Providing straightforward information pertaining to drugs, drug use & drug policy. The Grey Pages promotes drug-related literacy and advocates a system of viable and tolerant drug policies. This is my personal collection of commentaries, essays, tid-bits, and other such writings on everything ranging from drug use, drug policy and drug-myths, to drug-science, addiction, human behavior, and the workings of the human brain. I started this blog with a particular focus on opioids, and over the past year have found my interest gravitate toward the intriguing, ever-changing world of designer intoxicants (i.e. "research chemicals" or "designer drugs").

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Origins of Drug Prohibition Laws

In analyzing the merits and morality of our current drug policies, it is important to consider exactly what motivated these laws and policies which kick started 98 years of drug prohibition. 

Many are oblivious to the fact that the original implementation of United States drug laws in the late 19th to mid 20th century had nothing to do with health, science, crime, or public safety - at least not to any great extent - Instead, our criminal drug laws were largely influenced by the following forces:

Religious, cultural and ethnic bigotry. Major efforts to keep foreign cultures from 'corrupting' the anglo saxon, white, puritan culture.

Cultural and religious superstitions. Historically ultilized as a tool of propaganda and persuasion by anti-drug zealots and career-motivated politicians, and applied through media and press. Playing on the emotions of the public is an effective way of modifying public opinion to suit a given religious, economic, or political agenda.

Setting a moral standard for the rest of the world. Furthering the quest of the US in becoming a world superpower, and an international symbol of morality (though the US would eventually take this to the level of global moral dictator). 

Gaining a level of [potential] control over a particular demographic by criminalizing staples of their culture. When applied to a particular social niche, this being the case with the early opium laws aimed at chinese immigrants in San Francisco or the psychedelic laws proceeding the establishment of the 60's & 70's counterculture, such populations can be conveniently persecuted, controlled, and oppressed when deemed necessarry.

Creating or maintaining a commerial or industrial monopoly. The fact that opium and cannabis were conveniently and cheaply cultivated could have been (and for cannabis, was) perceived as a threat to other intoxicant industries such as liquor, coffee, and tobacco. The fact that some psychoactives were preferred over other drugs by certain dempographics could have posed a threat to the alternative drug industries; banning the prefferred substance would open a whole new market demographic for the latter drugs.

Creating a global trading or economic monopoly. By implementing international drug conventions, the US could lead the charge to criminalizing certain foreign produced drug products in favor of American produced drug products. Laws against certain substances may serve the purpose of suppressing the economy of a particular hostile or combatant country.

Political self interest. Campaigning against certain substances has historically been a convenient and effective means of furthering ones own political career and reputation. 

Stripping humans of creativity and individuality to create a society of slaves/machines whose lives are constructed around feeding the socioeconomic system in place. Drug laws have been promoted and justified on the premise that drug use is antithetical to a socially "productive" lifestyle - a socially productive lifestyle generally being defined as that which best feeds/contributes to the social, industrial, and economic system(s) in place (as the powers that be would have you believe, an individual's time and energy is best spent generating taxable revenue for the state and consuming the pre-approved commercial products & services). This ideology has been historically justified with the false reasoning that an individual's personal and moral duty is first and foremost to serve some contrived "greater good". These Stalinist implications are especially troubling when one acknowledges the principles of individuality, self determination, and cultural diversity which were essential building blocks in creating a Constitutional Republic where the rights of the individual are immune from the will of a majority and limited only by the occurrence of harm to others, (and ONLY after that harm has occurred).

Demonization of a particular drug creates justification for dubious legislation which would otherwise be controversial. What is often cloaked as an anti drug measure and goes unquestioned in the heat of a major drug scare, may have motives aside from simply battling drug use; and this often becomes apparent once the policy in question is utilized for purposes having nothing to do with a drug case (i.e. abused).

Further Off-Site Reading: History of Drug Use in the United States

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