A drug can be defined as anything that alters our state of mind. By that definition everything from a cup of coffee and scotch to marijuana and skydiving is a drug. A stimulant, a depressant, a relaxant and an adrenaline boost all in that order. For thousands and thousands of years human beings have drank, smoked, snorted and pushed boundaries all in an effort to alter their state of mind and thus their state of being. It is human nature to want to feel better and in an effort to do so we have explored every possibility we could think of. In modern times we have taken to extremely restrict, control or cut off these substances and tendencies because we have most to be harmful in mass. In other words, governments and religious groups came together, decided what they considered unacceptable and then punished people for partaking in them. This isn’t new, those groups have always been trying to enforce this level of control. However, modern times have made it easier all the while having little to no impact. Few wars in history have cost so much in capital and human lives and yet had little to no impact as the drug war has.
To understand why people enjoy doing drugs is to understand people and our unique situations as a species. We are extremely fragile both physically and emotionally. Our lives are usually short by comparison to other animal species and the age of the planet in a whole. Those lives are filled with boundless difficulties and hardships and to top it all off we die. As of yet no one can really tell us what happens when that happens. It would seem only reasonable we turn to things that help us forget, move past or completely forget all of these things. Something to make us happy despite our circumstances, something to calm us despite our fear or something to make us feel alive when we have been depressed for so long. Yet, our societies focus on the negative effects of drug use and punish anyone and everyone they can harshly, out of fear of these effects. Instead of trying to understand the disease of these hardships, they seek to punish the symptoms. In all the decades that America has tried to curb drug use, they have only spurred on its use by helping criminals to glorify it.
Humans are not unique in their drug use. Dolphins will chew on and pass around puffer fish. The fish secretes toxins that give the dolphins a buzz. Jaguars chew on hallucinogenic roots and climb trees, sometimes they even get so hey fall out of the tree. Even reindeer in the wild eat mushrooms to get high. The list goes on and on of wild animals doing the same thing as humans. If only to get high and feel good as opposed to the more complicated reasons people use to get high. To say it’s natural to get high is an understatement.
In the 1980s Portugal had a drug crisis of their own. Despite cracking down on users hard as most nations have tried, this had little effect. In response the Portuguese government did something unheard of at the time and in fact to this day in most nations. They decriminalized decriminalize the possession and use of drugs. Instead of skyrocketing drug use what actually happened was a steady decline. They chose instead to give a small fine or if they were made to appear in court they were then usually directed to a doctor or social worker to prescribe treatments or help with mental health issues. Their system isn’t perfect and they still struggle with certain healthcare issues. However, by treating the actual root cause of their drug addiction and use they were able to improve the mental and overall health of the drug users. As well as preventing future drug use that could’ve been deadly from the start. It turns out that people are people despite the substances they use.
Hundreds of billions if not trillions of dollars have been spent on our nation’s drug war not to mentions the millions of lives affected if not lost. Under our current system possessing weed carries heavier fines and sentences then other violent offenses. Despite countless studies from around the world that say the plant is neither addictive nor deadly. More people die of alcohol and drug use then have ever died from Marijuana, which is currently zero. To be fair, I have never done a drug or anything stronger than an aspirin in my life, unless scotch and women count. Just because I haven’t and don’t plan on doing doesn’t mean I think other people should have the ability to. I know stronger narcotics are truly deadly and destructive. I am not advocating their use or saying that people should be free to anything and everything they want to do whenever simply because it’s their desire to. What I am getting at is simple. What we’re doing right now to combat the long lasting epidemic of drug use, overdose, organized crime and trafficking are all connected and our strategy has and will never work. We have enriched cartels and gangs the world over and helped them to kill people indirectly and directly. The time, energy and money we have wasted on it as a nation could have saved far more lives and helped to heal those in need. We need to stop telling people how they should be and accept them and ourselves for what we are. Scared, feeling and anxious human beings. We will never stop people from being all that and more. In the end either we will learn this or we will keep fighting a war with ourselves that will never end and accomplish nothing we set out to do.
The amount of money and of legal energy being given to prosecute hundreds of thousands of Americans who are caught with a few ounces of marijuana in their jeans simply makes no sense – the kindest way to put it. A sterner way to put it is that it is an outrage, an imposition on basic civil liberties and on the reasonable expenditure of social energy.– William F. Buckley Jr.