Tag Archives: legal

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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Don’t confuse what’s legal with what’s moral

Slavery was legal.
Apartheid was legal.
The inquisition was legal.

It is legal to poison children with sugar and fat.
Cutting down vast forests, eradicating whole species and threatening life on earth is legal.
Testing nukes, supplying dictatorships with weapons and bombing the shit out of people seems to be legal.

In some cultures it’s legal to stone homosexuals.
Where I live homosexuality used to be illegal.
Then for a long while it was ‘only’ considered to be a sickness.
Only recently has it become legal for homosexuals to marry here.

It is legal to make laws that discriminate and hinder people from living a full life.
And it is legal to use the laws to harass and persecute groups of people.
We don’t want to admit it, but we have plenty of laws that are racist, sexist and in other ways discriminating.

IMG_8649At the same time it is illegal to heal in ways that aren’t state approved.
It is illegal for you to smoke a joint for your pain or take LSD to release trauma.
And if your spiritual practice involves psychedelics you can still get in trouble in many countries.

The law does not grant you the right to your own body.
It does not grant you the right to your own healing and growth.
Your life is only yours within the limits of the law and if you deviate you can be fined, end up in prison for however long someone else thinks is reasonable or even be killed.

Do not confuse legal with moral. And do not imagine that you can claim a moral high ground because you follow the law. You can be immoral to the core, a liar, a cheat and an oppressor and still be a law abiding citizen. In fact, if you are a law abiding citizen your morals probably have quite a few weak spots. If you are high up enough in the political hierarchy you can legally get away with mass murder. The rest of us can wash our hands of blood and clear our conscience by simply voting for someone else to make the nasty decisions.

This is saying quite a lot about the legal system and our moral obligation to follow the law. If your moral compass is working you have no moral obligation to follow the law. Your obligation is to follow your conscience. The law is primarily for people who do not have a working moral compass.

If you put law before morals you are weak. If you are weak you should not try to claim the moral high ground, because it is not yours to claim. Lions like Gandhi or Martin Luther King Jr get to claim the moral high ground. You are a sheep. Your place is with the law abiding herd. Baa.

Photo: Bomb by _Gavroche_ on Flickr

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Substance abuse is in the person, not in the substance

Substance abuse is part of the person, not the substance.

That people feel the need to numb themselves, to switch off and escape, is almost always a result of something within that is really uncomfortable and hard to handle. Some have been abused, lost someone they love, been bullied or otherwise traumatized. Others feel bad in less visible ways. They suffer from anxiety, low self-esteem, they feel unimportant or unloved.

Many who flee into addiction have that in common that they lack other ways to cope. They stun themselves to escape. There are many ways to numbing oneself, many of which are legal but equally destructive as the illegal ways. The most obvious way is to numb oneself with drugs, where alcohol is the most common but also one of the most dangerous escape drugs. There are of course plenty of more or less dangerous substances, such as heroin, amphetamines and Spice. But if we really want to remedy abuse we need to understand that it is just as easy to abuse such things as gambling, sex, food and relationships.

The big problem with the Swedish drug policy is that it lacks this basic understanding. It chases symptoms (substances) instead of the root causes that drive people to flee from themselves. It is inherent in the very name – drug policy. It’s not an abuse policy. It’s not a policy of well-being. Everything prohibitionists have to say seems to focus almost solely on the substances.

The same backwards approach recurs in school drug education. The education essentially only tries to scare students from trying drugs. They are bombarded with terrible stories of drug abuse and a long list of negative effects that drugs can have. When I look back at my own education, I think it is remarkable that it never offered a single tool to take care of my mental health.

If we really want to reduce substance abuse we first need to help people to feel good. If we want people to feel good, we need to 1) not traumatize them, and 2) give them the tools to deal with the trauma that they will still be exposed to. If we really want to protect our young from abuse, we need to give them the tools to manage tough experiences in life, to process abuse, to handle losses and deal with bullying. They need to feel loved and important and included and given the opportunity to build a strong sense of self.

And those who still fall into addiction because they cannot find another way, we need to help. To help is something we do far too rarely today. Instead we pour our resources into chasing, controlling, forcing and punishing people. It is not only extremely costly for society, but it helps to perpetuate the problem. People do not recover by being systematically stigmatized, just as we cannot get children to stop fighting by beating sense into their heads.

Today’s drug policy is fundamentally flawed because it focuses on drugs, instead of focusing on people. Tear up the legislation and start over. Focus on people’s well-being. Redirect resources to not only help those stuck in addiction, but also to give everyone access to the tools to heal themselves from whatever they might want to flee from. In this way we will not only deal with abuse, but we will also put an end to a war that society wages against its own people and that it cannot possibly win.

Photo: Nalewka by The Integer Club on Flickr

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Daniel tries legal psychedelics

Press Release 2014-12-31:

In 2015 the Swedish/English blogger and shaman Daniel Wilby will try legal drugs to investigate their therapeutic and spiritual potential.
– It is my hope to be able to offer legal psychedelic therapy and healing in the near future, he explains.

Nine years ago he himself recovered from long-term alcohol abuse and a deep depression when he came in contact with the illegal psychedelic substance LSD. Since then he has worked intensely to learn how to use psychedelics for healing and growing, both for himself and with others.
– I see the criminalization of psychedelics such as LSD and psilocybin mushrooms as a violation of every person’s inherent right to heal and practice their spiritual beliefs. For me, these substances saved my life and I can never be grateful enough for the help I received through them.

Daniel works in the shamanic tradition, but has also recently begun studying social work at the university of Malmö with the hope of being able to work with legal psychedelic therapy in the future.
– At first I imagined that I would have to open a center abroad to bring clients to, but this fall we had a big discussion in Sweden about the harmful yet legal Spice blends. That made me think of all these substances that are not yet classified as illegal. I want to examine them to see if there are some that are good to work with in the same manner as I have previously worked with LSD and mushrooms.

The Internet-based smartshop Azarius in Holland sponsors Daniel with products from their selection, and he will continuously report his and others’ experiences on his blog.
– Two things have been particularly important when we have selected which substances to try. The first is that the substance must be safe. There cannot be the slightest risk for my health. The second is that the substance must be legal in Sweden.

Psychedelic plants have in shamanic traditions been used for many thousands of years to heal and help people grow, and to get in contact with the spirit world. During a short period leading up to the 1960s, they were used extensively in Western therapeutic contexts and generally showed great results, but all such research was suppressed when the war on drugs began.
– The reason that psychedelics were banned in the 1960s was not that they were dangerous, but because they were perceived as subversive. Suddenly people let their hair grow, they listened to strange music and refused to go to war. For militaristic-minded nations who expected a certain conformity and obedience, this was very scary. Compared to other drugs and medications psychedelics are very safe, but as with anything you obviously need to know what you are doing.
– In a therapeutic context psychedelics allow us to quickly go very deep. They strip away unnecessary walls and help us to dive into the subconscious, which means that we can often go further in one single psychedelic session than you would in months or even several years of regular therapy.

Photo: Daniel Wilby by Jamin Pirnia

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