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When Drug Warriors cry 'Censorship!'

why Chicken Littles like Kevin Sabet do not deserve a place at the table

by Ballard Quass, the Drug War Philosopher

October 10, 2023

evin Sabet was recently bemoaning the fact that a discussion group on psychedelics failed to invite board-certified scientists to their meetings. I also read the post of another prohibitionist who was up in arms about the failure of another psychedelic group to discuss the topic of psychedelics as used by cults. The prohibitionists see this as great hypocrisy and a drop-dead argument that the debate on psychedelics is one-sided in the favor of substance legalization.

This isn't censorship, guys. It's a rejection of the whole idea that naturally occurring substances (including ergot-based LSD) have to be defended in this way. Nature belongs to human beings via Natural Law and its plants and fungi are never justifiably subject to prohibition, as John Locke makes clear in his Second Treatise of Government1. Science, moreover, is never neutral and fair in the age of the Drug War. To the contrary, modern science focuses almost exclusively on the downsides of drugs. Our government pays for advertisements treating drugs as a scourge. Our academics publish only papers about abuse and misuse because the drug-hating NIDA does not generally fund papers that speak otherwise2. Science is not science in such a milieu, it is politics. Kevin and his fellow Chicken Littles know this: that's why they want a place at the table so that they can advance their political cause: i.e., the suppression of medicines that are ours by right and which were used by all tribal cultures, time out of mind, until the west decimated these tribes and subjected them to the comparatively deadly drug of alcohol. (Note: When I refer to alcohol as "deadly," I am not blaming alcohol for anything. The misuse of alcohol is down to social factors, including the state policy of giving alcohol a monopoly on providing self-transcendence. Drug warriors generally admit this truth, while hypocritically denying that it pertains to any other psychoactive substances.)

And the cry about "cults" which employ psychedelics is an hysterical non-sequitur. It is based on the absurd belief that we should hold substances responsible for how people use them. It is this very premise that we legalizers reject as a childish way of thinking about the world. By associating evil with drugs rather than people, we throw millions of people under the bus in an effort to save poor little white kids in the suburbs (those poor little white kids whom we have refused to educate about safe use). When you demonize fentanyl, for example, you think that you're saving white teenagers, when what you're really doing is punishing kids in hospice3. How? By creating the kinds of laws that will make doctors reluctant to provide adequate pain relief for fear of being arrested. (The Washington Post recently reported that the shipment of opioid pills dropped 45% between 2011 and 2019 thanks to law enforcement crackdowns. During the same time, the deaths by overdose skyrocketed! Just imagine the world of suffering that prohibitionists have thus created for those in pain with their demonstrably counterproductive policy of prohibition.4)

Don't get me wrong. I am all in favor of unbiased science. But let's first define science's role. Drug warriors like Sabet want science to have the final say when it comes to legalization, but that is, so to speak, a category error. Psychoactive drugs are not used for medical reasons but for psycho-social and religious reasons. Scientists can tell us of the physical risks of use, perhaps, but they cannot tell us whether use is preferable in any one case because they do not know the value system of the user and what they consider to be the "good life" as Plato would define that term. Take me, for instance: I believe (with God in the Old Testament) that mother nature is actually good. For this reason, I believe (in common with the tribal peoples that America has helped decimate) that drug use is GOOD and can bring helpful dreams, ideas about cure, ideas about the nature of the universe writ large. Nor is this just a tribal view. William James believed that we needed to investigate altered states in order to understand reality and the nature of perception and human consciousness5.

Here's another reason why science is not scientific in the age of the Drug War. In the Drug War, scientists speak as if substances can be judged "up" or "down," as good or bad, but this is a very anti-scientific notion. Dosage counts. Reason for use counts. Time of use counts. No drug can be judged in the abstract. Yet that's what Drug Warriors do. And what's the practical result of this choplogic? Any drug that cannot be used safely today (by those white teenagers whom we have refused to educate about safe use) cannot be used by anybody, anywhere, for any reason, ever.

It is this anti-scientific mindset that outlaws and/or hamstrings research on potential treatments for Alzheimer's and autism and endless other maladies. It is this anti-scientific mindset that throws millions (perhaps billions) of potentially responsible users under the bus in order to "crack down" on a vast minority of what the Drug Warrior considers to be irresponsible users, who, of course, usually turn out to be minorities: minorities that can be thrown in jail in order to further shrink the voting power of the enemies of absurd prohibition6.

If Chicken Little and co. are not invited to the table to discuss time-honored godsend medicines, it is because it is well-known that they will bring this anti-scientific and politically-motivated mindset with them to the table. These critics of substance re-legalization do not want to protect us from cults and dangerous medicines. They want to protect their narrow and anti-historical Christian Science view of the world, which they feel is challenged when folks are allowed to improve their minds and mental power with plant medicine. For while the tribal mentality considers such meds to be godsends7, the fearful Drug Warrior of western society associates them with witches (i..e. overly assertive women of the Middle Ages) and poisoning.

Finally, it's ironic that these Drug Warriors complain about censorship. Censorship is what the Drug War is all about. That's why almost no academic papers are written about the positive effects of drugs8. That's why the plots of prime-time TV shows are tweaked to contain anti-drug messages provided by the White House. That's why articles in so-called scientific magazines like Scientific American and Science News never mention drugs of which our politicians disapprove9. This self-censorship is so profound that the authors of such articles never even notice it. And so they take prohibition to be a natural baseline from which to do scientific research on subjects like consciousness and anxiety and depression.

Until scientists escape this fog of self-imposed amnesia about the world, science is little more than the handmaiden of the Drug War, helping to normalize a wholesale prohibition of psychoactive medicines that is unprecedented in human history.

Author's Follow-up: January 18, 2024

picture of clock metaphorically suggesting a follow-up

When scientists talk about the cost/benefit analysis of drugs, they are blind to a host of factors. Here are some of the benefits that they completely ignore: the ability of a user to appreciate music, to experience compassion, to have some peace from non-stop negative inner voices, etc. The fact is, these things have values that a scientist is not even qualified to rate. Their importance depends on what one values in life -- and should not be determined by materialist scientists, who, because of their reductive dogma, cannot even determine if laughing gas could help the depressed.

As for risks, scientists ignore all the risks that come from OUTLAWING substances: like the destruction of the rule of law in Latin America, the risk of luring poor young people into lives of crime by giving them hugely profitable opportunities, the risk of turning inner cities into shooting galleries, the risk of throwing so many minorities in jail that only law-and-order conservatives are elected. Instead, they argue with childish simplicity as follows: "This drug could hurt Johnny Whitebread and so should not be available anywhere, at any dose, for any reason, ever, even if it means outlawing drugs that could help treat Alzheimer's or autism or could provide pain relief for children in hospice." This is racist and xenophobic politics, not a scientific evaluation of costs and benefits.

Scientists think they can ignore all these risks and benefits and still be taken seriously. What a joke.

In fact, we should not even do them the favor of calling them scientists, for any true scientist would know that no substance is good or bad in and of itself, and that even cyanide has beneficial uses, and that it's all about the nuances of dose and context, nuances that our so-called scientists completely ignore in the age of the anti-scientific Drug War.


1 Quass, Brian, John Locke on Drugs, 2020 (up)
2 Quass, Brian, Speaking Truth to Academia, 2022 (up)
3 Quass, Brian, Ignorance is the enemy, not Fentanyl, 2022 (up)
4 Quass, Brian, More Weed Bashing at the Washington Post, The Washington post, 2023 (up)
5 Quass, Brian, William James rolls over in his grave as England bans Laughing Gas, 2023 (up)
6 Quass, Brian, The Invisible Mass Shootings, 2022 (up)
7 Quass, Brian, The Drug War Imperialism of Richard Evans Schultes, 2023 (up)
8 Quass, Brian, Self-Censorship in the Age of the Drug War, 2020 (up)
9 Quass, Brian, How Scientific American reckons without the drug war, 2023 (up)

Next essay: Addiction
Previous essay: There is nothing to debate: the drug war is wrong, root and branch

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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.

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.

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You have been reading an article entitled, When Drug Warriors cry 'Censorship!': why Chicken Littles like Kevin Sabet do not deserve a place at the table, published on October 10, 2023 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)