Drug legalization was one of the first issues that helped me down the path towards the ideas of liberty. Growing up in Alabama in the 1980’s & 1990’s I was taught “drugs are bad.” And I remember Nancy Reagan’s “Just say no!” campaign. Like most people, I was taught the government propaganda about drugs, especially the dangers of marijuana as a gateway drug.
When I was in high school I always knew that I could find drugs if I wanted, but I never felt the urge (or pressure) to try. In fact, I was 32-years-old before I ever tried marijuana. It was during a public speaking class in my junior year of high school that someone gave a speech titled “Just Say No Is Not Possible.” I can’t even recall the details of that speech, and I haven’t actually thought about it in over 18 years, but I can’t help but guess that in some way that speech lead me toward the truth I learned just a few years later.
During my senior year government class the teacher taught us the standard line about the failures of alcohol prohibition; yet we were expected to believe that drug prohibition was not only good, but also successful.
Some time during college, or shortly after, I saw a documentary on the History Channel titled Hooked: Illegal Drugs about the real history of drugs in America.
I was shocked to learn that in the early 1900’s not only were marijuana, cocaine & heroin legal, but they could be ordered from the Sear’s catalog! In the documentary you can hear Political Science professor John McWilliams from Pennsylvania State University say, “None of the drugs that are currently illegal became illegal before they were associated with what were commonly regarded as ‘deviate groups.'” And by “deviate groups” he of course meant, minorities. I was astounded to learn that marijuana was made illegal because of racism, yellow journalism and propaganda. Cocaine and heroin were made illegal for similar reasons.
I began to question how one substance (alcohol) required a Constitutional amendment to make illegal, while other substances (marijuana, cocaine & heroin) did not. To this day I have found no sufficient answer other than the federal government during the Nixon Administration essentially forced states to adopt certain drug laws. Now, after over 40 years of prohibition, there is some progress being made. Some states are trying to roll back the drug war, at least in regards to marijuana.
Throughout history marijuana and other “illicit substances” have been completely legal to grow, produce, posses and distribute. While I do not condone the abuse of any substance (including tobacco and alcohol) I could never accept that jailing people for use of a substance is a good way to discourage misuse of a substance. Why can’t the people who acknowledge that alcohol prohibition was a failure also acknowledge that the “war on drugs” is a failure?
Seeing through the drug propaganda lifted a veil for me. I remember asking myself, “if I was lied to about the drug war, what else have I been told that was a lie?” Skepticism became my default position.
You have a right to consume any substance you wish, as long as you do not cause unjust harm to another person! The more I measured society by this traditional value the more the edifice of the government dissolved. We can’t have a government that supports this traditional value, because governments can only violate it.
Tags: War on Drugs