Tag Archives: drug law

Why psychedelics are illegal

Many people crudely think that all illegal drugs are illegal because they are physically dangerous to the user. That is not the case. Different substances have been made illegal at different times and for different reasons.

Some substances are rightly illegal because they are physically dangerous. Heroin, crack and GHB are examples of dangerous substances that pose a very real risk to the user. Ironically though the two most dangerous drugs – alcohol and tobacco – are not illegal.

Other substances are however illegal for very different reasons. Two reasons are very prominent: because they are perceived as dangerous to the status quo and to target and persecute specific groups.

Just the other day I was asked why psychedelics are illegal. They are obviously extremely useful medicines and also very safe when used correctly. Well, there are several reasons for them being illegal and most of them have nothing to do with health, but let us begin with the health issue.

Psychedelics are commonly non-toxic and pose no physical threat even at extreme doses. Most of these substances are not even possible to overdose to the degree that they would be life threatening. But there is one real health risk and that is to the user’s mental health. Psychedelics have the unique capacity of unlocking the doors of the unconscious mind. They can release what has been carefully locked away and repressed. This is of course what makes them such powerful therapeutic tools, but if the person isn’t open to taking care of what comes up the experience can be quite traumatic. The same goes for other kinds of therapy, meditation and contemplation. If you aren’t ready to meet what you have repressed you shouldn’t do or take anything that will uncover what you have buried.

nixon_militaryBut besides this, what were the perceived dangers that made psychedelics illegal? To grasp this one must look at the historical setting. Where did the push to criminalize come from and what is the backdrop? To understand this we need to go back to the USA in the mid 1960’s. Government at all levels were in a cold war state of mind trying to root out possible dissidents within. The Vietnam war had dragged on for ten years, US involvement was sharply rising, as was the death toll. It was a time for hardliners and hawks. JFK had been murdered and the much less diplomatic Lyndon B Johnson took his place. He was then followed by one of the fathers of the War on Drugs – Richard Nixon.

At the same time a very vocal and at times even revolutionary opposition was forming at home. There were many different movements with many different objectives, but when talking about psychedelics the hippies are of course at the focal point. What were they up to? They protested, burnt draft cards, let their hair grow, dressed strangely and promoted free sex, just to name a few things. In the eyes of a person like Nixon, and there were many like him at the time, they were trouble makers who were upsetting the status quo. They were anti-establishment peacemongerers and as such perceived as threatening by the establishment.

At the very core of that opposition was the experimentation with drugs and the one that has forever been associated with the hippie movement is of course the psychedelic LSD. So what was it about LSD that sparked this opposition and backlash towards the establishment? I think the ethnobotanist psychonaut Terence McKenna was spot on when he said that “they dissolve opinion structures and culturally laid down models of behaviour and information processing. They open you up to the possibility that everything you know is wrong.”

Photo: DaveHippie by studio muscle on Flickr
Photo: DaveHippie by studio muscle on Flickr

What LSD did was to awaken people from their cultural programming and indoctrination and let them see the world with other eyes. When they did so they could not accept what they had been taught, so they rebelled. They rebelled against violence, militarism and domination and instead sought “peace, love and understanding”.

On a side note both the CIA the American military had experimented heavily with LSD before it found its way to the hippies. One notable side effect was that quite a few soldiers that had been given it laid down their guns and refused to pick them up again.

For a person like Nixon this was all extremely threatening. To him America was losing its youth to a drug culture that was in direct opposition to the establishment. And he certainly had a point. If you want people to follow orders, be aggressive towards one another, go to war and kill people you will not want to give them LSD, because they will start thinking for themselves, refuse to follow orders and will refuse violence.

LSD was not made illegal because it is physically harmful to the person taking it. It was made illegal because it makes people question authority and social injustices and prompts them to do something about it. LSD and psychedelics threatened and still threatens the fabric of domination culture by showing people that another world is possible.

While many believe that our drug laws are there to protect us we have in fact inherited most of them from a time when domination culture was scared of losing control. Our drug laws are in many cases in place to hinder mind expansion and rebellion against the violent domination culture and the status quo, and most certainly so when it comes to psychedelics.

This is a pattern of dominance which is repeating itself.

Today the political establishment are the ones oppressing and persecuting the users of psychedelics. Yesterday it was the church. The brutal persecution of witches, witchdoctors, healers, shamans and anyone seeking other modalities of healing or other ways of reaching the divine was the church’s version of the War on Drugs. The vocabulary surrounding it all was different but still quite similar. Instead of safety and health concerns the church would talk about being in contact with or possessed by the devil or evil spirits.

Witch BurningWhile they might well have believed their own story, just as many do with the story of domineering culture of today, it was ultimately based in a fear of losing control over people. As many, perhaps even most, who work with psychedelics will attest to, psychedelics are often a door to the divine. They break down the limitations of our cultural programming. When it comes to the church there has often been an idea that certain people should act as intermediaries for the rest of us, thus the control over the contact with the divine and the divine will has been hijacked by priests and such. What psychedelics often do in that case is give the user his/her own personal contact with the divine, making the intermediary superfluous. For someone who wants to maintain control over other people this is of course extremely threatening and also provocative to the point where the church would be willing to kill people.

One needs to remember that the greatest threat to the church is that each and every one of us would be able to have our own contact with the divine. If we did have that contact the church would soon be redundant, at least as an interpreter of God’s will,  so it lies in the interest of the individual career makers within and also in the organisations themselves to see to it that people do not have their own contact with the divine.

And that is of course the pattern of domineering that is repeating itself today. A lot of people, organisations and companies stand to lose a lot of money and power when psychedelics are let free. It is in their interest to keep them illegal. If you could solve addiction, PTSD, depression and such with one or a few psychedelic trips the medical and pharmaceutical industry would take a huge dive. If people would stop tolerating violence that would mean the end of the military and the industries that profit from war. If each and every one would be given the tools for connecting with the divine themselves the world religions would lose their strangle hold on the minds of people.

It is in the interest of anyone who wants to dominate someone else that psychedelics are kept illegal and are continually persecuted.

That is why psychedelics are illegal.

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I do not promote the use of drugs

I have on a few occasions been accused of promoting drugs.

I want to be crystal clear about this.

I DO NOT PROMOTE THE USE OF DRUGS.

By drugs I mean something one uses to flee from or numb oneself, without there being a good reason for doing so. For example, I have nothing against the use of reasonable amounts of painkillers to temporarily deal with pain. But if you start popping painkillers to get high or numb emotional pain that you should be dealing with, then I am against it.

Being against it does not however mean that I think it should be illegal. I do not think anyone should be persecuted or punished for using a plant or substance to flee from or numb themselves. People do so for a reason. They don’t have the tools to deal with pain in life. They are traumatized and hurting. They suffer from addiction, which they have often inherited. People should not be punished for trying to deal with their pain, even if they do so in ways that aren’t good.

All the effort that we are putting into stigmatizing, persecuting and punishing people should be re-directed to helping them heal. We should be giving them the best help we can and nobody should be afraid to ask for help, as people are under the current drug laws. Therefore I promote changing the drug laws radically, since they are causing enormous harm to individuals and to society as a whole.

I do promote the use of PSYCHEDELIC MEDICINE.

I am forever grateful for the healing and guidance that psychedelics have given me. And I have seen so much healing with such medicines. I have seen many breakthroughs that modern medicine could not describe in any other term than miraculous. But having worked with psychedelic medicine in the shamanic tradition I know that it would only be called so for lack of understanding.

Psychedelic medicines aren’t miraculous. They just provide healing that is beyond what many people can comprehend. That people can’t comprehend it doesn’t make it less real. It just means that they do not understand.

Our society is in desperate need of such medicine. We have so much healing that needs to be done. We need to reconnect with our roots, with all living beings, with mother Earth and with the Universe. We desperately need the guidance of the divine within ourselves.

That is what psychedelic medicine can do for us. Is doing for us.

I also promote every persons inherent right to THEIR OWN PATH.

People have free will. We all have a choice to make in every situation. Our choices, good or bad, create our life path and provide us with the lessons we need to learn in life. Trying to strip people of their inherent right to their own bodies, their own life, is the nastiest oppression. Trying to strip people of their free will is as evil as any Auschwitz, Gulag or Killing Fields have ever been. The fact that people try to do so under the pretense that they want to do good, that they want to help, and that they do so using law and state force does not make it any better. In fact it makes it so much worse, because they are unwilling to face and take responsibility for the pain and evil they are inflicting onto others. It is a crime against humanity.

Anyone with a kind heart and a sound mind should be disgusted and outraged by such laws.

So no, I definitely do NOT promote the use of drugs.
I especially do NOT promote the use of harmful drugs,
such as alcohol, nicotine, antidepressants and opiates.
I DO promote helping and healing
our fellow human beings who are in pain.
I DO promote the use of medicine,
psychedelic or otherwise,
that helps.
And I most definitely DO promote human free will
and every person’s right
to their own body and path through life.

Photo: Canopy by David Goehring on Flickr

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Why do I write this blog?

Healing

In the gospel of Tomas, Jesus says “If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.” That quote has been very inspiring to me, because the truth is so very apparent. When we try to hide things we are ashamed of, we are actually holding onto those most toxic moments of our lives, thus hurting ourselves.

I use my writing as a tool for healing. When I find something that I feel that some part of me desperately wants to keep secret, I write about it. Then I often find myself doubting if I should really reveal that which I feel ashamed of. That feeling is the final sign that I need to let go, so I publish. Every time I manage to bring something out into the open and release it, a weight is lifted from my shoulders. I walk a little lighter, a little taller and breathe a little deeper.

Some might think that I do so because I am an exhibitionist thrill seeker. To be quite honest it often scares and even sickens me to reveal myself. My ego is many times violently opposed and tries to get me off the idea of being truthful and transparent. But I push forward anyway, because when I release something it eventually looses all power over me and I heal.

Collecting

This blog mostly covers the last 10-15 years of my life. My life has changed dramatically during that time, which has led me on a path of spiritual and self discovery. From having been an atheist drunk I have woken up to realize that I am a shaman, a healer and teacher. I have opened up contact to the spirit world and work with angels. I’m a natural at working with psychedelics and often have clear sight. Most of the time I’m not learning things in the area of spirituality and shamanism, I’m just remembering them from the many past lives I have spent doing the same things.

I have also found several great gurus along the way. It is clear to me that everyone and everything has the potential of being a great teacher, if I only approach them/it with that understanding. So many people have helped me remember who I am and have added to my knowledge. I am truly grateful. Three teachers have been especially prominent – my two children and my wife.

This journey is most interesting and rewarding, even in the parts that have been filled with hardship. It has left my head filled with insights and learning experiences that I now feel an overwhelming need to document in order to bring structure into what I know. I am releasing my first book shortly and I have the feeling that there are a couple more waiting to be written, where much of the material on this blog will reappear.

Connecting

So far I have worked very much on my own or with a small circle of friends. Lately I have been feeling a longing to expand and find new friends also outside Sweden. I hope that my openness attracts other people who are on similar paths of self exploration, and it seems to.

I am also happy to share what I have learnt with others.

Social commentary and a push for change

There is so much that is properly screwed up in this society that I cannot help myself from commenting on some of it. Especially when it comes to drug laws I find today’s system utterly offensive, but politics in common are a mess. So I can’t help getting involved from time to time.

What this blog isn’t about

This blog is not about having many readers, pleasing people, earning money, making a name for myself, satisfying my ego or hurting anyone. If any of that was a priority, this would have been a very different blog.

Photo: by Milea Corméry

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My Declaration of Independence

Psychedelics literally saved my life. I could have died if LSD hadn’t found me. And if I wouldn’t have died it seems very likely that I would have been severely damaged by alcohol by now.

To me it was nothing short of a miracle when LSD saved me, so it was logical for me to continue working with psychedelics to heal and grow. I have now been working with psychedelic for nine years and I am incredibly happy that I made that choice. I have experienced so much healing and so much growth. What I have managed to do in nine years with the help of psychedelics would have taken several lifetimes to do without them.

Therefore it is extremely provocative to me that anyone imagines that they have the right to forbid me to work with them. It is provocative that some people think they have the right to punish me for how I choose to heal and grow.

No one has that right.

I could call upon my human rights at the global or European level, which guarantee me the right to my own spiritual path and to my own healing. I could call upon national legislation which ensures me the same. I could, like Jens Waldmann, claim self-defense.

But I don’t want to, simply because it does not matter to me what some ignorant person has written on a piece of paper. I’m Daniel. I am a reflection of the highest divine. I own the rights to my own body and my own life. I own the rights to my own healing and growing.

Those who think they can take away these rights are oppressors. It is an act of violence to try to deny me these rights and any law that tries to do so lacks legitimacy. Those who try to deny me my rights are my enemies and there is no reason for me to negotiate with them. I have the right to defend myself against their violence.

Here and now I declare this:

I own the right to my own life.

I own the right to my own body.

I own the right to my own path.

I own the right to my own healing and my own growth.

As long as I do not consciously hurt anyone else, my rights are above any rights that other people imagine that they have over me.

Photo: Freedom Libertad by Jesus Solana on Flickr

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A letter to the politicians of Sweden

Today I sent a Swedish version of this e-mail to all politicians in the Swedish parliament and government, as well as some party board members, MEPs, party secretariat staff and the political youth party organizations.

● ● ●

Hello!

My name is Daniel Wilby and nine years ago I was literally about to drink myself to death. I was on the run from life and I accused everyone else for my pain. Around that time I began smoking cannabis, and at one point my pusher offered me some LSD. I bought it thinking that it would offer yet another escape from life.

Something happened during that first LSD trip. I was able to move outside of my body and from that perspective I could see that all the pain in my life, all the sorrow, all the hurt that I wanted to escape from was my own creation. When I saw that, I realized that the power over my life originated from myself, and just as I had chosen to feel bad and hurt myself, I could choose the opposite – to heal and fill my life with joy and love.

I came back to my body and decided to take responsibility for my life. My 13 year long and deep alcohol abuse ended abruptly that night. It took me another three months of intensive work, with the help of LSD, to heal a four year long very severe depression.

Since then I have worked hard to heal myself and sometimes also guided others. At first I thought that my recovery was unique. Gradually, I realized that it was not. Such stories are very common among people who work with psychedelics.

Meanwhile I naturally followed the Swedish drug debate, and I am frankly quite angry and deeply disappointed at the low level of it. Today’s drug laws harm a great many people and those that debate and legislate are obviously deeply ignorant. Science is replaced by a very damaging dogmatism, while healing and spiritual exploration is persecuted and stigmatized. The laws that should protect the individual’s right to health and spiritual freedom, are instead curtailing these rights in today’s simplistic and offensive drug policy.

Here are five blog posts that I wrote last week. I would be grateful if you took the time to read them, to nuance the picture given in the drugs debate. You are most welcome to get in contact with me if you have thoughts, concerns or questions.

People’s stories of having used illegal substances to heal and grow.

The consequences of today’s drug laws.

The problems with today’s drug laws from a spiritual perspective.

How we can get out of the dead end that today’s drug laws are.

Addiction treatment after the paradigm shift in drug policy.

Finally, I want to say that I hope that you and your political party in the future works for:
● a real change in how we treat the most vulnerable among our fellow humans.
● broadening the way society looks at and works with healing.
● people’s right to their own spirituality.
● correcting the image of different substances that are currently illegal and that many of them, if not all, are promptly legalized.

Sincerely

Daniel Wilby

Photo: Party leader debate between Stefan Löfven (S) and Annie Lööf (C) by Melker Dahlstrand.

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A future for addiction treatment

After several blog posts where I have explained how profoundly detrimental today’s drug laws are and how legalization could work, it feels important to write something about addiction treatment after such a paradigm shift.

The question is: what kind of addiction treatment do we want to see in the future? But before I go into that, I first want to say something about addiction and addicts.

What is addiction?

No name by Christian Scheja on Flickr
No name by Christian Scheja on Flickr

I define addiction as something compulsive where the person despite serious negative consequences is not capable of changing their behaviour. Addiction is often surrounded by a lack of awareness about ones problems, or an unwillingness to face them.

Note that such a definition can be applied to very many things in life, not only substances. It is common for people to abuse relationships, sex, games, television or food, just to name a few. It is especially important to emphasize that addiction is never inherent to what is being abused, but is something in the addict him/herself.

When people talk about substance abuse in the public debate, it is easy to get the idea that the substance is the cause of addiction, because as soon as anyone uses an illegal substance they are seen as addicts. That is a profoundly erroneous notion that hinders a sensible understanding and good care. Anyone who has sex is not a sex addict. Similarly, not everyone who smokes cannabis is a drug addict. If there is no compulsive behaviour and serious negative consequences, they are merely using the substance. Sending a cannabis user to treatment is as stupid as treating someone who has a healthy relationship with food for bulimia.

The addiction is always in the person. We relieve addiction by helping people to heal their problems, not by chasing substances. If we manage to remove the substance without solving the underlying problem, then the addiction will simply jump and start using another substance or any other area of life. Then nothing is won, because the process of freeing oneself starts over.

What makes an addict?

One can probably find many features that characterize addicts, but these are two that I have seen in all addicts I’ve met.

Fleeing. Behind the addiction is a fear of meeting something within oneself or in the surrounding. It can often be such things as old traumas, abuse, problematic upbringing, shame or guilt. There may also be a fear of actually being as good as one can be. In such cases the abuse becomes a self-sabotage, which is also a way to flee, even if it is from a situation that is potentially better than the one the person is in.

Loss of control. This is the compulsive aspect that I talked about earlier. The situation has spiralled out of control. However, I think that it is incorrect to say that the drugs or someone else has taken control. All power in a person’s life originates from that person. If anything or anyone else is in power, it is because the person has given it away, but often that is not the case. Instead the power is still there but is not being used. Regardless of which, the long term solution is to rediscover and exercise power in one’s life; that is to reintroduce control.

But moving on to addiction treatment.

Help me outta here! Thanks! by Gerry Thomasen on Flickr
Help me outta here! Thanks! by Gerry Thomasen on Flickr

I want as many people as possible get the help they need to recover from addiction. That is not happening today. Instead the support that is being given is often contradictory, since society stigmatizes addicts and prevents or even sabotages the recovery process.

Education. The best prevention* that I can think of is to give young people the tools to deal with difficult situations, resolve trauma and rid themselves of such issues that might make them want to flee. We need to start working on personal development, so that we can identify and deal with the reasons why people want to flee from themselves. When there is no longer a need to flee, the fleeing will stop.

Our society works quite differently today. We learn to avoid that which scares us, rather than to face and deal with it. We prefer to distract or sedate ourselves rather than facing the discomfort. Antidepressant medication is a typical example of this, as it puts the lid on the symptoms instead of curing the cause. I’m not saying that antidepressants are never needed. They can be a very valuable emergency response, but the prolonged mass medication that we see today is a direct result of people not having the tools to deal with the unpleasantness that they encounter in life.

Addiction treatment. I want to see addiction treatment that is much more accessible and less stigmatizing than the one we have today. Reaching out for help should be a small step and help should be available to anyone who seeks it. The aim of treatment should primarily be to tackle the root causes of the addiction and since it is a disease it should be financed within the health care system, but should include more methods of treatment than those available today.

* By preventative work I do not mean to discourage people from using substances. I mean to prepare people to face life in such a way that they do not need to use substances to flee from themselves and thereby end up in an addiction.

Main photo: The Help by Marina del Castell on Flickr

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Give me spiritual freedom

People have always searched for the higher meaning of existence. In their search they have had sensations of the highest divine and tried to name that which cannot be named. They have sacrificed to Zeus, thanked Freya, asked Shiva for focus and God for mercy. They have searched inward and outward with dance, prayer, singing, yoga and meditation.

One of the oldest traditions in order to get in touch with the highest divine, and with the other realities that surround us, has been by using plants. In the beginning humans were very close to nature and talked with the sun and the plants, the wind and stones. Nature was a teacher who shared its wisdom, but who also helped humans to be able to get in contact to other realities.

department of truth by new 1lluminati on Flickr
department of truth by new 1lluminati on Flickr

Over time some people have however made the experience more academic than spiritual. While the original spirituality was based on every persons own experience and their own contact with the highest divine, nowadays many people are content to believe in a constructed religion. They do of course overlap, but I’m guessing that most religious people today do not have a personal experience of contact with the highest divine, but are satisfied with believing others’ descriptions of it.

To me there is big group of illegal substances that is intimately connected with spiritual exploration – mostly those we would call natural psychedelics. I’m talking about plants and preparations such as Ayahuasca, San Pedro, Peyote, Cannabis (semi-psychedelic), psychedelic mushrooms and Iboga.

● ● ●

Ayahuasca is a preparation made from a jungle vine and another plant. Shamans have probably used it for more than 6,000 years to have contact with other realities and heal people. It is used almost exclusively in ceremonial contexts, but is banned in Sweden because it contains the natural substance DMT, which is also found in the human brain and appears to be heightened and released by prolonged meditation, sleep, and at the moment of death.

San Pedro and Peyote cacti are used in similar ways and in similar contexts, for deep transformative and spiritual experiences. As far as we know the knowledge to work with them is probably more than 4,000 years old, but as with all these substances it might very well have been used for much longer than that. Today the knowledge is kept alive by South American shamans and North American Indians. While the cacti itself is legal in Sweden, it is illegal to consume it because it contains the natural substance mescaline.

Cannabis is regarded in Hinduism as a gift from the god Shiva to mankind, created from his body. It has been used for more than 4,000 years, both spiritually as medically in Hinduism and Buddhism, but more recently also in religions such as Islam and Rastafarianism. It is celebrated for its spiritual, mystical properties, but also because it allows people to see through illusions and lies. In the drug context cannabis is among the least dangerous substances, much less dangerous than alcohol or tobacco, but it is being fought with tremendous zeal. The active ingredient THC is easily spotted with a quick urine test.

Liberty cap
Liberty cap

Psychedelic mushrooms are available in hundreds of varieties and on every continent. The most famous Swedish psychedelic mushrooms are the Liberty caps, used by witches and shamans. In Europe, however, the Christian mass murder of dissidents makes it difficult to track past use. The mushrooms produce similar deep spiritual experiences including contact with other realities, past lives, a connectedness with nature and with the universe. Liberty caps are commonly picked in cow meadows after the first frost, but if you do so you are a criminal. All mushrooms containing the natural ingredient psilocybin are forbidden to handle.

Iboga is a West African shrub that contains the illegal natural substance ibogaine. It is documented to have been used in Africa in a spiritual context since the 19th century, but before that it is difficult to say. It gives deep transformative experiences and having taken Iboga one will often lie down for an entire day. Nowadays Iboga is most famous for its medicinal properties, as it has been proved to be able to break even deep rooted addiction with only one or two trips. But to do so is illegal.

● ● ●

These are just a few of the illegal substances that have been used in spiritual practice for thousands of years before such recent phenomena as Christianity came along. Natural psychedelics are found on all continents, and maybe even in all countries. The tradition of using them in order to get in contact with other realities and with the highest divine has been preserved in many places in the world – by shamans in South America, witches in Europe, yogis and shamans in Asia and medicine men/women in North America, Africa and possibly Australia. However, they have for long periods been forced to go into hiding, because above all Christianity has violently persecuted them. Today this continues with the help of the disrespectful and discriminatory drug laws.

Drug laws thus not only violate minority rights, but also each person’s inherent right to their own spiritual experience and journey.

There are those who argue that these plants should only be used in their original cultural contexts, that is only the shamans of the Amazon should be working with Ayahuasca, and only the medicine men/women of North America with Peyote. With that logic the Liberty caps should of course be legal in Sweden. But besides that these people seem to overlook that we live in a globalized world and that the spiritual search has never let itself be confined to places or cultural context. Just as religions spread across the world and have borrowed freely from each other’s cultural contexts, shamanism is also worldwide and practitioners are inspired by each other. There have also been new substances used in similar ways, with similar spiritual effects and with similar healing properties – LSD, MDMA and Ketamine, to name a few.

Lady Girl open hands by Beshef on Flickr
Lady Girl open hands by Beshef on Flickr

Some people speak of religious freedom. I guess that would be the freedom to settle for believing in other people’s descriptions of the highest divine. I’m not interested in religious freedom. I require spiritual freedom – the freedom to have my own spiritual experience and my own contact with the highest divine. If my spiritual path happens to involve working with plants and in a tradition that is older than any religion, that is my business as long as I do not harm anyone else. A law that tries to stop me from doing so is nothing more than oppression and discrimination institutionalized.

Main photo: Headlong by Brad Hammonds on Flickr

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A better tomorrow with drugs

Today’s repressive drug laws are at a dead end. The war on drugs harms society and citizens in a multitude of ways, of which I listed some in yesterdays blog post. Ironically it also prevents effective treatments for such things as addiction. But where can we go from here? Let’s imagine that all substances are legal. How can we organize the community to limit the damage and help addicts?

Legalizing all drugs would of course not mean that you could buy them next to the sweets at your local supermarket. And everything doesn’t just fall into place because they come under government control. There would probably need to be a combination of solutions, some of which already exist and others that don’t. Here are some possible parts to such a system.

State control.

hug me by jo marshall on Flickr
hug me by jo marshall on Flickr

In the current situation the entire drug trade is a black economy that is largely controlled by criminal organizations. If all substances were legalized they would become part of the regular economy, where it becomes possible to set up rules for manufacturing and quality control products. The substances would be provided with a table of content, just like any other commodity. The goods may additionally be provided with other labels, such as organic and fair trade.

Those working in the trade would have the same rights as other workers, would have the support of existing labor laws, would have the right to organize themselves into unions and would become tax payers.

Sales could take place within established models, such as the state control (pharmacies/tobacco sales) or as a state monopoly (in Sweden all alcohol is sold by the state run Systembolaget). Age limits could be imposed on substances and they could also be differentiated, so that one would have to be older to purchase some of the more potent compounds.

Taxing substances.

When drugs come under government control it is possible to steer people away from more harmful substances by levying heavier taxes on them. It’s would be easy to see which substances are economically costly for society and adjust the taxes accordingly.

Possibility to withdraw the right to use certain substances.

People should be able to lose their right to use certain substances if they commit crimes or harm themselves or others when they use them. I think it is strange that those who repeatedly get into fights drunk, drive intoxicated or get wasted on the verge of dying, still have the right to buy as much liquor as they can pay for.

When one shows that they aren’t able to handle a certain substance, it should be possible to revoke that person’s right to do so, in the same manner that one can lose ones driving license or license to practice medicine.

The possibility to exclude oneself from certain substances.

40+30 Tutorial by bark on Flickr
40+30 Tutorial by bark on Flickr

Many people are very aware of which substances they should not take. For example I know many who say they have no problem drinking beer, but go berserk if they drink hard liquor. It’s the same with all substances. What is pure bliss for one, can be hell for another. What one is able to take a couple of times a year without developing a craving for, another becomes addicted to after just a few doses.

But then again, many people know perfectly well what substances are dangerous for them. It could be made easy for them to take responsibility with the choice to voluntarily waive the right to use certain substances. They could also be able to set limits for themselves, by specifying how much of a substance they may purchase during a certain time period.

Many addicts will arrive at the point where they want to break free from their habit. During a certain period the window of change is open. The problem is often that they relapse because the substance will continue to be available to them. If they can exclude themselves from the right to buy certain substances, such as if an alcoholic does not allow him/herself to buy liquor, it would effectively help in the recovery process.

Licenses to handle certain substances.

With some particularly heavy drugs such as heroin, it would be possible to introduce a license allowing an educated person to handle the substance. For most substances it would probably be enough with basic education in school and a little everyday common sense, but with substances that carry serious consequences, it is important to be sure that those who use them have proper knowledge about risks and safety. The education for such a license may contain things like responsible management, how to use in a safe manner to prevent spread of infection, and how to deal with accidental overdoses. Such a license may be revoked if the person is irresponsible and for example sells substances to other people or uses them in an unsafe manner.

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In addition to the distribution itself – what can we do to get control of the situation regarding different substances?

Universal education in dealing with drugs and addiction.

I often wonder how drug education in schools can be allowed to be so absolutely worthless. The “education” is basically designed solely to scare people not to try anything. As a teenager I was an exchange student in the United States and the school that I went to worked in exactly the same way when it came to sex education. There was no information about STDs, contraception or sex. The whole message was only “you should not have sex until you get married”, and it was really crammed down the teenagers throats. It is a dangerous kind of indoctrination that creates ignorant and bigoted citizens, while increasing the actual risks.

Instead we should have a proper drug education, which includes such themes as:
∙ What is an altered state of mind and how you can you work with it?
∙ How to use drugs safely.
∙ What to do if you or someone else feels bad under the influence.
∙ How to manage an overdose.
∙ How to identify and get rid of substance abuse.

Use tax revenues for addiction treatment and prevention.

Libby hugging Tomoko by Loren Kerns on Flickr
Libby hugging Tomoko by Loren Kerns on Flickr

A legalization would generate tax revenue that I think primarily should go to addiction treatment and prevention. Even more money is now being spent on hunting, harassing and punishing people.

If we add a substantial part of those resources to create good addiction treatment, we will soon have the best addiction treatment the world has ever seen. Health care should be accessible and able to quickly help addicts who express a desire to receive care. Addiction is a disease and addicts should be treated as patients, not criminals.

There will always be addicts, but it is my firm belief that the addiction is to be found in the person – not in substance. People flee into abuse because they are fleeing from themselves, from the traumas they try to forget or from situations that are unbearable. Good prevention work builds on this understanding and aims to help people face themselves, help them process past trauma and to make their lives bearable. It helps them to stop fleeing and encourages them to take responsibility for their own lives. Much of today’s preventive work lacks this basic understanding.

Make substances available for scientific research, therapists, health care workers and healers.

There are many substances that are currently incorrectly classified as drugs with no medical value. This applies above all to psychedelics that are proven to be extremely effective in curing such things as addiction, depression, post-traumatic stress, empathy disorders and death anxiety. There are lots of stories about absolutely miraculous healing taking place with these substances, and they are at the same time very safe when used correctly.

Another substance that is being discussed greatly right now is cannabis and not only in its mind-altering form, but also as tinctures without the mind-altering properties. It is used with good results for such things as chronic pain, fibromyalgia, depression and end of life care. There seems to be some evidence that it also has cancer fighting properties.

These substances need to be made available to those who need the help and for the professionals who are working on this – from therapists, to regular health care workers, and also in alternative treatments. Today there are plenty of alternative therapists and traditional healers such as shamans, who have the knowledge and who have been passing it on for thousands of years. Here are exciting cross over’s to be made, when traditional methods of healing meet western medicine. Such work is already taking place. To fully take advantage of this scientific research needs to get started as soon as possible.

Making up for abuse committed by the state.

While the intention has probably been good, many people have been abused and badly treated under the current legislation. The current drug laws have stigmatized people, forced them into alienation, punished them, led people into a criminal lifestyle, actively withheld health care for sick addicts and has also led to many unnecessary deaths.

There is a need for redress and reconciliation. The very least the government should do is to apologize for the abuse that occurred under the current legislation.

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This blog post has been inspired by, among other things:
∙ A challenge from a friend who is a politician to show how legalization could work.
∙ The TEDx talk by James Leitzel that does just that: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s_Px4nYbJoQ
∙ Organisations and initiatives such as Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (http://www.maps.org/) and Transform (http://www.tdpf.org.uk/).

Main photo: Love by Nicola Romagna on Flickr

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Shamanism in a globalized world

I have encountered a few comments about Jungle Svonnis statement about the persecution shamanism has been subjected to in Sweden. The comments point out that Ayahuasca and San Pedro aren’t indigenous to Scandinavia. The reasoning seems to be that since these plants aren’t indigenous to Scandinavia, they cannot be seen as a valid part of Scandinavian shamanism.

What this line of reasoning is saying is that some tools should or could only be used in certain cultural contexts. In this case that would be in South America, handled by healers indigenous to the area. It does not however take into account that we live in a globalized world where people in ever greater numbers are inspiring each other, learning new techniques from each other and letting their own cultural background be enriched in the meetings with other cultures.

Svonni makes the case that Sami shamanism has been almost wiped out by the brutality of the Swedish government that has persecuted the Sami people for hundreds of years. Svonni comes from a lineage of shamans, but to find his shamanic roots he was forced to go to South America, where shamanism is still alive. There he underwent extensive training, in which he learnt to work with Ayahuasca and San Pedro, among other things. But although his training was in South America, he still considers himself a Sami shaman and has returned home to work in Scandinavia.

These plant medicines are truly fantastic, but they are also only tools for the shaman. Today shamans all over the world are connecting in order to rebuild the knowledge that has been lost under the brutality of the inquisition, through to modern day colonialism and today’s repressive drug laws. While regaining the knowledge that is inherent to all people of the earth, they are naturally also learning each other’s techniques. These techniques have been created in a certain cultural context, but are by no means bound to them. On the contrary, each shaman must collect his or her own tools, and might very well be inspired by whomever or whatever comes in his/her way, just as an artist might.

Day 432 365 - It's a small world av Jason Rogers på Flickr
Day 432 365 – It’s a small world by Jason Rogers on Flickr

We wouldn’t dream of saying that only Asians should have the right to draw calligraphy, that only Chinese should train kung fu, that only Sami should be allowed to sing jojk, only Indians should do yoga, only Native Americans should do sweat lodges, only Rastafaris should wear dreadlocks or only Westerners use Viagra. But when it comes to plant medicines someone seems to have the notion that certain things should not be allowed outside their original cultural context, even when it is obvious that such plants are helping people of all backgrounds, successfully spreading to new contexts and have a long history of use all over the world. It seems absurd to single out plant medicines like that and say that they alone should be forced to remain within their original cultural context.

That is not the understanding I have of the human experience. My understanding is that the whole world and all the knowledge belongs to every single human being. All you need to do is to reach out and claim it. There is no copyright on sacred plant medicines or our individual spiritual journeys, and I find it repulsive if someone would suggest that there should be.

The whole world and everything in it belongs to us all.

Photo: Portal by Rory MacLeod on Flickr

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