Christian Science theocracy are "baseless." Tell that to my uncle who was lobotomized because they outlawed meds that could cheer him up -- tell that to myself, a chronic depressive who could be cheered up in an instant with outlawed meds.
For those who want to understand what's going on with the drug war from a philosophical point of view, I recommend chapter six of "Eugenics and Other Evils" by GK Chesterton.
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You have been reading an article entitled, Michael Pollan and the Drug War published on October 17, 2022 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)