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The Problem with Following the Science

How Kevin Sabet caused the problem that he's trying to solve

by Ballard Quass, the Drug War Philosopher

October 25, 2022

"If there is a problem with marijuana use, folks like Kevin Sabet caused it by championing a Drug War that gives us no psychoactive substances to use EXCEPT for marijuana. It's as if Kevin had outlawed everything but 2% milk and then screamed about the fact that 2% milk was far too popular!"

-the Drug War Philosopher

When Obama took office, he said he wanted to "follow the science" when it came to "drugs." I wish he had decided to follow the constitution instead. Because what Obama failed to realize, or at least failed to admit, is that science is not free in a Drug War society. Just look at all the articles about so-called "drugs" on You'll see hundreds of papers about misuse and abuse, but nary one about how drugs like MDMA could be used therapeutically to end school shootings, or how the chewing of the coca leaf could cure depression, or how psychedelics can improve one's appreciation of music, or how morphine can give one an intense appreciation of mother nature. For it never occurs to a scientist in a Drug War society that demonized substances can be used in any positive way whatsoever. And so when we "follow the science" of these self-censored scientists, we naturally conclude that we must do everything we can to ratchet up the war on drugs, this despite the fact that the kinds of drugs we criminalize today have inspired entire religions, as soma inspired the Vedic-Hindu religion and the Incas and Mayans venerated coca and mushrooms respectively.

Had Obama and company followed the constitution instead, they would have outlawed the Drug War entirely as a violation of the natural law upon which that document was based. Instead, they "followed the science," which, in their view, told them they were duty bound to return cannabis to Schedule I, thereby "protecting" users (apparently by throwing them in prison for decades at a time and removing them from the voting rolls). I say they followed the science "in their view" because Obama's drug policy advisor Kevin Sabet has a very different take on the dangers of marijuana than does Professor David Nutt of England, the UK drugs expert who lost his job for suggesting that some criminalized substances were less dangerous than Big Pharma meds. In any case, it's odd that America's first black president would want to sign off on a change that would send still more blacks to jail in a country where the black suffrage has already been decreased by millions thanks to the war on psychoactive plant medicine.

But "following the science" is wrong for other reasons (as if disenfranchising blacks and thereby handing elections to racists was not enough). Even if we grant that "the science" is telling the whole story about psychoactive medicine (which is almost the exact opposite of the case), America is statistically challenged when it comes to interpreting that "science." Yesterday, I saw a tweet referring to an alleged death by overdose of marijuana, which if true would be the first death of its kind. The "tweeter" crowed that if the story was true, it would change the entire discussion about marijuana. But that is absolute nonsense. All substances can be fatal at some dosage. If you kept drinking lamb's milk, your stomach might eventually rupture, but that is no reflection on lamb's milk, but rather on the idiocy of those who drink it to such bizarre excess. Yet in the age of a "Drug War," Americans actually believe that they can trash a substance if they can associate it with one single negative outcome, this in a country in which half a million die yearly from using alcohol and tobacco, a fact that Drug Warriors never even notice.

That's how Brits trashed Ecstasy1. They associated it with a handful of highly publicized raver deaths, thereby concluding that the science was telling them that Ecstasy was deadly. But the deaths in question were actually caused by the Drug War itself, which taught kids to fear psychoactive medicines rather than to understand them. Had Drug Warriors merely told the kids to remain hydrated during use, there would have been no deaths from Ecstasy (except, perhaps, if someone decided to take the drug in bizarrely huge doses, in the way that the alleged cannabis mortality mentioned above used cannabis).

And yet Kevin Sabet's viewpoint is the mainstream view, supported by Jimmy Carter and The Atlantic. But then I shouldn't be surprised. The Atlantic is the magazine which publishes feel-good articles about treating depression, none of which even mentions the fact that the Drug War has outlawed all the hundreds of medicines that could do just that. Nor is it just their reporters that ignore this 6,400-pound gorilla. The very scientists that the reporters interview write and speak as if psychoactive substances do not exist. I guess that helps them sleep at night, because it would surely be depressing for a scientist to admit to him or herself that their research is being hampered by Drug War laws and ideology.

One wants to scream at the Kevin Sabets of the world: "It's the prohibition, stupid!" But as long as government insiders like Sabet can keep the focus on evil "drugs," we can ignore the devastation that our Drug War has caused south of the border, the way it has corrupted police forces and government offices, and put the poor in harm's way, not because they were using drugs but because they were advocating social policies with which the US government takes issue.

Yet there's still another way in which "following the science" is wrong. It's all well and good to "follow the science" when it comes to approving the use of physical medicine (though in reality much of that process is surely fraught with politics as well), but psychoactive medicine is used for subjective purposes like finding spirituality, increasing mental focus, combating life-destroying self-doubt, etc. Safety is certainly a consideration in such substance use, but it is neither the only consideration nor the most important one. Like the fictional Sherlock Holmes, Robin Williams chose to use cocaine regularly (rather than, say, choosing to use those anti-depressants upon which 1 in 4 American women are dependent for life). That coca alkaloid helped him become the person he wanted to be. When the government countermands such choices, it is tacitly saying the following: that safety is more important than one's self-actualization in life -- and that is a false statement for most living, breathing persons. Is safety the most important thing for a free climber, or for an astronaut, or for a stuntman? No. So following the science is wrong, if by that we mean keeping Americans as safe as possible.

Besides, America has tried to keep young people safe for over a century now and look at the results:

We have turned inner cities into war zones, militarized law enforcement, corrupted the armies and police forces of South America, empowered a self-described Drug War Hitler in the Philippines, created the psychiatric pill mill thanks to which 1 in 4 American women are dependent for life on Big Pharma meds, Nazified the English language, thrown elections to racists by disfranchising blacks, and put godsend medicines off-limits to silently suffering millions around the globe.

We have thus protected young people from "drugs" in the same way that the governess protected Miles from the imaginary Peter Quint in "Turn of the Screw" by Henry James, by a campaign of irrational hysteria that ultimately caused the very problems that it was allegedly seeking to prevent. Indeed, the "downsides" of prohibition are so obvious and so manifold that one cannot help but suspect that the goal of the Drug War was to create this dystopia in the first place, a thesis which becomes all too believable for those who dare to read Dawn Paley's 2014 book called Drug War Capitalism2.

Of course, if naturally occurring substances are dangerous, then surely a free and scientific country would teach about them, not criminalize them in violation of natural law. For plants and fungus are not obliged to meet FDA standards. They are God's (or the universe's) gift to us, and it's our job to use them as safely as possible.

If Kevin REALLY wanted to cut back on marijuana use, he would call for the immediate re-legalization of the coca leaf to give users alternatives. But he's bamboozled by Drug War propaganda into thinking that "drugs" are some objective category of evil substances that we all are duty-bound to ignore.

That is not science, Kevin, it's Christian Science, the religion that tells us that we have a moral duty to refrain from using drugs.


1 Quass, Brian, How the Drug War killed Leah Betts, 2020 (up)
2 Paley, Dawn, Drug War Capitalism, AK Press, Chico, California, 2014 (up)

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By reading "Drug Warriors and Their Prey," I begin to understand why I encounter a wall of silence when I write to authors and professors on the subject of "drugs." The mere fact that the drug war inspires such self-censorship should be grounds for its immediate termination.
Many articles in science mags need this disclaimer: "Author has declined to consider the insights gained from drug-induced states on this topic out of fealty to Christian Science orthodoxy." They don't do this because they know readers already assume that drugs will be ignored.

We would never have even heard of Freud except for cocaine. How many geniuses is America stifling even as we speak thanks to the war on mind improving medicines?
"Now, now, Sherlock, that coca preparation is not helping you a jot. Why can't you get 'high on sunshine,' like good old Watson here?" To which Sherlock replies: "But my good fellow, then I would no longer BE Sherlock Holmes."

Today's Washington Post reports that "opioid pills shipped" DROPPED 45% between 2011 and 2019..... while fatal overdoses ROSE TO RECORD LEVELS! Prohibition is PUBLIC ENEMY NUMBER ONE.
Prohibitionists having nothing to say about all other dangerous activities: nothing about hunting, free climbing, hang-gliding, sword swallowing, free diving, skateboarding, sky-diving, chug-a-lug competitions, chain-smoking. Their "logic" is incoherent.
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."
If we let "science" decide about drugs, i.e. base freedom on health concerns, then tea can be as easily outlawed as beer. The fact that horses are not illegal shows that prohibition is not about health. It's about the power to outlaw certain "ways of being in the world."
The formula is easy: pick a substance that folks are predisposed to hate anyway, then keep hounding the public with stories about tragedies somehow related to that substance. Show it ruining lives in movies and on TV. Don't lie. Just keep showing all the negatives.
Then folks like Sabet will accuse folks like myself of ignoring the "facts." No, it is Sabet who is ignoring the facts -- facts about dangerous horses and free climbing. He's also ignoring all the downsides of prohibition, whose laws lead to the election of tyrants.
I think there needs to be a law -- or at least an understanding -- that it's always wrong to demonize drugs in the abstract. That's anti-scientific. It begs so many questions and leaves suffering pain patients (and others) high and dry. No substance is bad in and of itself.
When we say so, we knowingly blind ourselves to all sorts of potential benefits to humankind. Morphine can provide a vivid appreciation of mother nature in properly disposed minds. That should be seen as a benefit. Instead, dogma tells us that we must hate morphine for any use.
I might as well say that no one can ever be taught to ride a horse safely. I would argue as follows: "Look at Christopher Reeves. He was a responsible and knowledgeable equestrian. But he couldn't handle horses. The fact is, NO ONE can handle horses!"
That's the problem with prohibition. It is not ultimately a health question but a question about priorities and sensibilities -- and those topics are open to lively debate and should not be the province of science, especially when natural law itself says mother nature is ours.
I personally hate beets and I could make a health argument against their legality. Beets can kill for those allergic to them. Sure, it's a rare condition, but since when has that stopped a prohibitionist from screaming bloody murder?
I can think of no greater intrusion than to deny one autonomy over how they think and feel in life. It is sort of a meta-intrusion, the mother of all anti-democratic intrusions.
Enforced by the blatantly rights-crushing solicitation of urine from the king's subjects, as if to underscore the fact that your very digestive system is controlled by the state.
Until prohibition ends, rehab is all about enforcing a Christian Science attitude toward psychoactive medicines (with the occasional hypocritical exception of Big Pharma meds).
When folks die in horse-related accidents, we need to be asking: who sold the victim the horse? We've got to crack down on folks who peddle this junk -- and ban books like Black Beauty that glamorize horse use.
Democratic societies need to outlaw prohibition for many reasons, the first being the fact that prohibition removes millions of minorities from the voting rolls, thereby handing elections to fascists and insurrectionists.
Prohibition turned habituation into addiction by creating a wide variety of problems for users, including potential arrest, tainted or absent drug supply, and extreme stigmatization.
The goal of drug-law reform should be to outlaw prohibition. Anything short of that, and our basic rights will always be subject to veto by fearmongers. Outlawing prohibition would restore the Natural Law of Jefferson, which the DEA scorned in 1987 with its raid on Monticello.
Philip Jenkins reports that Rophynol had positive uses for treating mental disorders until the media called it the "date rape drug." We thus punished those who were benefitting from the drug, tho' the biggest drug culprit in date rape is alcohol. Oprah spread the fear virally.
This is the "Oprah fallacy," which has led to so much suffering. She told women they were fools if they accepted a drink from a man. That's crazy. If we are terrified by such a statistically improbable event, we should be absolutely horrified by horses and skateboards.
This hysterical reaction to rare negative events actually creates more rare negative events. This is why the DEA publicizes "drug problems," because by making them well known, they make the problems more prevalent and can thereby justify their huge budget.
The Partnership for a Death Free America is launching a campaign to celebrate the 50th year of Richard Nixon's War on Drugs. We need to give credit where credit's due for the mass arrest of minorities, the inner city gun violence and the civil wars that it's generated overseas.
In 1886, coca enthusiast JJ Tschudi referred to prohibitionists as 'kickers.' He wrote: "If we were to listen to these kickers, most of us would die of hunger, for the reason that nearly everything we eat or drink has fallen under their ban."
Drug Warriors never take responsibility for incentivizing poor kids throughout the west to sell drugs. It's not just in NYC and LA, it's in modest-sized towns in France. Find public housing, you find drug dealing. It's the prohibition, damn it!
I don't believe in the materialist paradigm upon which SSRIs were created, according to which humans are interchangeable chemical robots amenable to the same treatment for human sadness. Let me use laughing gas and MDMA and coca and let the materialists use SSRIs.
What prohibitionists forget is that every popular but dangerous activity, from horseback riding to drug use, will have its victims. You cannot save everybody, and when you try to do so by law, you kill far more than you save, meanwhile destroying democracy in the process.
Prohibition is based on two huge lies: 1) that there are no benefits to drug use; and 2) that there are no downsides to prohibition.
The 1932 movie "Scarface" starts with on-screen text calling for a crackdown on armed gangs in America. There is no mention of the fact that a decade's worth of Prohibition had created those gangs in the first place.
The worst form of government is not communism, socialism or even unbridled capitalism. The worst form of government is a Christian Science Theocracy, in which the government controls how much you are allowed to think and feel in life.
The Shipiba have learned to heal human beings physically, psychologically and spiritually with what they call "onanyati," plant allies and guides, such as Bobinsana, which "envelops seekers in a cocoon of love." You know: what the DEA would call "junk."

Live and learn. I'm told that science is completely unbiased today. I guess I'll have to go back and reassess my beliefs in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy.
In his book "Salvia Divinorum: The Sage of the Seers," Ross Heaven explains how "salvinorin A" is the strongest hallucinogen in the world and could treat Alzheimer's, AIDS, and various addictions. But America would prefer to demonize and outlaw the drug.
I think there needs to be a law -- or at least an understanding -- that it's always wrong to demonize drugs in the abstract. That's anti-scientific. It begs so many questions and leaves suffering pain patients (and others) high and dry. No substance is bad in and of itself.
When we say so, we knowingly blind ourselves to all sorts of potential benefits to humankind. Morphine can provide a vivid appreciation of mother nature in properly disposed minds. That should be seen as a benefit. Instead, dogma tells us that we must hate morphine for any use.
I might as well say that no one can ever be taught to ride a horse safely. I would argue as follows: "Look at Christopher Reeves. He was a responsible and knowledgeable equestrian. But he couldn't handle horses. The fact is, NO ONE can handle horses!"
That's another problem with "following the science." Science downplays personal testimony as subjective. But psychoactive experiences are all ABOUT subjectivity. With such drugs, users are not widgets susceptible to the one-size-fits-all pills of reductionism.
Imagine the Vedic people shortly after they have discovered soma. Everyone's ecstatic -- except for one oddball. "I'm not sure about these experiences," says he. "I think we need to start dissecting the brains of our departed adherents to see what's REALLY going on in there."
He'd probably then say: "In fact, we'd better outlaw this substance for now until we understand its biochemical mechanisms of action. We should follow the science, after all."
This is the mentality for today's materialist researcher when it comes to "laughing gas." He does not care that it merely cheers folks up. He wants to see what is REALLY going on with the substance, using electrodes and brain scans.
I'd tell him knock yourself out, except that his expensive and purblind research is used by prohibitionists to say: See? There's no scientific proof that laughing gas helps the depressed.
This, by the way, is why we can't just "follow the science." The "acceptable risk" for psychoactive drugs can only be decided by the user, based on what they prioritize in life. Science just assumes that all users should want to live forever, self-fulfilled or not.

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You have been reading an article entitled, The Problem with Following the Science: How Kevin Sabet caused the problem that he's trying to solve, published on October 25, 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)