What comes after the war on drugs?
An interview with Steve Rolles of Transform on their new psychedelics report and other initiatives
You can watch the launch event of Transform’s psychedelic report here at 5.15 UK time.
There is an emerging consensus that the ‘war on drugs’ waged over the last century has failed. Drug consumption is higher than ever, drug gangs cause havoc locally and internationally, millions of people’s lives are ruined by strict prohibition laws, and we also lose the potential benefits of drugs for recreational or medical use. Public opinion in the Americas has shifted dramatically in the last few years, with cannabis and psychedelics increasingly decriminalized, and safe injection sites popping up in cities like Vancouver and Portland.
But what comes after the war on drugs? What would a post-prohibition society look like? Some drug reform advocates seem extremely libertarian to me – they don’t just want to end drug prohibition, they appear to be against law enforcement all together (along with nation-states, armies, national boundaries, money, monogamy and so on). Others are more practical, and are seeking to develop new regulatory frameworks to make drugs legal and as safe as possible.
One such organization is Transform, a UK-based drug reform NGO which has worked for 30 years advising governments around the world on drug decriminalization and legalization. Its arguably the leading international think-tank on the topic. Its present director is Steve Rolles, author of Legalizing Drugs: How to End the War.
Steve is the co-author of Transform’s new book, How To Regulate Psychedelic Drugs. The book lays out four possible pathways for legalization (shown in the graphic above), and makes useful advice on what should be in regulation, including proper public education about risks and harms, and proper support for those who get harmed - both of which Steve and I agree are lacking.
I interviewed Steve about the report. We discuss:
What the world could look like after the war on drugs?
How clinical use of psychedelics accounts for 0.01% of total psychedelic use, yet dominates 99% of public discourse on psychedelics.
Why good safety messaging is a crucial part of regulation, and how to get that safety messaging out there.
How to finance harm reduction initiatives, and whether to use tax revenues from psychedelics and other drugs.
Why psychedelic businesses should have licenses, and face sanctions including being shut down or prosecuted if they breach those licenses.
Why psychedelics can make people boring dickheads.
Why New York cannabis legalization is a ‘hot mess’.
Why safe drug consumption sites have become caught up in the culture war.
And finally, whether Latin America could ever hope for a future not dominated by cartels.
A sample quote:
I went to the Psychedelic Science conference in Denver, 12,000 people…I kept meaning to get a T-shirt done, which says ‘My friend did psychedelics and he's still a total dickhead’, just because there was this idea that somehow if you use psychedelics, everything would be better. While I think they can be very positive for people and potentially for communities or society, it's not intrinsic in the psychedelics. It's very much about how it's used in context. Think of the Qanon shaman. If your head is full of garbage and you take psychedelics, you’ll get psychedelic garbage.
Full interview after the paywall, plus this week’s links, including a testimony from a COMPASS participant who initially felt more suicidal after her trip, but with a lot of support feels she has got to a better place. If you really want access to EI but can’t afford it, get in touch, including if you’re a junior researcher in the field.
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial
Subscribe to Ecstatic Integration to keep reading this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.