Essay date: May 4, 2023

Opium for the Masses by Jim Hogshire

A philosophical review

he poppy was the first plant that America effectively outlawed in its unprecedented war against Mother Nature's medicines. The crackdown came in the early 1900s and grew out of a racist contempt for the Chinese, not out of a concern for their health, which opium was never shown conclusively to injure in any case. It was an aesthetic racism, so to speak. Americans of the time hated everything about the Chinese lifestyle, and opium was just the whipping boy for our xenophobic hang-ups. Of course, no one noticed at the time that the criminalization of a plant was a violation of the Natural Law upon which America was founded, for as John Locke himself wrote in his Second Treatise on Government: "The earth, and all that is therein, is given to men for the support and comfort of their being."

Ronald Reagan essentially acknowledged this coup against Natural Law when he ordered the DEA to raid Thomas Jefferson's estate in 1987 and confiscate the founding father's poppy plants, thereby giving the finger to the hard-earned and hitherto inviolable freedoms on which the republic was founded. Even conservatives should have blanched at this coup, since a government that can stomp onto your property to confiscate plants can pretty much do anything that it wants to do, provided only that it first works the public up into a lather with the help of fearmongering from unprincipled demagogues. Conservatives at least should have worried about the implication of this raid for property rights, even if they saw no need to calm and focus their busybody minds with a time-honored drug which, as Hogshire points out, has been considered divine by many of the world's most famous physicians, including Avicenna, Paracelsus and Galen.

It is against this backdrop of Machiavellian substance demonization that I welcome those few books on this topic that do not seek to paint the poppy as pure evil: books like "The Truth about Opium" by William Brereton and "Confessions of an English Opium Eater" by Thomas De Quincey (in which latter book, by the way, the term "confessions" was not meant to connote wrongdoing on the author's part, as Drug Warriors like to assume). Hogshire's book is a welcome addition to this small but hopefully growing category of books that view drugs absent the blinders of the drug-hating theology of Mary Baker Eddy, upon which the Drug War is philosophically based.

It represents a long-overdue departure from the usual fearmongering literature of the Drug War: books like "The Opium Habit" by Horace B. Day, which features a bottle labeled "heroin" on its deceptive cover page; "Drugging a Nation" by Samuel Merwin, in whose subtitle opium is declared to be "a curse"; and John Halpern's "Opium," featuring the equally absurd subtitle: "How a flower shaped and poisoned the world," as if evil could be ascribed to a flower. The sentiment in question is not merely Christian heresy (for God claimed that his creation was good after all), but it is anti-scientific, insofar as any scientist knows (or at least used to know) that no substances are good or bad in and of themselves. Goodness and badness reside only in human beings and their actions. Failure to recognize this fact has empowered a prohibition that has blinded us to godsend uses for a vast array of psychoactive medicines, including not just opium, but coca, MDMA and psychedelics, to say nothing of the many non-addictive but elating synthetic creations of American chemist Alexander Shulgin.

Opium for the Masses: Harvesting Nature's Best Pain Medication by Jim Hogshire will be availabe on Scribd beginning on May 28, 2023.

Related tweet: June 2, 2023

"Everything one does in life, even love, occurs in an express train racing toward death. To smoke opium is to get out of the train while it is still moving. It is to concern oneself with something other than life or death." -Jean Cocteau

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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

  • 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
  • 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
  • Griffiths, William "Psilocybin: A Trip into the World of Magic Mushrooms"2021 William Griffiths
  • Hofmann, Albert "The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants: Ethnopharmacology and Its Applications"2005 Inner Traditions/Bear & Company
  • 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
  • Mariani, Angelo "Coca and its Therapeutic Application, Third Edition"1896
  • Mortimer MD, W. Golden "Coca: Divine Plant of the Incas"2017 Ronin Publishing
  • Partridge, Chiristopher "Alistair Crowley on Drugs"2021 uploaded by Misael Hernandez
  • 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
  • Site and its contents copyright 2023, by Brian B. Quass, the drug war philosopher at For more information, contact Brian at