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Why Kevin Sabet's approach to drugs is racist, anti-scientific and counterproductive

by Ballard Quass, the Drug War Philosopher

November 2, 2022

evin Sabet is the typical Drug Warrior. He wants to blame all our ills on drugs rather than on the social policies that make them dangerous. But Kevin and co. never had the right to outlaw Mother Nature in the first place. Ask Thomas Jefferson, whose ghost spun in his grave when the DEA stomped onto Monticello in 1987 and confiscated the founding father's poppy plants. Yes, Kevin, we need honesty about all drugs, but that's never going to happen in a capitalist society where we sell Big Pharma meds on prime-time TV as if they were bubble gum. Moreover, Obama's idea of "following the science" will not work because science is political in the age of a Drug War. That's why you will find almost no academic articles discussing the potential benefits of outlawed medicines (like the fact that the Vedic religion was inspired by soma, or that the chewing of the coca leaf gave the Peruvian Indians endurance and social harmony for millennia). Because the Drug War is not about honesty and education, it is about the fearmongering that Kevin promotes with books like Reefer Sanity.

Even if Kevin were 100% right scientifically speaking (and drugs expert DJ Nutt of England would say he is not) , he never takes into account the harm that comes from the prohibition that he champions: civil wars overseas, the corruption of law enforcement, the deaths of blacks in inner cities, the withholding of godsend pain medicine from kids in hospice, the censoring of scientists, ad nauseam. Even if marijuana caused occasional deaths (which it does not), it would be infinitely better to have it re-legalized than to continue the status quo of prohibition. But Drug Warriors never weigh costs and benefits rationally. They judge outlawed substances by the following absurd standard: If it can cause any harm at all, it must be outlawed -- and to hell with the civil wars and police state that might result from such a policy!

What's more, this standard is racist, because in practice it means that we want to protect our white Christian sons and daughters from "evil" Mother Nature at the expense of putting minorities and indigenous peoples in harm's way around the world. We don't want to protect THEM from militarized police forces; we don't want to protect THEM from contaminated product; we don't want to protect THEM from the civil wars spawned by our Drug War. We just want to protect little Johnny and little Sally from Mother Nature's dangerous plant medicines -- as if Mother Nature's bounty was obliged to meet FDA safety standards!

Kevin is an old-school Drug Warrior. That's why he's supported by Jimmy Carter, and we know how successful he was in ending the Drug War.

It's the prohibition, stupid!

To repeat: Mother Nature is under no obligation to meet FDA safety standards.

The bounty of Mother Nature is ours by right, and NO ONE HAS THE RIGHT TO WITHHOLD IT FROM US, even in the name of safety.

It's called Natural Law, Kevin, and it grants us what John Locke called the use of the land "and all that lies therein."

Stop demonizing and outlawing, start teaching!

Kevin Sabet reminds me of the police officer in "Wrongfully Accused" who pushes bystanders back from a crime scene in order to protect them, not realizing that in so doing he is pushing them off the edge of a cliff.

When is Kevin going to speak up about the 1 in 4 American women who are chemically dependent on Big Pharma for life? Oh, but they are not "drugs," right, Kevin? They are "meds." That way of thinking is what Julian Buchanan calls "drug apartheid." Substances are substances are substances -- it is only politics that makes us say otherwise, politics and the commercial interests of Big Pharma, Big Liquor, law enforcement and the military.

Prohibition and ignorance are the problems, Kevin. By thinking otherwise, we give bad social policy a great big mulligan and never learn from our sociopolitical mistakes. And if Kevin really thinks that prohibition works, let's remember that his policy has given elections to conservatives by locking up millions of blacks and has turned inner-city areas (like Southeast Washington DC) into no-go zones for the last 40 years thanks to the guns that are piled up in the community as a direct result of the prohibition that Kevin continues to champion, even though blacks are killed every day in America because of his anti-American policy.

America first cracked down on cannabis (in violation of natural law) because the government needed something to do after Prohibition stopped them from cracking heads over liquor. So they renamed cannabis "marijuana" to associate it with Hispanics and went back in the field, cracking heads once again, this time for marijuana use and possession.

The Atlantic loves Kevin Sabet's viewpoint, but that's no surprise, since that magazine completely ignores the positive uses of psychoactive medicine when it writes about the latest treatments for depression and Alzheimer's (see How the Atlantic Supports the Drug War). To read such articles, one would think that Mother Nature's pharmacy does not exist -- but in reality, the Atlantic is happy to ignore the existence, let alone the potential, of that pharmacy, in lockstep with the superstitious Drug War ideology of substance demonization.

But unfortunately, Kevin's unscientific way of thinking about drugs has to be taken seriously because it represents the mainstream viewpoint of the average American -- the average American who received a teddy bear in grade school for saying no to mother nature's godsends; the average American who watched thousands of hours of TV shows and movies without ever seeing outlawed substances portrayed in a positive way; the average American who has to urinate in order to get work, not to check if he or she is impaired but rather to make sure that he is not using the kinds of plant medicines that have inspired entire religions in the past.

So, I urge the fans of freedom, common sense and natural law to study Kevin Sabet's ideas about drugs carefully, because they are the philosophically flawed ideas that keep America from taking the crucial step of outlawing substance prohibition, for now and for all time, in the name of natural law, in the name of scientific progress, and in the name of user safety, which will never be advanced by the Drug War's policy of keeping us in ignorance about the substances that we are told to hate.

If Sabet agrees with me that we should be completely honest about all drugs, then he should push for the abolition of the DEA. That's the agency that poisoned pot smokers with paraquat in the 1980s, a weed killer that causes Parkinson's Disease; that's the agency that voted to outlaw MDMA in 1985 against the advice of its own counsel, thereby forcing American soldiers to go for decades without godsend medicine for PTSD. If honest education is really our goal as Kevin suggests, the DEA would be replaced by the Drug Education Agency, which would give us honest reports (subjective and objective, both pros AND cons) about all psychoactive medicines -- including those Big Pharma meds upon which 1 in 4 American women are chemically dependent for life. The Drugs Education Agency would finally tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about psychoactive substances.

But Kevin knows as well as I do that politicians are like Lieutenant Kaffee in "A Few Good Men." They can't handle the truth when it comes to psychoactive medicine, because complete honesty would conflict with the vested interests of Wall Street.

Yet another reason why Kevin should abandon his dream of letting government decide which plant medicines we can use: for not only is that a violation of the natural law upon which America was founded, but such government honesty is simply not possible in a nation where Big Pharma lobbyists (not to mention liquor and law enforcement lobbyists) determine "which science" and "which facts" can even be considered.

Finally, I agree with Kevin that there is a disproportionate focus on marijuana right now, but why is that so, Kevin? It's precisely because your knee-jerk substance prohibition has outlawed all of marijuana's psychoactive competition. Like all Drug Warriors, you want to blame social problems like this on "drugs," but it is social policy that got us to this point, not "drugs." People want to experience self-transcendence, Kevin, no matter how much we may demonize their attempts to do so as "getting high." A social policy like prohibition which ignores this fact is sure to fail -- while doing great damage in the process.

Next essay: Mental Illness and the Drug Apartheid of Julian Buchanan
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All drugs have positive uses at some dose, for some reason, at some time -- but prohibitionists have the absurd idea that drugs can be voted up or down. This anti-scientific notion deprives the modern world of countless godsends.
If politicians wanted to outlaw coffee, a bunch of Kevin Sabets would come forward and start writing books designed to scare us off the drink by cherry-picking negative facts from scientific studies.

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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