The Drug Problem: Social Stigma, Misinformation and Handing Over Control To Criminals – Part 1

March 27, 2013 12:05 pm

“Penalties against possession of a drug should not be more damaging to an individual than the use of the drug itself; and where they are, they should be changed. Nowhere is this more clear than in the laws against possession of marijuana in private for personal use… Therefore, I support legislation amending Federal law to eliminate all Federal criminal penalties for the possession of up to one ounce [28g] of marijuana.”   

  – Jimmy Carter (39th president of the United States and recipient of the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize)

The “War on Drugs” it seems is a topic that is destined to have controversy follow it around like a shroud of mind-polluting propaganda for years to come. Misinformation, social stigma and criminal activity have made any attempt at objectively measuring the damage specific drugs do to masses of people an almost futile activity with the majority of people favoring the much more general and simple yet less scientific view of “Drugs are bad.. mm’kay.” With the legal status of substances hindering their investigation and understanding, how can we claim to know enough about these drugs to grant them anything other than research chemical status let alone criminalize them and their use?

Drug – A medicine or other substance which has a physiological effect on the body when ingested or otherwise introduced into the body.

Cannabis

So when and why did mostly harmless drugs such as Cannabis, Magic Mushroom’s, Mescaline and LSD become so outrageously taboo? Where is the solid scientific evidence suggesting these substances are harmful enough to be explicitly banned? Why do drugs such as Cannabis, Mescaline and LSD have such devout users and why do the majority of them feel they should be legalized? For Cannabis, it’s illegality it is mainly down to the work of two Americans, Harry J. Anslinger and William Randolph Hearst.

Hearst was a media tycoon who’s interest in the profitable paper and logging industries were under direct threat from the use of hemp as a cheaper and superior alternative. He thus set out to demonize the plant and keep his interests (and profits) safe.

Mr Anslinger, was more than likely the main culprit in spreading the propaganda that established the false ideas people still hold to this day about Cannabis, and not just in his home country of America.
He was the first commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics established in 1930. It has been suggested that he over played and out right lied about cannabis, making it out to be far worse than it actually is, in order to secure further funding for his new FBN which was in competition with J. Edgar Hoover and the rising FBI.

At the time, cannabis was used as a tool to oppress foreigners and those of foreign descent in a racist America. It was introduced to the country mainly by Mexicans that migrated there in the early 19th century and would later became associated with the black community, namely amongst the jazz musicians. And so, by criminalizing their means of recreation it was a way of controlling the so called “Undesirables”.

Outrageous propaganda claiming that ‘marihuana’, imbibed by black people, turned them crazy and incited them to steal and murder for their next hit as well as rape white women would become common in the media. Schools were given copies of “educational” video’s to show off to their students the apparent dangers of Cannabis use, some of which are almost as bat shit crazy as the original “Reefer Madness!”

LSD or Lysergic Acid Diethylamide, however, has a somewhat different past. First discovered in 1938 by Swiss chemist Albert Hoffman, LSD has a rather checkered history. Upon first experiencing its effects by accidentally absorbing some of the compound through his fingertips, Hoffman described what he was feeling as..

“… affected by a remarkable restlessness, combined with a slight dizziness. At home I lay down and sank into a not unpleasant intoxicated-like condition, characterized by an extremely stimulated imagination. In a dreamlike state, with eyes closed (I found the daylight to be unpleasantly glaring), I perceived an uninterrupted stream of fantastic pictures, extraordinary shapes with intense, kaleidoscopic play of colors. After some two hours this condition faded away.”

Throughout his life Hoffman campaigned against what he saw as “unfair criticism” of the drug and he was known to attribute these prevailing attitudes to the misuse of the drug by the 1960′s counter-cultural movement and the political establishment of the time. Once again the propaganda cannon was readied, aimed and fired straight towards another drug that had no dangerous properties WHATSOEVER when used responsibly. Soon all kinds of crack-pot accounts of the effects of LSD were circulating, many of them containing extremely dubious accounts and out right lies about the effects of the substance.

One of the prevailing myths was that LSD crystallized inside the spinal cord and users risked detaching these crystals and suffering horrific “flash backs” as if they had taken it when in fact they had not. This is just not true and a good example of the myths and legends pounced upon and used for leverage by those who opposed it. Soon anyone known to take or have taken “Acid” was labeled a loony or a hippy or just plain crazy.

LSD

“Acid Freaks” where at and around the molten core of the 1960′s counter-cultural movement and bands like “The Beatles” and “Jefferson Airplane” and many more inadvertently popularized the use of the drug with songs like “White Rabbit” and the infamous “Strawberry fields forever”. But, the summer of love and all that went with it did not do much loving for the drug as the white collars of Washington and London and other western governments decided that these people were dangerous, psychopathic fiends and whatever those mysterious little tabs they ate were, they had to be outlawed!

Unbeknown to most, LSD was also successfully used in psychotherapy and psychiatry for around 10 years before its prohibition and many influential scientists in the field of psychopharmacology and psychomimetics actively promote its legalisation for therapeutic uses. Alexander Shulgin, re-synthesizer of MDMA and hundreds of other psychedelic compounds, is one of these people. Alexander Shulgin, affectionately known as Sasha to his friends, is credited with the re-discovery of MDMA and is a somewhat cult icon to those who have had the pleasure as I have of reading his two books “PIHKAL – A Chemical Love Story” and “TIHKAL – The continuation”.

In these books Shulgin describes how he met his wife Ann through various meetings with close friends in which they would take the various Psychedelics he had synthesized and rate them in terms of the “high” they produced via a scale of his own invention. The Shulgin Scale. The books caused a lot of controversy when they were published in the early 90′s as both contained graphic details of the synthesis of 100+ psychedelic compounds and authorities were quick to blame the books for the growth of the illegal psychedelic market across the world having found copies in various raids of illegal drug factories.

The DEA then proceeded to turn up unannounced at the Shulgin residence on October 27th 1994 and after what they claimed to be an “administrative investigation” of his homemade laboratory revoked Sasha’s license to work with, analyze and posses class 1 substances. What is interesting about this is, as mentioned in Shulgins book, two previously scheduled reviews of the same lab and records produced no adverse findings. The key fact in this mystery is both the previous reviews took place BEFORE the publication of “PIHKAL”. Why was this so? Only the swines at the DEA know now but what we can see is that something obviously caused them to want to shut him down.I wonder what its was…

One of the main reason’s people overdose on drugs is through lack of knowledge of the specific drug they are putting into themselves, how much they should take, when it will kick in and what will happen when it does. Often, the most responsible drug takers only have a small variety of drugs they will use due to experimentation and finding out what harms your body and what does not. There are many different types of recreational drugs and a lot of them (maybe just under the majority) can and do have adverse effects on your organs, brain and central nervous system. Those of us who use drugs in a responsible manner have, more often than not, done sufficient research in order to make an informed decision about whether a certain substance should be taken. This is pure common sense and anyone not doing this while still taking drugs is acting as a fool and also giving the rest of us a bad name.

Although the apparent lack of knowledge of the widespread general public is not solely down to ignorance. Dr Alexander Shulgin

The legal status of many of these drugs has become a direct hinderance on the ability of those within the psychopharmacology and other such fields to conduct tests and experiments in order to increase our understanding of more mysterious substances. In the 90′s, Dr Rick Strassman was the first man to re-investigate the effects of psychedelics in humans since the 1960′s. His research focused on N,N-Dimethyltryptamine (or DMT) and the potent hallucinogenic properties it possessed. Because of it’s strict Schedule 1 classification, the application proses just to get permission to get started seemed never ending and often felt like it would end in vein.

Why are people like Strassman and Shulgin, those rare few willing to do the research purely to widen the discussion on drugs, coming up against such heavy opposition when it comes to areas like funding their research and gaining use of facilities/equipment? When will those actively doing the work start being the one’s who are listened to rather than the ex-police officers who were always taught to deal with drug users as criminals and politicians looking for a cause to get behind and distort in order to win votes.

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