Essay date: August 21, 2022

Re-Legalize Opium Now

he title of this essay is so controversial in the age of the Drug War that I despair of defending it in the traditional way, by reasoned argument. The metaphorical hooting and jeering of the average reader would drown me out long before I came to my otherwise ineluctable conclusion, namely that outlawing mother nature's medicines creates infinitely more problems than treating them for what they are: to wit, a botanical fact of life with which we are naturally surrounded as denizens of planet Earth.

So instead of even trying to advance my own arguments for the re-legalization of what after all is mere plant medicine, let us consider what the Drug War has "accomplished" by outlawing opium in 1914 -- and subsequently outlawing coca, marijuana, and finally virtually every potentially helpful psychoactive substance in the world (to the astonished approbation of the burgeoning health-care industry in the early 1900s, which suddenly had a monopoly, not simply on treating physical ills, but on treating psychological ills as well).

Drug War "Accomplishments"

  1. It has created a psychiatric pill mill upon which 1 in 4 American women are chemically dependent for life, the largest chemical dependency in human history.

  2. It has denied godsend pain medicine to dying children under the theory that drugs like morphine are somehow evil without regard to why they are used.

  3. It has forced us to allow our elderly parents to die miserably, by "withholding life support" rather than allowing them to drift off painlessly to sleep with the help of an opium derivative such as morphine.

  4. It has REQUIRED the use of brain-damaging electroshock therapy in severe cases of depression that might otherwise have been treated with no-brainer godsends like MDMA, psilocybin and laughing gas.

  5. It has turned inner cities into shooting galleries, thanks to Drug War prohibition which created armed gangs out of whole cloth.

  6. It has imprisoned millions of minorities, thereby removing them (either officially or effectively) from the voting rolls, thereby facilitating the election of drug-warrior demagogues.

  7. It has created civil wars overseas, which the US can leverage as an excuse to intervene in foreign countries.

  8. It has forced US soldiers to go for four decades now without the use of MDMA to fight PTSD, thanks to the self-serving DEA which ignored the advice of its own council in 1985 in order to maintain its workload when it comes to cracking down on "Ecstasy."

  9. It has outlawed plant medicines that have inspired entire religions in the past, thereby outlawing the very fountainhead of the religious impulse in humankind
  10. .

  11. It has censored scientists by barring them from effectively investigating criminalized plant medicines, censorship made all the more insidious by the fact that most scientists do not even recognize that it exists.

But in perhaps the greatest irony of all, the criminalization of opium in particular has led to... wait for it, folks... an opioid epidemic!

When will the Drug Warriors learn: you can outlaw substances but you cannot outlaw the human desire for self-transcendence?

The answer is obvious. We must make it as safe as possible for folks to pursue self-transcendence, through education and a safe drug supply.

The Drug Warrior, on the other hand, reminds us of the governess in 'The Turn of the Screw' by Henry James. Mrs. Grose is so myopically determined to protect Miles and Flora from the perceived dangers of an illusory phantom (the ghostly former valet known as Peter Quint) that she ends up causing Miles' death and estranging herself from Flora forever: just the sort of Pyrrhic victory that the Drug War has achieved by myopically outlawing naturally occurring medicines like opium.

Next essay: Open Letter to Diane O'Leary
Previous essay: Open letter to Wolfgang Smith

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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.

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)
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