The possible change in perspective on national drug policy may give people the chance to reevaluate how some of these drugs can be used for liberatory purposes.
The possibility of changes to American drug policy has become more prevalent over time despite the insistence of the government to continue the War On Drugs to its fullest degree. Despite the restrictive outlook of the government, both Democrat and Republican which has remained constant for decades, the real change has been in public perception. Society has gradually been more open to reform that would include the legalization of marijuana for personal use and the medical treatment for drug addiction. Once consigned to a support by marijuana enthusiasts alone, former law enforcement officials and medical professionals are now admitting that marijuana poses no public threat and that the overall methodology of drug criminalization needs to drastically change. Medical marijuana initiative attempts throughout the United States are becoming more common place than even ten years ago. Public figures, some in government, have recently revealed that they have used marijuana with no negative repercussions. But in contrast, anti-drug commercials that are in circulation usually emphasize the supposed “danger” of marijuana and its dire effects on children. Without a doubt the Drug War is still going on, and it is important to note how marijuana has been villified as the enemy and how it relates to what marijuana and other non-addictive illegal drugs really do to humans in terms of consciousness and social context.
The largest effect of the modern Drug War has been the convergence of all drugs under the same rubric during criminalization, regardless of their effects and their disparate natures. In fact, there are gigantic differences between marijuana, ecstasy, and entheogens such as LSD on one hand and cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamines on the other. The definition of all of them as illegal, and therefore implied as dangerous, obscures the properties of these drugs. It prevents any rational observation or judgement about these drugs. By ignoring their illegal status, it is possible to see the true difference between physical addiction and mental alteration. Cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamines cause physical addiction and can even cause death. Therefore, the use of these drugs are a medical problem that needs to be addressed through treatment. However marijuana, ecstasy, and LSD do not have negative physical aspects. They increase sensory appreciation and alter consciousness. The convergence of mental alteration with physical addiction is the subsumption of alteration by addiction. In other words the anti-drug propaganda perpetuates a myth that non-addictive drugs that alter consciousness is potentially addictive and dangerous. This convergence results in the inability to practically treat addiction clearly. But there is another dimension to the important distinction between mental alteration and physical addiction. Drugs such as cocaine and heroin that induce a dependency can be used as a tool of control. Drugs such as marijuana and LSD can be used as a tool of liberation. By making drugs that alter consciousness illegal, and equivalent to drugs that cause addiction, it prevents marijuana and LSD from being used effectively. In contrast, by grouping cocaine and heroin with drugs that pose no physical danger, it becomes difficult to treat physical addiction and it can continue as a way to make humans passive and easy to dominate. The use of drugs such as marijuana and LSD can be a resistance to a ubiquitous order. From this resistance can emerge the creation of new and immanent structures to express free agency. It should be noted that mind alteration is a type of consciousness expansion in much the same way that interaction with the visual arts or philosophy is consciousness expansion. In this light, the right kind of drug use that expands consciousness can be used in a constructive conjunction with such things as the visual arts or philosophy. Drugs, the right drugs used properly, can be one example of free agency.
The reason why drugs that alter consciousness can be tools of liberation is because they can allow the expression of desire. Desire is inherent to all humans and the existence of a unique desire is common to all individuals. Each desire is made equivalent to each other through the product of desire or when desire is redirected toward predetermined objects. In other words, desire becomes standardized through its transformation into drive. Authentic desire precedes the form of logic and the content of experience, and it is subsequently articulated through that logic and experience. Desire is the practice of autonomy in the political, the cultural, and the economic. The identity of the individual and the collective will then emerge either from drive or desire. The drive of an individual is an external discontinuity from the social body and an internal continuity of structures of power, meaning, and production. The desire of an individual is an external discontinuity from dominating structures of power, meaning, and production that is also an internal continuity of the social body. The real expression of desire is not only an expression of free agency, but a reconnection toward society outside of hierarchy. The important element in the expression of desire is the use of tools of liberation that make it possible to break free from structures that impose control over individuals and collectives.
The use of tools of liberation does not necessarily mean that individuals will become isolated from other individuals when they express their desire. There is an interdependence between individuals and the collectives that they are a part of. It is rather drive that isolates humans and breaks up the social body when they feel that they have to fulfill an artificial lack within themselves through external objects such as commodities. Drugs that cause physical addiction can be the epitome of a commodity in this respect. The social body is a basic kind of space for the expression of desire. It acts as the background for immanent structures that are used by humans to articulate their free agency. The social body opens up the possibility for the production and reproduction of social relationships. It contains and is made up of the subsets of the political, the cultural, and the economic. Within the social as a blank slate, various political, cultural, and economic systems are formed. These structures always begin as immanent structures, able to be used as tools by humans for their own free agency. But there is also the risk that these structures can become transcendent and be used as the method to control humans. Sadly, even democracy can be transformed into a method of control rather than a process for free agency. The understanding that desire must be directly connected to free agency is facilitated by individuals making use of immanent structures within the social body. Democracy, as one kind of immanent structure, can be put to use in many ways. Political democracy can be an original choice determining all other choices. Cultural democracy can be the individual creation and collective use of ideas. Economic democracy can be worker ownership of the means of production and capital. In all cases, democracy allows for the expression of desire. And the acknowledgement of desire as a primary human trait puts the use of marijuana or LSD as a tool of liberation into focus alongside democracy.
Free agency is the expression of desire, and desire is expressed through immanent structures that can be tools of liberation. The 1960’s was a specific point in modern history where the freedom to alter one’s consciousness, and the freedom from having one’s consciousness altered against one’s will, became part of the forefront in the public political discussion. This threat to the status quo, the ability to properly express desire as a form of political resistance, may have instigated the formation of the Drug War that confused the nature of various drugs under an illegal designation. The failure of the Drug War over the years can demonstrate the political motivation to its creation, where drugs that could be dangerous to the institutions of control where defined as dangerous to fellow humans and personal health. Society, outside of the mechanism of the government, is slowly beginning to realize this real motivation to drug prohibition. Drugs, and the legalization of marijuana or LSD, are not goals in themselves but are rather the means to a new perspective on systems of power that can give humans a chance to create new structures that serve human needs. Drug reform is a part of the ability of humans to recognize the connection between desire and freedom.