Essay date: August 20, 2020

What Obama got wrong about drugs

Drugs are far more than a scientific issue

lthough President Obama's views on drug law were a great improvement over those of his Stalinist predecessors (Reagan and the two Bushes who shamefully called on kids to "turn in" their parents for using substances of which politicians disapprove) his desire to be "scientific" about drugs raises at least three major problems of its own.

1) Why need we turn to science to justify the legalization of plant medicines that were unconstitutionally criminalized in the first place? Surely, a country founded on natural law cannot justifiably deny its citizens the right to access the plants and fungi that grow at their very feet. To turn the discussion to science is to yield unnecessary ground to the Drug Warrior, saying in effect: "Yes, of course, citizens cannot be trusted with free access to all of Mother Nature's bounty, but let's decide which plants can be legal on a scientific basis." That's as much as to say, "Yes, Drug Warrior, we agree on one thing: that common law must now triumph over natural law, given the prevalence of all these nasty drugs out there in Mother Nature."

2) Natural law aside, the subject of drugs is not merely a scientific issue. It is also an aesthetic, spiritual and political one. This is because illegal substances can endow the user with a whole new view of life, especially viewpoints that are thought to be left-leaning, including a love for nature and a feeling of unity with all of humankind. It is therefore tyrannical and partisan to render such new outlooks criminal. It is an attempt on the part of government to discourage certain ways of thinking about the world. It is thus the ultimate form of governmental mind control. And that is not a tyranny that science is going to solve for us: it is a question of fundamental freedom in a modern democracy: either we have the freedom to entertain new outlooks that these substances can facilitate or we don't.

Consider how the eccentric character Augustus Bedloe saw the natural world around him with the help of morphine in the Edgar Allan Poe story entitled "Tale of the Ragged Mountains":

"In the meantime the morphine had its customary effect- that of enduing all the external world with an intensity of interest. In the quivering of a leaf- in the hue of a blade of grass- in the shape of a trefoil- in the humming of a bee- in the gleaming of a dew-drop- in the breathing of the wind- in the faint odors that came from the forest- there came a whole universe of suggestion- a gay and motley train of rhapsodical and immethodical thought."

I don't know about you, but I want that kind of wide-awake life, rather than to drowsily trudge through God's scenery with dull eyes and shuffling step, and science's view on my desires is irrelevant. Science may play an advisory role in telling me the downsides of morphine use as a means to living such a lifestyle (no doubt there are safer means through, say, the guided use of certain psychedelics), but their advice will be laughably hypocritical to me until the day when they are free to tell me both the subjective good sides and the objective bad sides of ALL psychoactive substances, including Big Pharma pills and alcohol. Instead, most "drug information" focuses on the negative properties of illegal substances alone, thereby reinforcing Drug War propaganda which says that substances can only bring about evil once they have been criminalized by American politicians.

Which brings up the final problem with the "scientific" approach to drugs:

3) Even science is political when it focuses only on specific aspects of a supposed problem. That's why science today has zero street cred in lecturing me on drug misuse. This is because it completely ignores the fact that 1 in 8 American men and 1 in 4 American women are addicted to Big Pharma meds. If 1 in 4 American women were addicted to morphine, conservative politicians would be screaming for martial law to be put in place, allowing the government to do constitutionally shady things to quash the scourge of drug abuse. The last thing they want is a drug being popularized which gives the user a "touchy-feely" outlook on life: it might cause them to vote for Democrats, after all.

But what is the difference between me being addicted to the daily use of morphine and me being addicted to the daily use of Big Pharma meds? There's no doubt which I would personally choose if I had to be addicted to SOMETHING. It's really a no-brainer: do I want morphine to facilitate deep insights into the world around me, or do I want my emotional life to be "tamped down" by Big Pharma meds? Um, I'll take the morphine, please, hold the moralizing. Why? Because addiction itself is not necessarily a problem if a safe supply of one's chosen poison is reliably available to the user: the problem is being addicted to a substance that keeps you from attaining self-actualization in life.

Relax, Drug Warriors: I'm not advocating morphine use: rather I'm advocating free but informed decision making regarding all substance use, which is nothing more radical than the status quo that existed in the American Republic until 1914, when racist politician Francis Burton Harrison first outlawed a plant in violation of the natural law upon which America was founded.

Inconvenient Truths

Dr. William Stewart Halsted, co-founder of Johns Hopkins medical school, was a lifelong morphine addict. Sound shocking? Well, check your hypocritical astonishment at the door, because thousands of famous and worthy men today are addicted to Big Pharma meds and use them every single day of their life. As Thomas Szasz reports in "Ceremonial Chemistry," Halsted was able to adjust his dosage so that he appeared eminently sober while yet having the increased energy and focus that the drug facilitated in him. Interviewed late in life, his colleagues professed astonishment that he could have done so much IN SPITE OF his morphine use, never stopping to think that he may have done so much BECAUSE OF his morphine use. If Americans thought rationally about drugs, they would reserve their astonishment for folks who achieve a great deal in life while yet taking modern-day anti-depressants, since those latter drugs have been shown to conduce to emotional flat-lining in long-term users.

Author's Follow-up: July 21, 2022

I feel compelled to add that the ideal pharmacological world for me would be a non-addictive one. Such a stand, however, does not rule out the use of morphine or opium, because Drug War propaganda aside, a potentially addictive substance can be used non-addictively. You'd know that if the government spent its time and money teaching folks how to be safe rather than demonizing substances like so many Christian Science cavepersons. Moreover, even if I did err on the addictive side, the world is still my pharmacological oyster when all psychoactive medicines are legal and I have a pharmacologically savvy empath for a friend. I look forward to the day when pharmacologically savvy empaths will have the green light to leverage psychoactive substances of all kinds in order to provide a seeker, as opposed to a "patient," with insight, guidance and focus for the human mind. Indeed, I see such interventions as getting rid of the whole concept of "patients" when it comes to mental conditions, since we only think of them as patients because the healthcare business wants to claim mood and mind as their bailiwick, for obvious financial reasons.

Of course, this will be hard to understand for many brainwashed readers -- those of you who received teddy bears as kids for just saying no to mother nature's godsend meds -- especially since you then went on to watch TV shows in which coca and opium users were only ever depicted as fiends -- and in which even scientists only ever focused on the downsides of substance use. And then you discover that drugs are so evil that you'll be removed from the American workforce if you use even a trace of the government's official list of despised substances (notwithstanding that some of them have inspired the creation of entire religions). Moreover, the US Office of National Drug Control Policy has actually been forbidding its employees for decades now to even consider possible safe uses of "drugs" -- in other words, they are all about spreading propaganda and fearmongering. So it's amazing that anyone sees through the mist of Drug War lies considering how politicians have run a full-court press against the truth for the past century, starting with their Sinophobic demonizing of the poppy plant.

That's why I maintain that the Drug War is a cult. Indeed, I believe it meets the 8 conditions for being a cult as defined by psychiatrist and author Robert Jay Lifton. But that's a subject for another essay.

Author's Follow-up: December 3, 2022

Obama launched his so-called BRAIN Initiative in 2013, at the same time that he was supporting a Drug War which outlawed all the substances that reveal the power of said brain. Psychedelics reveal whole new worlds in the mind. Opium allows one to metaphorically parse their negative experiences (including physical pain) so that one is not bothered by them. The problems do not go away: rather they are seen as separate from one's true self. Such drugs imply all sorts of wonderful things about the role of the brain and of consciousness itself, yet the BRAIN Initiative will not investigate these angles, since it will be censored from doing so by Drug War superstition, which says that such substances are without any value whatsoever. And so the "scientific" BRAIN Initiative is completely unscientific. The fix is in. By outlawing the study of such experiential wonders, Obama invites consciousness-scorning materialists to declare premature victory in the field of neuroscience.

Next essay: Heroin versus Alcohol
Previous essay: How the Drug War turned me into an eternal patient

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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. 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