The "War on Drugs" essentially is based on moral arguments about the ethical legitimacy of drug use. It is an argument tantamount to those surrounding abortion and homosexuality. The assumption is that humans are irrational and animalistic creatures.
Without proper "moral" guidance, they will fall into depravity and orgiastic hedonism.
Our drug laws have been informed by these types of foundational assumptions which have their origins in the Temperance Movement, racism, and Puritanism. Yet in 2009 and beyond should we base our laws on such pessimistic and archaic moralizing? Or should we move towards an evidence-based approach with roots in medical, psychological, and sociological research?
Although it would seem that we are on the cusp of a new era in drug policy there is still this tendency for our population to moralize drug use. The dialogue surrounding the issue is always articulated in ways that find focus in the ethical.
Even those who support drug policy reform and regulation get trapped in framing all drug use outside of socially normative models (i.e. medicine, caffeine, nicotine, alcohol) as problematic and morally/ ethically wrong. This is symptomatic of over 30 years of "just say no" ads and D.A.R.E. programs, which have created a national psychology entrenched in the "evil, bad, depraved, reprehensible" dichotomy of all nonsocially sanctioned drug use. The national drug policy dialectic as it stands assumes, without even questioning, the reprehensible nature of drug use.
Yet before we can truly formulize a correct, rational, and measured response to drug consumption we must first abandon the assumption that drug use in itself is a moral issue.
To which categorical imperative or objective reality can we appeal to support such an argument?
Only puritanical ideologies based in the Temperance Movement and an archaic Western appeal to "God" as a morally stabilizing force.
Herein lies the problem: who receives the right to espouse "God's" (or whatever's) moral directives? Maybe the Taliban and their version of Shariah law? To whom should we look for theological or transcendental guidance on our legislation? Or could we assume that "God" (or whatever) gave us the rational capacity to utilize research in an effort to establish socially edifying legislation? The bottom line is: do we want legislation based on theocratic, transcendental, and culturally biased dogma?
Or should we dare to orientate ourselves towards scientific and research-based principles?
This demoralization of drug use has gone into full swing in the U.K. with the "nice" people at release.org.uk. They have put forth a full-fledged advertising campaign entitled "Nice People Take Drugs." This statement is a great first step in reformulating the dialectic surrounding drug use. It is incredibly easy to point a moralizing finger at Vancouver's Downtown Eastside (DTES). The socially labeled "depravity" of drug use in the DTES is epitomized, and habitually referred to by naysayers and moralizers of drug use. To such ignorant people it is the only place any definable drug use takes place and displays the inevitable result of all drug use; however, the United Nation's Office on Drugs and Crimes' 2009 World Drug Report states that less then one per cent of the world population are serious drug users.
Beyond this one per cent, the UN estimates that an additional 154 to 212 million people around the world use "illicit" drugs.
Who are these non-problematic recreational drug users?
CEOs, lawyers, doctors, teachers, politicians (former Edmonton Conservative MP Rahim Jaffer to name one), and other "respectable" members of society ingest drugs for recreational/spiritual use. Nice people do take drugs and not out of addicted dependency. Is it so wrong to take some Ecstasy and have a good time? What about a few shots of liquor?
What's the bloody difference?
Besides, not only can ecstasy be fun but it can potentially also be therapeutic. Dr. Rick Doblin, president of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (maps.org), has been attempting to de-moralize drug use, recreational or otherwise, for decades.
He did his PhD thesis at Harvard on "The Regulation of the Medical Use of Psychedelics and Marijuana" and has studied different methodologies concerning spiritual, recreational, and therapeutic psychedelic drug use.
Dr. Doblin is now spearheading groundbreaking research into the therapeutic legitimacy of ecstasy use in people with post-traumatic stress syndrome and has been cleared by Health Canada to do one study here in Vancouver. Despite this, Dr. Doblin has been fighting an uphill battle for decades to get such necessary and potentially liberating research done due to the irrational perception towards, and moralization of, psychedelic drugs.
Sadly, owing to the inculcation of moralistic and demonizing propaganda perpetuated by world governments, we are in the dark ages of psychedelic research.
We need to end this illegal/legal dichotomy of these morally inert substances.
Yet what can Canada do against such absurd international -- or more specifically, American -- pressure?
Canada must look at its "illicit" drug production as a positive way to undermine the moralization of such use. Ecstasy, when used properly and responsibly, is just as safe as alcohol. Both drugs and alcohol, when used improperly and irresponsibly, can have devastating physical and social effects.
Neither drugs nor alcohol are inherently moral by nature.
We need to end this irrational national reaction of abhorrence towards Canada's "illicit" drug production and use. We need to legalize, regulate, and tax recreational drugs.
The only abhorrent aspect of Canada's illicit drug trade is that it is controlled by a myriad of socially antagonistic, self-interested, and violent gangsters.
The actual production and export of internationally illicit drugs in Canada is not the issue.
The issue is the vile degenerate segment of society who currently controls the production, distribution, and profits of these drugs.
Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy at SFU (CSSDP: SFU) will be hosting CSSDP's national conference at the Burnaby Campus on October 23 to 25. We will be discussing these and other drug policy related issues.
Some of our speakers include the aforementioned Dr. Rick Doblin, Dr. Gabor Mate, MP Libby Davies, VCH's Mark Haden, and many others.
Please visit www.cssdp.org for more information.
We are careful not to duplicate the efforts of other organizations, and as a grassroots coalition of prisoners and social reformers, our resources (time and money) are limited. The vast expertise and scope of the various drug reform organizations will enable you to stay informed on the ever-changing, many-faceted aspects of the movement. Our colleagues in reform also give the latest drug war news. Please check their websites often.