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The Drug Legalization Debate


by Thomas L. Wayburn, PhD

The Plenary Sessions

The plenary sessions are elitist. Moreover, I didn't hear anything new or insightful in the plenary sessions that I attended. This is to be expected from elitism. The idea of effecting social change by influencing important people who will then make their influence felt is not a good idea, in my opinion. It always seems to involve the institutionalization of at least a little falsehood because important people got to be important by embracing falsehood, usually, at least the falsehood, as distinguished by me according to my philosophy, that it is valid for one person to enjoy more importance than another. Perhaps, in order to practice what I preach, I ought to write anonymously. A nice precedent for that is N. Bourbaki, which is the pseudonym for a group of (highly elite (!)) mathematicians who wrote an entire collection of math books covering almost all of basic advanced math in a French that is accessible to nearly everyone. One of the plenary speakers actually addressed the problem of the limits of what a political person can say publicly. I would have liked to ask, "Are these talks, then, to be taken as true or false? I mean, do you people really believe what you're saying or are you saying what is merely politically expedient?"

I believe (and I think Bruce Alexander said this too) that the important thing is to produce a body of statements that have meaning and to approach the truth (the congruence of statements with events) as closely as possible. This, then, will be disseminated into the collective consciousness of humanity and affect the way people think and act. When enough people think and act appropriately, appropriate change will be inevitable. We must always refer to an ideal to know what to think and do. It doesn't help to create a politics with no basis. Being "realistic" is just an excuse for being wrong. We need to understand without worrying about what is "acceptable" and what is not. Then, we need to find a felicitous way to speak the truth recognizing that we are fallible.

If money, for example, is a harmful and unnecessary institution, it will not help to say otherwise, but it might be helpful to admit that my proof (and I do have a proof) is based on assumptions that may not be correct and that we ought not to dispense with money suddenly but rather favor measures that lead to its eventual disappearance. So, instead of saying we will accept the monopoly of the control of drugs by the medical profession, we should say we will never accept such a state of affairs and would rather see nothing done (other than the speaking of the truth) until that eventuality is swept out of the collective mind. We, on the other hand, can lend our own personal aid to those who are the most abused in the most acute ways by the status quo, whether our help lies inside or outside the law. Presumably, what some members of the ACLU are doing renders aid within the law as far as it can be rendered in case a person's liberty be violated. The view that law enforcement should be replaced by prevention and treatment was fairly well discredited in the workshops I attended. I shall discuss the workshops next.

National Drug Strategy Network

Someone explained the network and handed out copies of the newsletter, which apparently has some good late-breaking information. We need reasoning more than we need news however. The Hemp Tour representative, a young woman, complained about elitism and certain barriers at the meeting they (the Hemp Tour) had difficulty dealing with, but, actually, she held the floor longer than anyone.

Health and Science Committee

Lester Grinspoon stated that Kevin Zeese had asked him to confine our mission to (i) a public-health plan and (ii) information. Grinspoon and the co-chair, a person whose name escapes me, thought we ought to forget about the public-health plan for now and only Jeffrey Schaler was not content to confine our mission to information. We began with a tremendous amount of confusion, though, because everyone had a different idea about who our target should be and what sort of information was relevant. Someone said we should address ourselves to other scientists first and I seconded that reminding the room that that would provide a natural filter for unscientific information. I neglected (or was afraid) to ask how many of us were "real" scientists, i.e., people who apply mathematics to the analysis of models of nature (mathematicians, physicists, physical chemists, and engineering scientists). (Oh heck, maybe biologists, psychologists, and some MDs are scientists after all, but the "real" progress in science has come from physicists and mathematicians. The Salk vaccine is not to be compared to the quantum theory or functional analysis.) Timidly I suggested that if there was a body of valid scientific information we ought to identify it and protect it from the infiltration of scientific drivel. Robert Goodman suggested that we eschew generalities and embrace specifics and I agree that that's the only way it can be done.

We agreed that a letter would be written refuting a recent article in Science and people got together afterward to arrange to do that. (The more signatures by famous people, the greater the chance of publication, regrettably.) Art Leccese wants to get together with me to try to start a truth squad. I know how to do that in a valid way, although it sounds scary on the face of it. Actually, Lester was the one that suggested that one be formed, although, clearly, that was the import of my suggestion. So from great confusion a sort of consensus was formed, but it is unclear how our consensus will have a practical effect. I think if Art and I (and Robert if he's willing) get together and start a drug literature abstracts service with thorough specific discrediting of invalid research, we will have done a great deal. Obviously, we could only survey a small fraction of the scientific literature at first until we got institutional help. We might restrict ourselves to pharmacology and toxicology, omitting epidemiology, and also restrict ourselves to the journals with the widest circulation. We need an expert statistician to help us, because "figures don't lie, but liars figure".

Why Marijuana Should Be Treated Separately

I think they are right about one thing at least. Marijuana will be treated separately. Dale Gieringer betrayed a genuine bias against other drugs. "Our drug is cool, but your drug is bad." I talked about that in my first drug paper. Also, Don Fiedler said "other drugs" twice but "harder drugs" once, without saying in what sense "harder". I would never agree to separate treatment for marijuana, but, if they want to treat marijuana separately, they must announce that this is a compromise. If they do not, I will fight them just hard as I would fight someone who wants to treat alcohol separately. Gieringer used a specious argument about marijuana having a constituency and, since heroin addicts don't demand rights, they are not entitled to any. Richard Cowan, the libertarian, claiming to speak the absolute truth, spoke what is almost certainly an untruth, namely, that marijuana is the least dangerous drug. Now, there are millions, perhaps an infinite number if we count the undiscovered drugs, so the probability that marijuana is the least harmful is nearly zero. I suggested yohimbine (an aphrodisiac discussed in The Naked Lunch) as a better candidate. Mary Lynn Mathre said that the persistence of marijuana in the urine might induce some users to switch to cocaine, say, and, I must admit, I never thought of that. Also, she defined an addict as anyone who says he (or she) is. I already commented that this definition is easy to apply but, perhaps, not too useful, as many people are swayed by their imaginations. (Maybe this is a good time to interject the Christian Science interpretation, which, I believe, is unfalsifiable and, therefore, may not be introduced into scientific discussion, but it still deserves our attention. (To be falsifiable means that an experiment or a chain of reasoning could prove it false if it were false.) Maybe it really is all in our heads or in the heads of others. In Christian Science, the reason infants get ill is that they are influenced by the thinking of those around them. This is what Christian Scientists call "malpractice". It is not clear that the infant experiences the disease or only the adults who observe it do.)

Alternative Models for Reform

Christina Johns said that no one has addressed the underlying social causes, but she didn't read last year's Catalog. I addressed them. She said she would reference me next time, but she ought to reference Ellen Luff's paper given this year too. We'll see. I'm going to describe Wasserman's very interesting paper, which, by the way, contains the first reference I have ever seen to the work of Joel Feinberg, my Aunt Mildred's brother. Wasserman points out a number of inconsistencies and other legal difficulties arising from half-way measures like excusing the buyer and prosecuting the seller, non-enforcement, and under-enforcement. Then he gets into a hot topic - culpability for crimes committed under the influence. He makes an ambiguous statement, namely, "It is undisputed that a high proportion of violent crimes are committed under the influence of alcohol and other drugs." Does he means that the drugs influenced the commission of the crime or that some other aspect of the criminals state or behavior was influenced by the drug? If the latter, the answer is "So what". If the former, the answer is "How would you know?" All we can do is identify the coincidence of the events committed, namely, a violent crime and having taken a drug. No inference about cause and effect can be drawn, nor will it ever be able to be drawn - in my opinion. Then, he questions the validity of DWI laws. I have questioned them orally, but this is the first time I have seen them questioned in print. Good for him. Potsdam State College (part of SUNY) did an experiment. They had a bunch of drivers take a skills test sober, then get drunk and repeat the test. Most subjects did much worse, but the guy who scored highest sober also scored higher drunk than anyone else scored sober. True, he hit one pylon when he was drunk, but he still drove better than any sober person - in the test. Wasserman likes the Fletcher model whereby the intoxicated defendant is treated like an accomplice to his own misconduct. He seems to find fault with other models. But my (ideal) approach adds this. If the perpetrator does not buy into the moral basis for the law she (or he) has broken, she cannot be regarded as having committed a crime. She is a prisoner of war and must be accorded all the rights and privileges of a captive sovereign head of state. In particular, if a poor person steals from a rich person or even commits a violent act upon her (or him), it isn't a crime if the crime followed naturally from the difference in wealth, according to my theory. This is war!

Todd Mikuriya discussed the idea of a drug cooperative. I don't think it is tenable and the audience wasn't too receptive either, noting its elitist character. Art Hilgart, though, thinks more like Luff, Johns, and I (do). He discussed anomie, the incompatibility of social norms and the incapacity to meet them. He advocated a public health policy for certain drugs, but I haven't read his paper. I don't see why we can't make epidemiological data available to everyone (graphically for those incapable of dealing with abstractions) and take care of the sick regardless of how they got sick, given that no one really knows, except in the most trivial cases (you hit a man over the head with a hammer ). Hilgart dared to bring up the declining power of the unions as a possible cause of anomie. Good for him. Clark Hosmer is not a bad man. (You know I'm going to find fault, right?) BUT, he wants us to study physiology and to create more jobs without recognizing what a drag jobs are under the capitalist system. He makes a nice point, though, about benefit/cost ratio, but it probably won't wash quantitatively. It's nice to see a retired army officer espouse a liberal view. Horst Senger is pushing Say's Law (Say is a competitor of Smith, Keynes, and Marx). He got hooted down somewhat, mainly because he just wants to stop people from taking drugs. His advice: let the government provide them free. But, which drugs? how much? etc. To conclude, I don't know if the audience was moving toward (i) let's fix society and (ii) no half-way measures. Maybe.

Preventing Drug Abuse with Education

This was better than I thought it would be. Sandy Burbank, whom I got to know much better, just wants to tell the truth and Mary Lynn Mathre just wants to heal the sick, never mind how they got sick (I think), but I haven't read the paper for bias and falsehood. Alex Stuart wants to re-instill moral values but couldn't name one. He got put down hard by a young Harvard student. I felt sorry for him, but I didn't show mercy either. I stepped out to the john and got back in time for the discussion. Paul Kelly exercised his prerogative as a Black to speak at length, which he did at every workshop that we both attended, while I rushed through my three sentences with my heart beating wildly because I was unable to distinguish my "right to be heard" or expected to be treated like a madman. The Narconon guy was there, but I believe he didn't mention the bad part about what they are doing. I don't remember what Roberts said, if I even heard him.

New Issues in Drug Treatment

Ray Jeffery was thoroughly rejected as was Patricia Ritter. Ronald Farrell saved himself by expressing serious doubts about what he is doing, but, if you read his paper, you hear some ominous terms, cf., conformity, behavior modification, deviance. After the workshop I commended Jefferey on the importance of identifying the harm done by heavy metals, but the appropriate course of action is to prevent - not to "tag" the victims. I think, by rejecting all the things that are not permissible, I set up Luff's call for political action, if I am not jumping too far ahead. The Cult of Ibogaine was a little disruptive (this is discussed in my contribution to the 1991 papers) and a young man named Dana thought that it was hypocritical for people who wear suits and ties to try to change society when, presumably, only he can change society, but I sensed a move toward rejecting the disease theory and behavior modification and recognizing that we need political change. Of course, as I said, once we get the quacks off our backs, we will still have to contend with the clergy. Even if there were supernatural events involved, which, if you read Chapter 3 (available on request) of my book Beyond Competitionism (working title for work in progress), doesn't make much sense (in my opinion), the mainstream and fundamentalist clergy aren't going to be helpful. So, the "new issues" were either (i) it won't work or shouldn't be done except for ibogaine, IF ibogaine works and (ii) we can't ignore the political implications. If Luff's paper, and mine too, are not referenced next year, it will tell us that something is wrong. [My hope for ibogaine has cooled considerably since I wrote this.]

Addiction: Is It a Disease?

As we all know, this session was in trouble before it started as "addiction" is undefined and was never defined, so the use of the word at all begs the question. Poor Henry Blansfield meant well, but, like us poor sexists, he revealed his biases by the inadvertent use of one word rather than another or by the use of a give-away term, cf., "unfortunate people". It reminds me of the Sidney Lumet film "The Pawnbroker", wherein the pawnbroker referred to the black derelict as a "poor creature", which, admittedly, is worse. "Don't pity me. Sometimes I wish I weren't me, but I sure as hell am glad I'm not you." As I pointed out, even if it were a disease, and it's not at all clear that it is, the etiology might belong to medicine, but the treatment not, particularly if there is none, due to the irreversible nature of the damage. On the other hand, if medicine can supply us with a work-around drug, i.e., a drug that provides a new mechanism for the body to achieve whatever it could not previously achieve because of the irreversible damage, we will take it, but first let's see the drug. Medicine wants hegemony over the resolution of all conflicts in living because it's a good business. As Shaw said, "Every profession is a conspiracy against the laity." I said that any doctor who claimed to be reversing an irreversible condition, i.e., curing "drug addiction" would be a quack and I offered as corroboration the fact that Houston's Dr. George S. Glass relegates his "patients" to non-medical personnel.

I agree with Jeffrey Schaler. I didn't hear him say anything that I think is wrong. Jonas sketched a reasonable picture of the public health model and made me regret my use of the term to describe the treatment industry in my paper. As I said above, they should patch up any bad effects of drugs and, perhaps, advise when advice is requested without losing sight of the fact that there are many things in this life worth a little harm to the health. Bruce Alexander's discussion was very helpful to me, but I think, when he says there are three choices, he is leaving out a multitude of other options. But, I would like to quote his statement "There is nothing more practical than straight thought." Reworded it could have been the title of my paper. These dialectical distinctions are not mere quibbling. We could end up providing an acceptable life for a few thousand miserable people now and end up with a totalitarian therapeutocracy in a thousand years. I liked Robert Goodman's talk, but I didn't completely understand his paper. Also, his experiment with the purple triangle is silly. Once it begins whistling "Dixie", it is no longer a triangle, so you can't imagine it. But, the point is well taken. We can't imagine hunger when we are full. So, that promise to quit tomorrow is meaningless today.

I think we have seen the disease theory pretty well discredited even if there is some physiological changes due to taking drugs. People are going to have to develop a better dialectic and, finally, the public health model is acceptable as long as it doesn't get mixed up with values and decisions. I think that was the consensus I saw being formed.

Paul Kelly was outrageous and Steve Jonas's action in assuming that he could be the representative of every black person who wasn't there but should have been there equally outrageous. Why, then, wasn't I permitted to speak for every speed and heroin devotee, as opposed to former devotee, who couldn't be there? [The initial remarks that were in this paragraph are confidential, but the concluding remarks concerning the validity of spiritual intuition may be worth passing on - even out of context.] Chemical and spiritual transformations occur and may be dual to one another without invoking the supernatural. The spirit is part of nature too, is it not? My main point, I guess, is that a person's intuitive feelings about what happened to him or her cannot be introduced into public policy because they are not verifiable. Strangely, we want to pick science's pocket for all the little doodads that are in it, but we are unwilling to accept the scientific philosophy in conducting our affairs. That seems a little hypocritical.

Racism in the War on Drugs

The talks by Siegel, De Vidts, and Aldrich were informative. Myers brought the focus over to economics, where I think it belongs, and the moderator, Raymond Brown, mentioned "all those shiny towers" (skyscrapers) or something like that. I mentioned to him afterward that, in America, we imagine that we can have a high standard of living without producing anything. We are supposed to have an information economy, which means that we will live by business alone. Take a look at the section on the work ethic in my separation paper, "The Separation of the State from the Christian Church" [1], to see what I think of that. Blacks can produce things that we need to live, but they are being excluded from the information economy, because it's based on membership in a club or class of people who have IT. Meanwhile, the residual minimum-wage or less-than-living-wage jobs are growing in number and are open to anyone. I, personally, would not accept a job that required me to take orders from someone I did not recognize as qualified. The truth is very nearly this: No one is qualified. As William Morris said, "No one is qualified to be someone else's boss." I reject bosses and I certainly don't blame anyone who elects a life of crime in preference to taking orders from an unqualified boss - for peanuts.

Paul Kelly was there to complain about all the Blacks who are dying and the under-representation of Blacks at the conference. I have a hard time accepting the idea that the situation is different for me and for a black user, but, if you force me to make the distinction, I have to say that this is a conference to legalize drugs for white middle-class users. Perhaps, Blacks should have their own conference, especially if they are not for full legalization, i.e., government off our backs. They are pissed off that so many black men are in jail, but they don't want to legalize. It's up to the bright black people to show their communities that the laws against drugs are a problem for them too and that getting rid of the laws will improve things - at least in the long run. They had better get the "reverends" out of their politics too. I think the smart black people know that they have an economic and political problem and the sooner they realize that a few black millionaires, whether they became millionaires from drug trafficking or the usual capitalist crimes, are not going to help them. It won't help to be exploited by a black man. Black bosses and business tycoons may be more cruel than whites, since they have less guilt to bear. That's what I think; I don't know what the audience thinks. I know we get pretty foggy-brained when it comes to thinking about Blacks. We imagine that a different system of logic applies.

Summary of the Conference

Paul Kelly returned my call after the conference and we talked for about a half an hour on his "nickel". I told him all the bad things I said about him (above). Despite that, I think we ended up as friends. I pointed out the inconsistency of resenting the large number of black prisoners and still not wanting legalization. He said there was nothing for them to do even if they weren't in jail. I pointed out that I had many friends who had done time and it was very unpleasant in some ways but not because you couldn't get drugs. Apparently, one can get used to homosexual activities easily too without becoming "abnormal", although I didn't mention this to Paul as it is not relevant. I attacked the twelve-step plans and he defended them mainly by reminding me that I didn't know much about them. We agreed that it was wrong to force someone into a plan, but he wasn't so sure that offering it as an alternative to prison constituted force. It was a well-organized and constructive dialogue in which I was able to interject a little of my political position and, also, to sound once again the warning about possible future genocide if it is not already too late. We ended by agreeing that he would call me when he comes to Houston later this year or early next year and I would try to audit a twelve-step meeting to get a better idea of how they work. I did say I was anti-Christian but not an atheist.

So, to summarize, a drug network bulletin is useful and a drug science abstract and truth squad service would be useful. The marijuana devotees probably have a better chance to get their drug of choice legalized sooner because they feel better about their drug than users of other drugs feel about theirs, correctly or incorrectly. We recognize the usual intolerance of behavior that is not congruent with our own. The public health model seems to be replacing the disease model, but many disease-model therapists and God-squad therapists will continue to masquerade as public health defenders. The political, social, and economic causes of people taking more drugs than are good for them are beginning to be recognized and I think we shall soon begin questioning the onerousness of most jobs. I saw a news (?) item on TV where an American factory worker was saying that his biggest problem is boredom on the job. Of course, the pharmacological, toxicological, and other physiological aspects of drugs should continue to be investigated by people who have nothing to do with the treatment industry. Also, the harmful effects of heavy metals and other toxic chemicals should be studied and steps should be taken to contain them and keep them out of the food chain. Meanwhile, the jurisprudential difficulties of dealing with people who break laws after taking alcohol or drugs, or, for that matter, take alcohol or drugs to give themselves the false courage, badly-termed "Dutch courage" by one contributor (!), to commit crimes (or acts of war against the establishment), will continue to be debated for some time without anyone recognizing that the legal system has no moral standing as it itself, as a character in a movie said, is "out of order".

The prevention racket will continue to be pervaded by lies despite Sandy Burbank and MAMA, but an interesting breakthrough was noted in the news: the Dutch have decriminalized sex among twelve- to sixteen-year-olds. I daresay you get the connection. The aforementioned "truth squad" could make itself felt on the education scene, but I'm not sure how. This is hooked up with the efforts to prevent school prayer and the infiltration of religion into the schools in other ways. Also, we would like to identify (most) forms of patriotism as irrational quasi-religion. Last night I was asked to call in on an American Atheists (AA) radio program on the local Pacifica Radio station here. I'm not sure I said anything useful, but AA might be able to mount a small effort to get truth in to ( and falsehood out of) the schools. I think one has to do this through the courts as there is no public consensus for it.

I think most of the participants at the conference are against 1984-style behavior modification and would be willing to try to keep the medical profession in its place. I do not believe the supernatural may be introduced into public policy, but, clearly, many people still think that something supernatural plays a role in the process of changing one's behavior with respect to drugs. I think that, if it does, it should get re-classified as natural. I mentioned the inconsistency in the viewpoint of most of the black community, but I think that many black intellectuals are ready to reject the stupid dichotomy between Capitalism that is not capitalism and Communism that is not communism. Hopefully, all Americans will be open to new ideas soon.

Houston, Texas

May 28, 1991


  1. Wayburn, Thomas L., "On the Separation of the State from the Christian Church", Truth Seeker Supplement, 117, Nos. 2,4,6 (1990). Remainder of paper available from author on request.

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