I’ve never been exposed to a solid intellectual argument for prevailing US drug policy that, if followed to its logical conclusion, wouldn’t turn sweet cream butter into a Schedule A substance.
Something’s wrong when advertisements that warn of the “dangers” of marijuana are immediately followed by ads glorifying alcohol – a dangerous drug which is involved in nearly half of the nation’s accidental deaths. Or when we miss the haunting surreality of a talk show segment that explores the “dangers of ecstasy” then tells us how a troubled teen found help with Prozac.
Millions of people will die this year as a result of abusing legal substances that are marketed to us everywhere we look – alcohol, prescription and over-the-counter medicines, and even stacks of chocolate chip pancakes.
A full one million people are now in prison for mere possessory offenses – that is, the unaggravated possession of some politically incorrect, out of current social favor, non-television-advertised medicine or intoxicant.
With some drugs – such as crack cocaine and methamphetamines – these laws have had a (perhaps unintended) genocidal effect. As a result of these midguided policies, hundreds of thousands of poor, undereducated Americans of varying ethnic backgrounds are serving prison time where they are learning to become real criminals. To the great disappointment of many legislators, it will not be the last we have heard from them.
With other drugs – such as LSD and marijuana – these laws represent an outdated, socially-distilled fear of a certain way of thinking. The criminalization of such substances is a result of sensationalized campaigns of dishonesty designed to serve the short-term interests of the ruling class (allowed to succeed by the silent assent of frightened masses). With marijuana, it was the threat that hemp posed to American industrial powers. With LSD, a powerful chemical that any objective expert will tell you is non-toxic, it was the sociopolitical threat posed to leaders by the burgeoning influence of the anti-Vietnam mindset in the late 1960’s.
Most people I know – from law enforcement officers to CEOs to Christian mystics – disagree with current American drug policy. Polls show that most Americans favor a relaxation of controlled substance laws.
The federal government itself is stalled, but there is hope – progressive cities and states are relaxing possession laws and instructing officers to spend time fighting real crimes. Funds are being freed up to help those who need help to get it. The FDA has approved several protocols for psychedelic research and the ongoing programs are showing great promise.
American culture, as beautiful and rich and deep as it can be, is showing its intellectual warts by staying silent in the face of this dreadful misdirection of cultural energy and law enforcement resources. I hope the momentum encourages more people to speak up.