Essay date: December 29, 2020

Why the Drug War is Worse than a Religion

s a white kid who grew up listening to so-called black music in the '70s (not just the crossover hits of Labelle but the deep album cuts such as "Isn't it a Shame" and "Somewhere Over the Rainbow") I would occasionally experience the awkward phenomenon of having my white friends snicker or break into what for me was unwelcome parody when I made the mistake of playing one of my favorite soul hits during a get-together at my place. It actually made them uncomfortable to hear singers expressing so much emotion. Sure, they had grown to like "Lady Marmalade," but when Labelle really let herself go, emotionally speaking, on such lengthy ballads as "Isn't it a Shame," complete with melodious moaning and impassioned scatting, my white friends began to squirm in their seats like so many grade-schoolers, despite the fact that their college days were already long behind them.

In that reaction, I think we can see the real motivation behind America's Drug War: the white man's insistence that we all be as emotionally restrained as he is, that we "let ourselves go" a little, perhaps, in the same way that my friends could find it in their hearts to enjoy "Lady Marmalade," but that we never really truly "shake it like we mean it" in this life, as Labelle most obviously did in "Isn't it a Shame?" It strikes me, moreover, that this "white reaction" to soul music is "all of a piece" with the Caucasian preference in Shakespearean times for behavior to be "meet" and "seemly" and to not offend the sensibilities of the community with any emotional excesses. In short, the white race, if we must call it so, has placed such a premium upon thought (which is, indeed, the very touchstone of its own existence, according to Descartes) that it has come to fear any forays into the long-since unfamiliar lands of unbridled emotion.

With this backstory in mind, the Drug War may be seen as the enforcement, not simply of a religion, but of a whole way of "being in the world," a whole way of approaching life. We must be aggressive and ambitious, yes, and so the use of caffeine is not only legal but encouraged. However, we must not be TOO aggressive or ambitious (after all, that would not be "meet" and "seemly" and it might even empower the user to promote the overthrow of the uptight status quo) and so the use of cocaine must be punished. In this way, the Drug War turns Aristotle's Golden Mean into the law of the land. "Dance if you must," it cries, "but never, never, shake it like you really mean it." Of course, even the Drug Warrior agrees that occasional self-forgetfulness is necessary in this life, and so we are free -- and even encouraged -- to use alcohol and beer. However, we must never achieve this self-forgetfulness with the help of a substance that inspires us to question the very thought-centric nature of the society in which we live (and so psychedelic use will be punished). Americans have to be uptight by law, and the last thing that the Drug Warrior wants is for us to realize through substance use that there are other perhaps more satisfying ways of seeing the world.

We can say then that modern drug law is designed to legally oblige Americans to be "uptight" (or "meet" and "seemly" as Shakespeare would have called it) and to have only those thoughts and feelings that are not quite passionate or novel enough to rock the boats of the thought-obsessed powers that be. And so the Drug War is far worse than the mere establishment of a religion, for in such an injustice, the tyrant may be appeased with a mere outward show of obedience. No, the Drug War tyrant is far more ambitious: he insists that we FEEL the way that he wants us to feel (namely uptight) on penalty of law.

EDITOR'S NOTE March 30, 2022: The substances that we ban today actually inspired entire religions. One of the earliest human religions, the Vedic which gave rise to Hinduism, was inspired by soma, a psychedelic concoction created from the bounty of mother nature. Plato's views of the afterlife were inspired by the psychedelic kykeon at Eleusis. The Mesoamericans sought divine guidance from sacred mushrooms.

Thus the Drug War is not only the outlawing of specific religions, but it's the outlawing of the very source and fountainhead of religious feeling itself, and so the Drug War is religious tyranny twice over.

Buy the Drug War Comic Book by Brian Quass, featuring 150 hilarious op-ed pics about America's disgraceful war on Americans

Next essay: The Drug War as a Greek Tragedy
Previous essay: Childish Drug Warriors

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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. (For proof of that latter charge, check out how the US and UK have criminalized the substances that William James himself told us to study in order to understand reality.) It outlaws substances that have inspired entire religions (like the Vedic), Nazifies the English language (referring to folks who emulate drug-loving Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin as "scumbags") and militarizes police forces nationwide (resulting in gestapo SWAT teams breaking into houses of peaceable Americans and shouting "GO GO GO!").

(Speaking of Nazification, L.A. Police Chief Daryl Gates thought that drug users should be shot. What a softie! The real hardliners are the William Bennetts of the world who want drug users to be beheaded instead. That will teach them to use time-honored plant medicine of which politicians disapprove! Mary Baker Eddy must be ecstatic in her drug-free heaven, as she looks down and sees this modern inquisition on behalf of the drug-hating principles that she herself maintained. I bet she never dared hope that her religion would become the viciously enforced religion of America, let alone of the entire freakin' world!)

In short, the drug war 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.

PPS 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."

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
  • Bernays, Edward "Propaganda"1928 Public Domain
  • 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
  • Gianluca, Toro "Drugs of the Dreaming: Oneirogens"2007 Simon and Schuster
  • Griffiths, William "Psilocybin: A Trip into the World of Magic Mushrooms"2021 William Griffiths
  • Grof, Stanislav "The transpersonal vision: the healing potential of nonordinary states of consciousness"1998 Sounds True
  • Head, Simon "Mindless: Why Smarter Machines Are Making Dumber Humans"2012 Basic Books
  • Hofmann, Albert "The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants: Ethnopharmacology and Its Applications"2005 Inner Traditions/Bear & Company
  • Illich, Ivan "Medical nemesis : the expropriation of health"1975 Calder & Boyars
  • 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
  • Lindstrom, Martin "Brandwashed: tricks companies use to manipulate our minds and persuade us to buy"2011 Crown Business
  • Mariani, Angelo "Coca and its Therapeutic Application, Third Edition"1896
  • Miller, Richard Lawrence "Drug Warriors and Their Prey: From Police Power to Police State"1966 Bloomsbury Academic
  • Mortimer MD, W. Golden "Coca: Divine Plant of the Incas"2017 Ronin Publishing
  • Nagel, Thomas "Mind and Cosmos: why the materialist neo-Darwinian conception of nature is almost certainly false"2012 Oxford University press
  • Newcombe, Russell "Intoxiphobia: discrimination toward people who use drugs"2014
  • Partridge, Chiristopher "Alistair Crowley on Drugs"2021 uploaded by Misael Hernandez
  • Rosenblum, Bruce "Quantum Enigma: Physics Encounters Consciousness"2006 Oxford University Press
  • 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
  • Whitaker, Robert "Mad in America"2002 Perseus Publishing
  • Site and its contents copyright 2023, by Brian B. Quass, the drug war philosopher at For more information, contact Brian at