Phillip J. Watt, Contributor
The war-on-drugs has been one of the biggest policy failures of modern society. It amplifies drug-related problems and doesn’t recognize that altered states of consciousness play a perfectly natural role within the human experience.
It is clear that many governments of the world have failed to truly accept some extremely important facts around dealing with the substances that make their way through our communities. Examples include:
- Laws have criminalized drugs into one of the top five industries in the world, ensuring all its activity is managed within the black market;
- When you send this industry underground it’s going to result with impure, unsafe and unnecessary substances on the market;
- Drug policies result with more socioeconomic issues and increases the amount of crime and unnecessary incarcerations in our societies;
- It is perfectly natural for humans to explore altered states of consciousness so the newer generations need access to safe substances and legal substances;
- When people are told not to do something, some of them are going to do it anyway, regardless of the risks to their health;
- There are substances which have been made illegal that have been clinically proven to provide strongtherapeutic and developmental effects;
- The hypocrisy in allowing pharmaceutical multinationals to flood our society with toxic, ineffective and unsafe substances that are killing many more people than all illegal substances combined;
- It’s not the drug, but the abuse of the drug in challenging environmental conditions, that leads to addiction and ongoing health-related issues;
- Addiction should be treated as a health issue, not a legal one;
- Many people are using drugs as escapism from a cultural existential crisis which is amplified by the soul-numbing materialistic and consumerist ideologies;
- Humans will never be stopped from exploring their consciousness and therefore appropriate regulation and education policies need to be put in place to properly care for the people that politicians were elected to protect; and
- There are other countries that have made progressive steps in this area, such as Portugal, Czeck Republic, New Zealand, Uruguay and The Netherlands.
It appears that the leaders of the western policy world have not yet incorporated this information into their repertoire of knowledge, so it’s a safe assumption that they haven’t even considered the disenfranchisement and distrust that this poor leadership creates within the population.
The absurdity of the current approach to mind-altering substances in our society, as well as dealing with the negative side effects of badly designed policy, should have been made abundantly clear through the above questions. As Einstein infamously said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”, so when are we going to redesign a whole new attitude towards this issue?
Are we going to wait several more decades and witness many more unnecessary deaths to truly wake up to the fact that the way we have been responding to the many substances found in society is ineffective, immoral and unintelligent?
On the weekend at an Australian music festival called Stereosonic, a young girl died from a suspected drug overdose. It is the fifth related death at a music festival in Australia in 2015. In comparison to the 1500+ people that are dying from drug overdoses in Australia per year, which over 80% are attributed to pharmaceuticals, as well as the 15 people per day that die from alcohol related disease, deaths by illicit drug use are clearly a small percentage of substance-related deaths in Australia and presumably other western countries too.
As a necessary tangent, why isn’t as much noise being made regarding the higher rate of pharmaceutical deaths? That question is of course, rhetorical. We know why, and it smells of money.
Western Governments can never, ever win with the approach they’re taking to substance use. Instead of blindly continuing the decades old “war-on-drugs”, they should start looking at the real solutions to all the social problems that manifest from the illegal drug trade.
As the elected leaders of each nation, politicians have a responsibility to think outside of the box and legitimately research and design progressive strategies that are actually going to be effective and fair for the future of the people they are meant to represent. That’s why if we truly want to stop the deaths and suffering related to both illegal and legal substances, then we need to first understand that there are always going to be parts of the population who access the plethora of natural and synthetic substances that are available to them.
It’s simply common sense; so why don’t our leaders speak to this?
Are they scared to approach it laterally and intelligently because of the risk of offending those in the population who have outdated and harmful beliefs about this issue?
Are they stuck in a paradigm that inhibits their intellectual and ethical analysis?
Or are they simply ignorant about how reality works?
It’s difficult to rationalize why they continue this backwards approach that is directly linked to many unnecessary deaths in our society, so let’s just hope they’ll catch up with the real world very soon.
The truth is that since we were little children we spun around in circles till we made ourselves dizzy. Along with dreaming, it is one of the first ways we explored an altered state of consciousness. Yet all society has to work with is an aggressive depressant called alcohol to sedate its thirst for venturing through the mind, instead offering healthy and safe substances as a legal alternative.
We need to scrap everything we think we know about substance-related policy and begin fresh. Of course we can’t just instantly regulate the appropriate substances and make them available overnight, however through a well-designed, step-by-step process, we can:
- Decriminalize all drug use and possession;
- Educate society on the already known truths around these substances, including those which are more safe, what the safe dosage levels are and the more harmful substances to avoid;
- Undertake robust clinical research on all illegal substances to ascertain which might be more suitable for medicinal and recreational regulation and which might not; and
- Design and slowly implement a legal framework to ensure that substances available to the public are safe, pure, manageable and consistent in dosage.
Another immediate approach we can take is not just making Marijuana legal for medical use, but recreational use too. This natural medicine has been used throughout human civilization since the birth of our tribes, and so far in its centuries of use it has never killed one person via overdose. Let that sink in: not one death. And not only is it effective medically, but developmentally as well.
It is a highly appropriate substitute for alcohol. We’ve been asking the question of how to mitigate the escalating violence in our societies, yet it’s beyond any rational person why we haven’t been looking at marijuana as an effective chill pill for many in our society who feel disenfranchised, angry, alone, confused and lost.
Plus, we know hemp is a brilliant substitute for our energy and material needs. It can help to minimize the environmental impacts that the energy industries are having on our natural systems, so if we don’t take this option seriously then there is no valid argument against being close-minded, unintelligent and lacking innovation in our policy approach.
In addition, using these tactics should not discount that meditation should be the ultimate goal, as it is the most pure and simple approach to mind expansion. The pursuit of breaking down the barriers of our conditioning and tapping into mind states that reach beyond the mundane of human existence is best achieved through incorporating meditative practice into our ongoing routine, yet so far there is a strong lack of encouragement for meditation in our society through our education curriculum and policy initiatives.
This would be a beautifully-wise first step that we could actualize immediately. Not only would the health benefits of meditation be great for society to adopt on a widespread scale, but it would also open up the masses to a genuine discussion around what altered states of mind are, why people pursue them and what benefits can result from them.
Ultimately, the stigma in our society around substance use and altered states of consciousness, as well as the lack of intelligence and morality in policy design, simply needs to end; otherwise people will continue to suffer and die, like they always have since the fruitless rampage on drugs began all those decades ago.
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