As many people probably know already, last week the DEA refused to reschedule marijuana. They will continue to view weed as a “Schedule 1 Drug”, which means it “is a dangerous substance that has no recognized medical use and that has a high potential for abuse”. There are lots of problems with this that should infuriate people of all political persuasions… Conservatives should be angry that an un-elected federal bureaucracy is going to enforce rules against states that have found overwhelming medical use for weed. Liberals should be angry (and in my experience they are) at the erosion of civil liberties, particularly against people of color, by militarized police all because of the War on (Some) Drugs. (I do find it kind of strange that conservatives, who claim to be Constitutionalists, tend to just ignore the violations of several amendments in the Bill of Rights because of the war on drugs… but whatever).
The crazy, evil, tyrannical War on Drugs is not really what I wanted to talk about. I am more interested on how those of us are fighting the war on drugs could learn from the ridiculous ruling by the DEA.
In my experience, the government overplayed it’s hand with the war on drugs and made an entire generation skeptical of the dangers of drug use. I was part of the DARE generation who faced fear-based propoganada when it came to drugs, particularly weed. I was told that weed would drive me insane, I wouldn’t be successful, and just smoking it once will ruin my life. As I go older I realized that weed won’t drive me insane, you can win gold medals and start revolutionary businesses while smoking weed, and generally the only way weed ruins your life is if you get caught with it (the drug itself isn’t that bad). Once I realized the government lied about weed, it made me wonder if they lied about other drugs as well (particularly MDMA and psychedelics, which always appealed to me).
So yes, marijuana is a gateway drug, but only because the government built that gateway and started waving everyone in. If DARE had been based on harm-reduction and actual science then it could have been an effective way to minimize addiction and deter people from irresponsible use.But, instead, the government decided to show us eggs being hit with frying pans. We were told that our brain on drugs was scrambled, but then we met people who used all sorts of drugs and their lives were just fine.
Unfortunately, I think a lot of people fighting against the drug war go too far in the other direction. Some (not all, and maybe not even the majority) of people view many drugs as harmless, particularly weed. Hell, it is even sold to us as a panacea that can cure everything under the sun. Yes, there are medicinal benefits, but it is not a cure-all, and there are risk associated with it (as there is with everything). Pretending those risks don’t exist only supports the government.
When it comes to healthy behavior with weed (or MDMA, shrooms, video games, exercise, or anything that can be an addictive activity) we shouldn’t pretend that it is harmless. If I had a friend who woke up in the morning and the first thing they did was take a shot of vodka to get a buzz going and then all day took frequent breaks to keep it going and then after work went to happy hour only to stumble home drunk nearly every night, I would see that as a problem. It may not be destroying their lives, they may be relatively happy and healthy, but that need for persistent reality modification would raise red flags for me, and a I think many people would agree. But, if that behavior was weed instead (wake and bake, spliffs all day, bong rips when you get home, etc) we kind of laugh about it and pretend it is harmless, and maybe it is harmless for the moment, but it is still a red flag if someone feels the need for a drug to get through the days. There are already addictions that we can’t avoid (water, food, air, etc), adding more onto them only reduces our freedom and autonomy. If there is a drive to do something from morning until night, that might be a problem, whether that thing is alcohol, weed, exercise, working, or playing video games.
I think everyone should be able to peacefully do whatever they wish with their bodies (which includes their minds). It is a gross violation of our rights to say we can’t take drugs, preventing someone from taking a drug is making the claim that you own their life, their body, their mind. It is to claim them as your slave and property. But, that doesn’t mean we should ignore our friends if they are engaging in harmful or destructive behavior, and we certainly shouldn’t make the claim that because something is our right that it is completely harmless or shouldn’t be done in moderation.