Sunday Brunch: What comes after the War on Drugs?
Plus the Sheikh who lost $100 million in jewels to a Florida psychic.
I am no fan of the War on Drugs. It’s led to the incarceration of millions of Americans, particularly Black and Latino American young men, often on petty offences; its devastated communities and super-powered cartels in Latin America; its obstructed a legitimate form of healing; and its blocked ordinary people’s ability to alter consciousness however they want (so long as they don’t harm others).
Now, a decade after marijuana began to be decriminalized in US states, and as psychedelics and other drugs are also decriminalized or legalized around the world, there are signs that the 50-year ‘war on drugs’ may finally be ending. But some activists seem to think this is going to usher in a Avatar-like utopia where we are all deeply connected to nature and each other, where there are no prisons, where humanity ascends to the next level of consciousness, where there are no drugs anymore, only plant-based spirit allies.
Hold on a second. We’re still talking about drugs here. Yes humans have been altering their consciousness with drugs for tens of thousands of years. But we have also been harming ourselves for millennia in our eagerness to get out of our heads.
For drug reform activists, the state is the real problem, and the solution is to reduce its power. What I think they sometimes underestimate is the power of the markets to harm us as well. Look at the Oxycontin crisis in the US. Look at the rise of ‘dabbing’ - a way of smoking high-THC cannabis oil, which has often led to psychotic episodes in teenagers. I get their distrust of the state, but why such faith in free markets?
To get my head round the campaign to decriminalize psychedelics in the US, I’m reading up about the similar campaign to decriminalize marijuana a decade ago (starting in Denver, much like psychedelics). I’m reading a book called Weed the People, by Bruce Barcott, and came across this quote by Ethan Nadalmann, former head of the Drug Policy Alliance (one of the leading campaigners for ending the war on drugs). He said:
The forces at work in a prohibitionist market are violent and brutal, but the capitalist forces at work in a legal market are even more brutal in a way.
What do you imagine comes after the war on drugs? How can we protect people from harm in the free(r) market?
I’ll post a thread in the community chat for subscribers. After the paywall, surfing addiction, MDMA for schizophrenia, and why Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is the greatest work of art this year. Remember, all subscriptions support the work of the Challenging Psychedelic Experiences Project - and subscribers will be the first to receive our research on extended post-psychedelic difficulties this month.
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