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When Judges DO NOT Believe in Natural Law

in response to the Atlantic article by Anthony Murray

by Ballard Quass, the Drug War Philosopher

February 5, 2024

he following letter was written in response to a 2014 article entitled "When Judges Believe in Natural Law" by Anthony Murray in the Atlantic. When I attempted to send it to the author, my message was kicked back as "blocked" by the Murray law firm. (Hmm. Block ME will they?!) So I said, "No big deal, I'll just call their L.A. office number listed on their website." After doing so, however, I received the following somewhat cryptic prerecorded response:

"1-213-465-2367 F-R-E-E-S-W-I-T-C-H underscore H-A-1 -- no route to destination."

Well, either Murray's law firm is out of business, or they have never heard of the concept of user-friendliness. But I guess Murray is one of those high and mighty who have slipped the surly bonds of internet connectivity and are reachable only by a handful of his fellow worthies.

Dear Mr. Murray:

In regard to your Atlantic article, you say that democracy suffers "When Judges Believe in Natural Law"1. But I would like to ask you the following question: What happens when judges give up on the concept of natural law?

ANSWER: The war on drugs happens, which is based on the concept that a government can take over our rights to mother nature's bounty. Surely that is outrageous in the eyes of common sense, not to say world history. Nor is it even Christian, since the Christian god said that his bounty was good. If the concept of natural law upon which America was founded means anything at all, has any power to inspire or deter, then natural law says this: that human beings have the right to what Locke called the earth and all that lies therein.

Sure, we must combat the problem of natural law leading to subjective judicial outcomes based on specific religious beliefs -- but you seem to want to throw out the baby with the bathwater. By throwing out natural law, we return unbridled license to popular opinion led by demagogues. Surely, Jefferson was spinning in his grave when the DEA stomped onto Monticello in 1987 and confiscated his poppy plants2.

But you seem to say that, because natural law can be "abused" by those with narrow religious beliefs, we should hold no truths whatsoever to be self-evident. That idea has given the green light to a war on plant medicine that has outlawed entire religions, criminalized the substances that William James said we must investigate3, denied necessary pain medicine to those in hospice4 (100s of Indian hospitals no longer dare to even stock morphine) and it has completely censored academia, which cranks out endless articles about addiction and depression and consciousness in which they pretend that outlawed psychoactive medicines either do not exist or that they have no beneficial qualities whatsoever (thereby ignoring all that psychoactive experiences might tell us about the subjects in question)5. This Drug War has arrested millions of minorities by tempting the young and poor with wild profits -- and then arresting them when they took the bait -- thereby directly leading to the election of folks like Donald Trump by relatively small margins6.

The price of ignoring Natural Law is the hateful war on drugs, which is a folly that American democracy is not likely to survive. Indeed, the 1st and 4th amendments are no longer valid in the USA thanks to the Drug War -- and property can be seized at the government's whim -- and religious freedom is outlawed, unless a church follows the substance-use policy of Christian Scientists7. And this in a country where we claim that guns do not kill people.

As an enemy of the Drug War, I cringe when I hear folks dissing natural law -- for your doctrine seems to say that government does indeed have a right to outlaw nature -- and that is something I will never believe -- nor would Jefferson.

Author's Follow-up: February 5, 2024

picture of clock metaphorically suggesting a follow-up

I am not saying that I am comfortable with the ways that Clarence Thomas might invoke natural law; but Martin Luther King himself invoked such law when he spoke of our God-given right to freedom and insisted that no law is above this right or can justly countermand it.

"We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God given rights."8

It is surely throwing out the baby with the bath water to claim that we have no inalienable rights whatsoever just because some may, in our view, misuse that term.

Once we concede that there are no such rights, then mother nature is no longer ours by right -- which is the absurd result that should make us rethink our priorities. Once we concede that there are no such rights, then government may tax the very air we breathe. But I am at a loss for citing more dire power-grabs from government, since government's claim to control mother nature is the power-grab par excellence, for it denies us the right to pain relief on our own terms, and when a government controls pain, it has its hooks in our flesh. By controlling psychoactive substances, it tells us literally how we can think and feel about this world -- a far more dire censorship than merely outlawing books.

Of course, even on the grounds of expediency, the Drug War is insane -- for if we were to outlaw all activities that had a similar (or worse) risk profile than drug use, we would give up horseback riding and skiing and we would not even be driving automobiles9. The only remaining grounds for outlawing drugs is an anti-scientific and ahistorical view that psychoactive substances can have no good uses for anybody, anywhere, ever -- a viewpoint that has been responsible for immense suffering over the last 100 years, because Drug Warriors are blind to all the stakeholders in the drug debate -- except for the white suburban young people that they claim they want to protect -- while locking up their black counterparts in the 'hood, turning inner cities into shooting galleries, and destroying the rule of law in Latin America.


1 Murray, Anthony, When Judges Believe in 'Natural Law', The Atlantic, 2024 (up)
2 Quass, Brian, How the Monticello Foundation betrayed Jefferson's Legacy in 1987, 2020 (up)
3 Quass, Brian, William James rolls over in his grave as England bans Laughing Gas, 2023 (up)
4 Rich, Steven, Overdoses soared even as prescription pain pills plunged, 2023 (up)
5 Quass, Brian, How Scientific American reckons without the drug war, 2023 (up)
6 Quass, Brian, How the Drug War gave the 2016 election to Donald Trump, 2021 (up)
7 Miller, Richard Lawrence, Drug Warriors and Their Prey: From Police Power to Police State, Bloomsbury Academic, New York, 1966 (up)
8 King Jr., Martin Luther King, Letter from Jail, (up)
9 Horses Kill, The Partnership for a Death Free America, (up)

Next essay: The Problem is Prohibition, not Fentanyl
Previous essay: Someone you love is suffering unnecessarily because of the war on drugs

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Some Tweets against the hateful war on drugs

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.
Today's war against drug users is like Elizabeth I's war against Catholics. Both are religious crackdowns. For today's oppressors, the true faith (i.e., the moral way to live) is according to the drug-hating religion of Christian Science.
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.
SSRIs are created based on the materialist notion that cures should be found under a microscope. That's why science is so slow in acknowledging the benefit of plant medicines. Anyone who chooses SSRIs over drugs like San Pedro cactus is simply uninformed.
As great as it is, "Synthetic Panics" by Philip Jenkins was only tolerated by academia because it did not mention drugs in the title and it contains no explicit opinions about drugs. As a result, many drug law reformers still don't know the book exists.
Someone tweeted that fears about a Christian Science theocracy are "baseless." Tell that to my uncle who was lobotomized because they outlawed meds that could cheer him up -- tell that to myself, a chronic depressive who could be cheered up in an instant with outlawed meds.
The best step we could take in harm reduction is re-legalizing everything and starting to teach safe use. Spend the DEA's billions on "go" teams that would descend on locations where drugs are being used stupidly -- not to arrest, but to educate.
It's an enigma: If I beat my depression by smoking opium nightly, I am a drug scumbag subject to immediate arrest. But if I do NOT "take my meds" every day of my life, I am a bad patient.
America's "health" system was always screaming at me about the threat of addiction from drugs. Then what did it do? It put me on the most dependence-causing meds of all time: SSRIs and SNRIs.
We need to start thinking of drug-related deaths like we do about car accidents: They're terrible, and yet they should move us to make driving safer, not to outlaw driving. To think otherwise is to swallow the drug war lie that "drugs" can have no positive uses.
More Tweets

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You have been reading an article entitled, When Judges DO NOT Believe in Natural Law: in response to the Atlantic article by Anthony Murray, published on February 5, 2024 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)