Drug is a funny word. On one hand, there are “good” pharmacy drugs that may kill you, but for the carefully prescribed dosages of an educated doctor. On the other hand, there are “bad” drugs made from certain psychoactive plants and fungi whose dosages cannot be regulated. Some of these might kill you, while others are biologically incapable of doing so.

I first noticed this drug dialectic in elementary school, with the D.A.R.E. campaign. Nancy Reagan began the perennially negative slogans with “Just Say No to Drugs.” It’s odd as a child to be told, “Drugs will kill you,” while passing a Long’s Drugs pharmacy in the car on the way to school. Today, the “Above the Influence” campaign has resorted to a degenerate series of television commercials featuring melting children and talking dogs. Here’s a fun fact about those ads: they are so widely perceived as stupid that they actually increase teen drug use.

[media-credit id=20109 align=”alignleft” width=”143″][/media-credit]The mortar holding up the wall of prohibition is not logic, but culture. The average conservative parent or grandparent is egalitarian in his or her blanket disdain for illegal drugs, caring little what particular “high” their spawn are tempted by; they’re all bad — except for alcohol, of course, and tobacco. And opiates, amphetamines and tranquilizers, if you can persuade a doctor and yourself that you need them.

Beyond the pure and enlightened oversight of government-approved medical professionals, drugs are deadly, unregulated anarchy, victimizing at random or so the fear goes. However, drugs are much like any other market: self-regulated by the customer’s demand for quality goods.

There are surely other reasons why a judging authority would want to control the temptation of its people to bend their brain chemistry. An obvious reason would be the interests of pharmaceutical corporations. People growing medicines in their backyard, like other rational people, probably don’t enjoy paying pocket-gorging medical bills. To paraphrase the wise words of comedian Chris Rock, “There’s no money in the cure. All the money’s in the treatment.”

A second reason might be ‘social cohesion’ — it becomes difficult to control a people with flexible identities, especially when, say, marshaling them for war. Any person or group of people that regularly exalt a feeling of  “oneness with the Universe” would not, I would guess, be easy to provoke into organized violence. There are also coercive aspects of society apart from war that probably wouldn’t survive widespread psychedelic inquiry.

This is probably the most interesting thing to note about the market for drugs in America today, that heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and anti-depressants, which degrade intelligence and are highly addictive, are widely available, while non-addictive psychedelics that massage and intensify intelligence are far less prevalent. It’s almost as if our governors are okay with mass stupidity and addiction, just so long as it doesn’t lead people to question the sacred social mechanics of the state.

Even “trusted medical brands” like the Bayer Corporation were willing in the mid-1980s to sell hemophiliacs medicine infected with the HIV/AIDS virus, yet the crime of cultivating and/or ingesting an herb of the earth warrants police violence against cancer patients and jail-time among non-violent criminals. Something about that sentence seems terribly fucked.

Prisons in America today have become taxpayer-financed colleges of crime. As exemplified by drug dealer George Jung in the movie Blow, as he was caught smuggling weed across state lines and sent to prison, he “went in with a Bachelor’s degree in marijuana, and came out with a Ph.D. in cocaine.” Considering that the state and federal budgets are presently dancing with bankruptcy, it seems foolish to continue treating nonviolent drug use as criminal activity.

The question of drugs in our society is not chemically objective — it represents a greater question of how much confidence we place in our own mental ability to survive. An infantile mind, addicted to the feeling of security and caught in the assumption that every other mind is as immature as itself, might be killed by drugs. But an intelligent mind, one that cautiously explores with confidence and retains a sharp survival instinct, prefers knowledge of individual experience over sweeping, anti-“drug” generalizations. Drugs are unlikely to overcome a person with such a mind.