Liberty and Pursuit of Forbidden Fruit
A Critical Look at the Real Motivation Behind the War on Marijuana
by David Jay Brown
Telling the Truth About the War on Drugs
"The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary."
-- HL Mencken
The desire to recreationally ingest psychoactive drugs is deeply rooted in our biological nature. The hunger to get high is as natural as the desire to eat, sleep, and procreate.
Young children have an instinctive drive to change their ordinary state of awareness, as evidenced by the delight that they take in spinning around and around in circles to produce a state of dizziness. According to UCLA psychopharmacologist Ron Siegel, every human culture, and every class of animal, make use of certain plants for their psychoactive properties. In fact, Siegel believes that "the desire for intoxication is actually a fourth drive, as unstoppable as hunger, thirst, and sex
Our DNA is programmed to grow brains that crave intoxicating plants and potions. The molecular components of the intoxicants that we use fit so snugly and precisely into our neural receptors that it seems as though our brains were specifically wired to receive them. This symbiotic, co-evolutionary relationship between animal brains and plant intoxicants is as ancient as the birds and the bees. This is why the War on Drugs in America is really a war against human nature.
The War on Drugs (or rather, the War on Some Drugs, as Robert Anton Wilson more aptly puts it) is a fascist attempt to control human behavior by stigmatizing and punishing people for following one of their most natural instincts -- to do what feels good.
The U.S. government uses Machiavellian scare tactics to fuel the Drug War, because they know that fear is what motivates most of human behavior. The Vatican, the Mafia, street gangs and world governments all recognize this fact, and have learned how to terrorize people to their advantage.
Science fiction author Philip K. Dick summed it up best when he said, "Rome never fell." Religious orders still emanate from the Vatican, the Military-Industrial Complex still runs the world, and most people are still wage-slaves to the ruling class. Those in control know that scaring people is the easiest way to manipulate them. The scare tactics work even better if people are duped into thinking that what the government is doing is actually for their own good.
The Drug War is an organized attempt to scapegoat and persecute racial minorities, inner-city youth, lower economic classes, left-wing intellectuals, and rebellious government protesters--similar to how the Nazis persecuted the Jews, or the Witch Hunts persecuted pagan women. The Drug War is primarily waged upon low-income minorities who use marijuana.
More recently, it’s also been waged against the sick and dying, who use the herb medicinally. The recent DEA raids on California’s medical marijuana clubs apparently stem from the fact that these groups threaten the government’s entire basis for the plant’s illegality. And the U.S. government has a lot invested in marijuana prohibition.
The parallels between the Jewish Holocaust and the American War on Drugs are particularly striking. In Nazi Germany, one by one, every activity in which Jews exclusively took part was made illegal -- such as making or selling kosher food. The Nuremberg Act of 1933 was a sweeping set of laws targeted against the Jews, gypsies, and homosexuals. These "undesirables" were carted off because they broke laws targeted against them -- just as drug users, and those who supply them, are thrown in prison today.
When the federal government says that America has a 70 million person drug abuse problem, they're trying to make it sound like the streets are littered with heroin addicts. But what that figure really means is 65 million people have used marijuana, and 5 million have used heroin or cocaine. They don't count alcohol and tobacco (which kill far more people every year than all illegal drugs combined) because they are legal, i.e. the drugs that they peddle.
The feds are talking about an illegal drug "problem". They use the number of people who have smoked the giggly cannabis flowers to beef up their statistics, so it seems like America is in the midst of a terrible heroin and crack epidemic, when its not. To the U.S. government, all use of illegal substances is defined as abuse.
The entire Drug War is founded on unconstitutional principles. There is nothing in the U.S. Constitution that allows for the government to imprison people for using certain substances under the pretence that it is to save them from harming themselves. In the early part of the last century the government still understood this. That is why they had to actually add amendments onto the constitution to initiate and repeal alcohol prohibition.
Many historians speculate that marijuana prohibition began because hemp products were seen as competitive to Du Pont financially, or because it was an easy way to scapegoat Mexican immigrants. The hilarious propaganda film that the government made in the Thirties-- Reefer Madness -- leads me to believe that, even then, they were also aware of the association between marijuana use and youth rebellion.
Whatever the reason why they made marijuana illegal, how the government did it is even more unbelievable. By passing the Marijuana Tax Act in 1937 they required that anyone who bought or sold marijuana had to purchase tax stamps -- yet the government didn't issue any marijuana tax stamps, so there was no way to obtain them. If you had marijuana and no tax stamps, then you were under arrest. Can you believe that people actually fell for this? The Marijuana Tax Act was eventually ruled unconstitutional, however, that didn't stop the determined drug warriors.
In 1972, when Richard Nixon was in the White House, he tried to figure out how to reduce the number of Vietnam war demonstrators that were giving him such a headache. He made the connection that many demonstrators were getting high on pot, and had a brainstorm-- why not simply arrest them for their marijuana use?
Even though the medical research team, that he himself had appointed, recommended that they decriminalize cannabis, Nixon dramatically increased the restrictions on it (through some magical revision of the inter-state commerce-clause, that makes even less logical sense that the unconstitutional Marijuana Tax act). With the exception of Jimmy Carter, every president since Nixon has steadily escalated the Drug War.
By every measure the 30 year Drug War has failed to slow down drug use or the availability of drugs. More people are currently in American prisons than ever before in U.S. history, and more than half of the prisoners are there for non-violent drug offences, yet illegal drugs are more available than ever before. Police corruption and gang violence are currently reaching record highs.
Our hard-earned constitutional rights to privacy are gradually being taken away, and our increasingly-Orwellian government is spying on us more and more. The Bill of Rights has become virtually worthless. Police routinely storm into people's homes, wrestle the occupants to the ground at gunpoint, and search their homes for drugs. Many innocent people have been killed in this process. According to Steve Dasbach, the Libertarian party's national director, over 140,000 people have died because of the Drug War. In addition, countless lives have been ruined and many families destroyed.
The federal government is currently spending over twenty billion dollars a year on the Drug War, and that doesn't include state budgets, which are billions more. While Congress quibbles over a few million dollars for Medicare and Medicaid, no one on Capital Hill even questions the staggering Drug War budget. Remember, every dollar spent on the Drug War is going into somebody's bank account.
The Drug War is also preventing many students from getting an education. The 1998 Higher Education Act disqualifies young people for financial aid for college if they've ever been convicted of marijuana possession -- but not if they've been convicted of rape, robbery or manslaughter.
Now, if the government was truly interested in helping young people with drug problems, one would think that they would encourage them to get an education, rather than prevent it. This is similar to the way that the Nazis tried to prevent the Jews from gaining power in Germany. I suspect that the government is afraid of educated pot smokers.
What other explanation could there be? Rapists and even murders can still get financial aid for college.
Our founding fathers had originally intended for the U.S. federal government to have very limited power. Capital Hill was put in place to protect the states in a time of war, and to settle inter-state commerce disputes. That's it. A state was supposed to be a sovereign entity. The federal government has become the very monster that our founding fathers tried to prevent. Thomas Jefferson would be rolling in his grave if he knew what was going on.
The Drug War, which began in 1972* (*Timothy Leary said that the War on Drugs actually began in Eden, when Jehovah busted Adam and Eve for eating from the tree of Forbidden Knowledge, and exiled them from paradise.), has lasted longer than any other war in U.S. history. I'm sure that future generations will view the Drug War as one of the worst injustices in human history, right up there with slavery and concentration camps. Can it possibly get any worse?
Bobby Moak, a representative from Mississippi, introduced a bill which, if it becomes law, would provide legislation for the removal of a body part on anyone found guilty of possessing marijuana. A questionnaire that made the rounds in Congress not long ago included the question: "Do you favor the death penalty for drug trafficking?" Darryl Gates, the former Los Angeles police chief, said that he thought marijuana users should be executed. Can you believe all this intense hatred towards people who smoke little green and red flowers that, at worst, make them watch cartoons and giggle?
Why doesn't the U.S. government ever consider changing its hard-line policy on Schedule I drugs like marijuana, crack, and heroin?
Because harm reduction and reducing drug use was never their real intention, as evidenced by the CIA's well-documented involvement in heroin and cocaine trafficking. The government's real intention has been to frighten and intimidate people. And by that measure, the Drug War has been a huge success. That is why, even though numerous states have passed medical marijuana initiatives, possession of the gentle healing herb still remains a federal crime in the same league as murder and rape.
Marijuana users are probably the most persecuted minority on the planet. There are currently several hundred million marijuana users worldwide in custody in more than a hundred nations. Former High Times editor Peter Gorman said, "There is no other group, no religious organization, no single color or people, who are persecuted in such numbers in so many different places anywhere on the globe
What is the logic behind the Drug War supposed to be anyway? That these forbidden plants and potions are so dangerous and so evil that if you agree to use one then you embody that evil? The Bush administration seems to be implying this with it’s ad campaign that attempts to link drug use with funding terrorism.
Why is the U.S. government so adamant about maintaining their increasingly-ludicrous position on marijuana, to the point where they’re willing to terrorize terminally-ill cancer and AIDS patients who rely on the medicinal herb to stay alive?
Because the Drug War is a sinister political hoax that serves four important purposes.
1. It is a way to persecute racial minorities. The Drug War disproportionately imprisons blacks and Hispanics. A Rutgers University statistician, who surveyed drivers and arrests on the New Jersey turnpike, reported that, while fewer than 5 percent of the cars on the turnpike had both out-of-state plates and were occupied by blacks, 80 percent of those stopped and arrested for drugs were out-of-state blacks. According to the Bureau of Justice statistics only 11 percent of America's illicit drug users are black, yet blacks account for 37 percent of those arrested for drug violations.
2. It creates a huge slave labor pool for the major corporations. Many prisoners work for major corporations for around 60 cents an hour, with no benefits.
3. It raises money for law enforcement -- through seizures of bank accounts, cars and property. It also provides a way of charging higher-income tax-payers to imprison lower-income citizens. The privately-owned prison industry charges tax-payers approximately $22,000 a year per prisoner.
4. It helps to eliminate competition with legal pharmaceuticals and legal recreational drugs. The Drug War has grown into a hugely successful capitalistic enterprise, benefiting the privately-run prison industry, the military, the urine testers, manufacturers of wiretaps and other spy-technologies, prosecutors, defense attorneys, politicians and police, as well as the tobacco, alcohol, and pharmaceutical companies. These are the very corporations that fund the Partnership for a Drug-Free America and DARE programs -- which, like the Nazi programs, teach children to turn in their parents.
5. The American Government is also well aware of the association between marijuana use and the tendency for people to think for themselves and question authority. The Drug War is designed to frighten rebellious people into submission.
People who smoke marijuana tend to think independently, to stray from the mainstream, to protest wars and do other rebellious things that the government doesn't like. This is why Nixon originally declared a war on marijuana in 1972. According to Paul Krassner, a U.S. government-sponsored anti-drug booklet, with a foreword by Senator Orrin Hatch, informs parents that among the warning signs that their children are using marijuana and other drugs is "excessive preoccupation with social causes, race relations, environmental issues, etc
The late comedian Bill Hicks said that "not only should marijuana be legal, it should be mandatory." I almost agree. From what I can tell, pot tends to make people happier, more peaceful, more sensitive, more thoughtful and more creative. There's no question that it makes people laugh more. Too much of anything can be unhealthy, but I don't think that most people are getting enough ganja, as evidenced by the fact that the majority of people tend to take themselves too seriously. No where is this problem more evident than with our own government officials. Perhaps if they inhaled, they wouldn't be so damn mean.
I believe that THC -- the primary psychoactive component of cannabis -- is an essential brain nutrient, necessary for proper psychological health. The brain produces its own natural version of THC called anandimide (Sanskrit for "inner bliss"). People who are especially attracted to marijuana may be suffering from deficiencies of this feel-good neurotransmitter. As a result of the Drug War, many people are simply not getting their proper daily requirements of this important brain chemical, and too many of us are suffering from what self-help author Peter McWilliams calls the "pleasure-deficit disorder".
A U.C. Berkeley study showed that the high school students who were the most well-adjusted socially were not the kids who completely abstained from marijuana, or the kids who smoked it continuously -- rather, it was the kids who smoked grass moderately. This was a study that didn't get too much exposure in the mainstream media, like the many studies which demonstrate marijuana's unusual safety, and bountiful utility for treating a wide spectrum of medical problems.
The U.S. Government is lying when they say that there is no scientific evidence for marijuana's medical properties, as they couldn't possibly be that misinformed. Politicians who repeat over and over that more research needs to be done before marijuana can be considered a safe effective medication are simply being dishonest.
Numerous carefully controlled studies have demonstrated that marijuana can safely and effectively treat the nausea that accompanies chemotherapy, AIDS wasting syndrome, glaucoma, epilepsy, chronic pain, and muscle spasm disorders. The recent string of raids on medical marijuana clubs in California will surely be seen by future generations as not only barbaric and unjust attacks on medical freedom, but as cruel fascist attempts by the government to frighten and terrorize its own citizens.
Research at the U.S. National Institute of Health, and in Israel, has also demonstrated that THC -- like vitamins C and E -- is a powerful antioxidant that actually prevents cancer and brain damage. THC has been shown to have tumor-reducing qualities in several studies. A 1994 project by the U.S. National Toxicology Program specifically sought to induce cancers in mice and rats by shooting them up with high doses of THC for extended periods of their lives. However, the results showed unmistakably that the treated animals had significantly greater resistance to tumor development, and lived longer than the untreated animals.
A study done by the California Division of Motor Vehicles in 1986 showed that, unlike alcohol, people driving under the influence of marijuana tended to drive more cautiously. Some people even drove better when they were high. After an extensive international study, the World Health Organization declared that marijuana is much less dangerous than alcohol or tobacco. Isn't it funny how these studies don't often make it into the mainstream media?
Our government wants people to believe that marijuana causes brain damage, and acts a "gateway drug", leading children down the devil's path to hard-core addictive drugs. There is absolutely no scientific evidence for this "gate-way drug" myth. Every study ever done on marijuana confirms that it doesn't lead to harder drugs, as well as how non-toxic it is.
Marijuana is probably the safest psychoactive drug known. In all of human history, there is not one reported death from a marijuana overdose. Yet the DEA is willing to pay television stations millions of dollars (of our money) to alter the scripts of their shows, so as to reflect their malicious propaganda, and tell us how "dangerous" it is. Of course, only the politicians can save us from this horrible menace.
The Bush Administration represents the biggest threat to personal freedom that America has ever faced, and the recent DEA raid on WAMM is an outrage beyond words. It demonstrates that the federal government not only refuses to recognize the will of the voters, it shows how cruel their bullying tactics can be. However, I'm convinced that love and truth will prevail. I suspect that this terrorist attack on WAMM is the begining of the end of these horrific and unjust laws.
When public outcry reaches a high enough pitch the federal government will be forced to concede to the will of the people, and the viscously oppressive system will crumble like the Berlin Wall. On that glorious day we can all celebrate by sparking up a doobie. A new era of peace, freedom and tolerance will be ushered in, and a statue of Valerie Corral, holding a marijuana leaf, will stand proudly in downtown Santa Cruz.
Baum, D., Smoke and Mirrors: The War on Drugs and the Politics of Failure. Little, Brown and Co., New York, 1996.
McWilliams, P., Ain't Nobody's Business if You Do: The Absurdity of Consensual Crimes in a Free Society. Prelude Press, Los Angeles, 1993.
Siegel, R., Intoxication: Life in Pursuit of Artificial Paradise. E. P. Dutton, New York, 1989.
Zimmer, L. and Morgan, J., Marijuana Myths Marijuana Facts. The Lindesmith Center, New York, 1997.
Special thanks to Robert Anton Wilson, and the late Peter McWilliams, who kept me up-to-date on the proceedings of the Drug War through their informative internet news-groups. In-depth interviews with these two extraordinary individuals can be found on my Web site: www.mavericksofthemind.com
An earlier version of this essay appeared in Rebels and Devils (New Falcon, 2000). David Jay Brown is the author of two science fiction novels-- Brainchild (New Falcon, 1988) and Virus (New Falcon, 1999). He is also the co-author of two collections of interviews with controversial, cutting-edge scientists and artists-- Mavericks of the Mind (Crossing Press, 1993) and Voices from the Edge (Crossing Press, 1995)