Seven Ways that Liberals are Confused by the Drug War
featuring the dangerously misinformed viewpoints of the Atlantic's Graeme Wood
The following is my response to an article in the July 2019 Atlantic magazine entitled The Life-Changing Magic of Tripping by Graeme Wood. Wood's article is written as a kind of homage to drug policy analyst Mark Kleiman, who recently died from complications of a kidney transplant. But don't let the title of the article fool you: It turns out that both Kleiman and Wood argue so feebly in favor of drug law liberalization that a supporter of that goal would almost wish they would keep quiet, rather than yielding so much ground to the Drug Warrior with their implicit but mistaken assumptions about the origins and solutions of that problem.
Graeme Wood's article is instructive, however, because it clearly shows how liberal Americans have been completely bamboozled by the half-baked logic of America's Drug War. One doesn't know where to start in disabusing Graeme and Kleiman of their pious Drug War verities, but here goes:
1) Graeme says that, "Kleiman thought certain hallucinogens should be legalized, ever so carefully."
Ever so carefully? We're talking about naturally growing substances that appear unbidden at our very feet, substances that had been legal as a matter of course until 1914, substances that were criminalized because of racist ideas about the populations that used them -- and in Nixon's case to punish his enemies (by making them felons, thereby removing them from the voting rolls).
Yet we need to regain these freedoms "ever so carefully"?
Why do we concede the right of government to criminalize naturally occurring substances in the first place? They have no such right, particularly in a country that grants its citizens "the right to pursue happiness," happiness which psychoactive plant medicines have been shown to provide or at least to facilitate.
If the government criminalized freedom of the press, our task would be simply to overturn that despotic law. We would be under no obligation to prove that freedom of the press could be allowed again without causing problems. If any problems occur when restoring our freedoms, it is the fault of the despots who wrote the corruptly-motivated laws in the first place.
It's called Natural Law, Graeme. Jefferson founded our country upon it. That's why his ghost was rolling in his grave when the jackbooted DEA stomped onto Monticello in 1987 and confiscated Thomas Jefferson's poppy plants. If government can tell us which plants we can access, then common law has triumphed over natural law and the America that Jefferson founded is lost.
2) If Graeme's sensibilities were applied to driving, most of us would have to remain at home. Graeme would no sooner see an automobile accident involving teenagers than he would rush home and pen a "compassionate" article for Americans to stop driving. If Graeme does not accept this analogy as relevant to illegal drugs, then he is not "up" on the latest findings in psychedelic therapy, according to which psychedelics like ayahuasca and psilocybin can provide a user with mental resilience and grow new neurons in the brain. But in the Drug Warrior's playbook, all these benefits are to be ignored simply because a minority of teenagers might find a way to abuse the substances in question.
3) Graeme focuses on minor and debatable anecdotal "problems" with psychedelics, while ignoring the real drug problem in America, the fact that 1 in 10 Americans are addicted to the drugs of Big Pharma (and 1 in 4 women!!!) for the treatment of depression and other mood disorders, conditions for which psychedelics are proving a powerful and non-addictive replacement. These Big Pharma nostrums (SSRIs, SNRIs, etc.) were never even studied for long-term use and yet now are being dispensed like candy in the psychiatric pill mill. I myself have been told by psychiatrists that I have to take my anti-depressant for life. Why? Because a new NIH study shows it's impossible to get off Effexor. Yet the moralizing drug-war mentality blinds Graeme to this REAL drug problem. Instead he harps on the need to withhold naturally occurring and non-addictive medications from the public based merely on his parochial fears about the potential misuse by delinquents. Better millions of depressed go without treatment than 10 delinquents misuse a drug of which Graeme does not approve, or so Graeme seems to think.
Graeme is so eager to protect a few American young people that he'll gladly let drug law continue to cause as many deadly civil wars overseas as it may take to achieve that domestic goal -- and he'll gladly let the depressed and lonely go without godsend consciousness medicines that have been used therapeutically by societies for millennia. Has Graeme never heard about the Eleusinian Mysteries? Does he not understand that the Vedic religion was founded to worship the psychedelic insights provided by a plant medicine? Does he not know that Francis Crick was enabled to envision the DNA helix with the help of liberal doses of psychedelics?
Ever so carefully, my aspirin!
The fact that Effexor is more chemically addicting than heroin does not even register for the liberal Drug Warrior.
4) He also seems to think that only kooks would be particularly interested in psychedelics anyway, so we may as well make them legal, since oddballs will be oddballs. This merely demonstrates, once again, Graeme's ignorance of the therapeutic findings of the psychedelic revolution, which shows that psychedelics are the psychotherapeutic drugs par excellence. They're the perfect adjunct to "talk therapy" because they open the users' minds to new possibilities and permit them to identify and challenge their own nonproductive assumptions about themselves and about life in general.
One word for you, Graeme, or rather one website: MAPS.ORG.
5) In dismissing psychedelic users as eccentrics, Graeme also shows his ignorance of Western history: namely, the fact that the Eleusinian Mysteries existed on a yearly basis for almost 2,000 years (until the rituals were tellingly abolished by a Christian emperor), providing psychedelically enhanced visions to a who's who of ancient Greeks and Romans, providing them what most participants later described as the most important experience of their life. Plato's views of the afterlife were inspired by the psychedelic kykeon.
6) Graeme doffs his hat to freedom of religion but fails to realize that America's Drug War is itself the establishment of a religion: namely, the religion of Christian Science as applied to mental health. According to this religion, one "should not" use nature's freely offered bounty to improve one's mental health. That's a religious tenet, Graeme, not a fact. To insist that Americans abide by this belief is tyranny, for it is the establishment of a kind of Christian Science as state religion.
7) While myopically focusing on the potential fate of juvenile delinquents in a free society, Graeme completely ignores the actual hyper violence created by the Drug War itself, which is such an enormous problem that it has spawned its own movie genre: the drug-war genre. Nixon almost single-handedly created this genre when he criminalized Mother Nature's plants, a genre in which mainly Russian and South American "scumbags" are confronted by heavily armed and no-nonsense cops from America who openly laugh at the whole idea of due process and the other high-falutin legal protections that have been historically afforded to American citizens via the U.S. Constitution. Movies in this "drug-war genre" include: American Gangster, Asian Connection, Bobby Z, Clockers, Cocaine Cowboys, Empire, L.A. Wars, Marked for Death, Scarface, Rush, etc. etc. - just add the "bullet-riddled" movie of your choice.
Yet liberals like Graeme happily attend these films, hypocritically thrilled by the violence that the Drug War creates, only to go home afterwards and write cautionary articles about the dangers of putting psychoactive plants and fungi in the hands of supposedly free American citizens.
Graeme seems indifferent to the fact that idiot America punishes scientists for even studying these kinds of plants. Wake up, Graeme. Or not. Just enjoy the many drug tests you'll be faced with in life and patriotically urinate on command so the government can ensure that you are not using plant medicines of which our politicians disapprove.
Did Graeme ever study natural law in school and why it makes (or made) America special? Can he not see that the Drug Law is just the extrajudicial enforcement of the Christian Science religion? WAKE UP, TABLOIDS. YOU HAVE BEEN HOODWINKED BY DRUG WAR PROPAGANDA INTO RENOUNCING EVERYTHING FOR WHICH AMERICA WAS SPECIAL: BASED ON RELIGIOUS FREEDOM AND THE RULE OF NATURAL LAW OVER COMMON DESPOTIC LAW CHURNED UP BY ALARMIST DEMAGOGUES.
There was no drug problem in the world until 1914, Graeme (except for when government-supported British capitalists intentionally attempted to addict the Chinese to an opium strain with which they were not familiar). Until then, all intelligent people knew that substances were never a problem in and of themselves. If someone falls off a bike, it is not a problem with bicycles but the failure of the parent or society to educate the rider about using a bike. Salt can kill in high doses. Should we outlaw it? Of course not, Graeme. We should educate folks to use it safely. AMERICAN MEDIA, WAKE UP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Stop supporting the Drug War with these uninformed articles that help the Drug Warrior demonize plant medicines in furtherance of the American State Religion known as Christian Science.
APRIL 29, 2022 If I may be permitted, I would simply add that Brian himself values old-school liberalism. He is here attacking the liberal understanding (or rather misunderstanding) of the Drug War for a reason: namely, that the Drug War could not exist if its natural opponents, ideologically speaking (that is liberals) understood how it was based on chop-logic and a poor understanding of psycho-social history. Instead, we hear feeble protestations from the left that the Drug War isn't working. To which the truly savvy drug-war opponent cries, "Working? It never had a right to succeed in the first place!"
Finally, to those who might object that there is a dash too much vinegar in the above word salad, first, let's remember that Brian was quite a young person at the time that he composed this, in fact he was not a day over 62! And then let's be honest too: When the feminists started angrily denouncing patriarchy in the seventies, they held no punches whatsoever. They evinced their perturbation in no uncertain terms. Indeed, I would argue that the problem at present is the LACK of indignant protest against the Drug War. Young people in particular like to say "whatever" when the topic is raised -- just before they go off to take a urine test to determine if they're morally suited for a $12-an-hour job at Burger King, after which they go home to console themselves with a nice movie like "Running with the Devil" in which the DEA agent shoots unarmed "drug" suspects at point-blank range (while she herself is smoking tobacco, the most deadly drug on the planet).
You have been reading essays by the Drug War Philosopher, Brian Quass, at abolishthedea.com. 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.
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)
Andrew, Christopher "The Secret World: A History of Intelligence" 2019 Yale University Press
Aurelius, Marcus "Meditations" 2021 East India Publishing Company