At the age of 19, Gregory Sams was pioneering the introduction of natural and organic foods within the UK. Fifteen years later, in 1982, he created and christened the world's first VegeBurger. In 1990 he opened a retail shop, "Strange Attractions", off London's Portobello Rd, dedicated to introducing chaos theory and fractal design to the culture. Sams is the author of Uncommon Sense – the State is Out of Date, published 1998 (in which The Drugs Problem is a chapter). The full text of this book is now online, together with the preface to his next book, plus other writing and his stunning fractal gallery at www.gregorysams.com.
"The Drug War is fueled by the fact that at this historic moment…our politicians are suffering from enemy deprivation. Faced with the real problems of urban decay, slipping global competitiveness, and a deteriorating educational system, the government has decided instead to turn its energies toward the sixty million Americans who use illegal psychoactive drugs."
The primary problem with drugs is that they are illegal and/or state-controlled. This counter-evolutionary control by the state, of substances that we take for other than nutritional purposes, is the root cause of virtually all the problems that people are concerned about in connection with drugs, drug abuse and drug-related crime. Sure, all drugs have potential problems if abused. But we are human beings, and able to make judgements about these things, and treat them with respect and caution – just as we must with our food, our driving and our sex. Cannabis, magic mushrooms, peyote, opium, coca leaf extracts and alcohol were all legal at the end of the 19th century, when only alcohol was regarded as a major social problem. A century later, we find that alcohol is the only consciousness-altering drug that remains legal.
It should not surprise us that young people, especially, seek to experiment with drugs that alter or enhance their perception of life, and that youths and adults seek a drug-granted respite from the predictability of everyday life. There's a menu full of options out there to choose from but all of our choices are channelled towards alcohol. The biggest cause of alcoholism is, perhaps, the difficulty in obtaining safer, non-addictive and less befuddling alternatives, cannabis in particular. During the 1990's alcohol consumption reduced amongst Europe's youth, together with football hooliganism, as a wider selection of drugs became available.
It seems a reasonable desire for people to find some means to get “out of their heads” from time to time – to take a totally different perspective on life. Perhaps some new perspectives on life are needed in the world today and the attraction to drugs is evolution trying to happen. We should be pleased that today's generation is avoiding the trap of alcohol addiction, together with the anti-social behaviour, depression, trivia worship and middle-age burnout that abusers risk. Used sensibly, alcohol can be a beneficial drug that enhances and maintains our health and well-being. Alcohol has a well-earned place in our culture but that place should not be defended by state legislation and turned into a drug monopoly.
Drugs are an integral part of our culture and, as most of us learned in school, drugs often formed the core of the early business which brought the world's differing cultures into trade with each other. These products of trade included tobacco, alcohol, opium, tea, coffee, chocolate, cocaine and sugar. We could almost regard pepper and spices as virtual drugs to the taste buds of the bland European palate of the mid-millennium. The glorious history of trade in the civilized world relied upon civilization's search for new and diverse drugs and sensory input.
People have always sought to include drugs in their diets for many non-medical reasons: whether to stay awake longer, or to fall asleep quicker; whether to drown their sorrows or to better understand them; whether to enjoy a banter in the bar with friends, or have mystic communication with a tree; whether to explore their dark side or say hello to the God within. Some drugs are not an escape from “reality” but a gateway to exploring the very nature of reality. Even the humble drug tea was first discovered by Buddhist monks who valued it to help them stay up all night meditating in order to get high. One could imagine how dismayed they would be at the level of tea abuse taking place in modern Britain.
Some of the banned drugs are not just less dangerous than alcohol – they are hardly dangerous at all and can lead to behaviour which could quite possibly be downright good for the individual and society. Cannabis, LSD and psilocybin mushrooms have not even got an annual death toll of one apiece. Ecstasy (MDMA) kills fewer people each year than does aspirin, lightning hits, or beef consumption. And millions of happy users continue to use these drugs with far less damage than that experienced by alcohol drinkers, amphetamine abusers, cocaine sniffers, cigarette puffers or chocolate box gobblers. There is some risk – all drugs carry some risk if abused, even aspirin. But if we wish to enjoy the benefits, then we have to accept the responsibility, just as we take care when we get in our car or on our bike and take to the roads, or check to see how fresh the food is at a self-service restaurant. Much of our life consists of balancing the risks in life with the benefits to be had.
Sunday Times Dec 1996
Getting happy, loving, insightful, bursting with positive energy, able to dance all night or just chilled out, are all definitely nice things to do and I say boo to the prigs who claim that these valuable experiences are invalid when we make use of a drug to assist us in getting to a desired state of mind. Let them keep drinking their instant coffee, using one-hour film processors, flying across the world in hours instead of weeks. Let them eat their frozen dinners, sliced pre-baked bread and take-away fast food, working on computers that can do millions of calculations per second. Let them tune into instant escape from reality on a multitude of TV channels; but accessing happiness, peace, boundless energy or deep feelings of love quickly and without great expense? Oh no, this must be done the long way through years of grief and hard work; or purchased, if we are to believe the advertising, when you select the right brand of automobile, sanitary towel or soft drink.
Contrast the state's complacency regarding what we put into our bodies under the guise of food with its concern against what we ingest to feed our heads (an apt phrase from the Sixties). With food, that basic and essential necessity of life, we can do just about anything we like, eating whatever we like for any reason whenever we want to. We are allowed to consume chemical food additives that have no natural equivalent on planet Earth. The state even assures us that all this stuff is safe, as they did with every now-banned additive when it was still legal.
We are allowed to eat genetically modified foodstuffs – the like of which could only have evolved in nature had you persuaded and enabled a scorpion to mate with a tomato. We can freely consume four times as much food as we need, and more than our body can safely deal with. We can go on doing this as long as we please, consuming beefburgers and soft drinks all the way to our state-provided hospital deathbed if we so choose. In the early 1990's the American Surgeon General attributed 80% of all illness-related deaths to diet-related causes. Yet nobody will jail you anywhere in the world for eating yourself to death.
So who is protecting whom from what? How can the state have the effrontery to control and legislate what we do with our own state of mind? Just what is going on here? Literally, you can go to jail for puffing on a plant that makes you feel happy and loving, gives you no crunching hangover and is safer than crossing the road.
Cannabis is the most risk-free illegal drug in existence, with a recognized safe history going back thousands of years. It is a much happier and safer alternative to alcohol without the effect of making users befuddled and arrogant. If someone's reaction to cannabis is likely to impair their ability to drive, they realize that they are not safe behind a wheel, and that driving is the last thing they want to do in that condition – unlike the drunk who is convinced that he can take on the whole world with total competence. As far as I know, there is no statistical data linking cannabis consumption with actual dangerous driving.
Cannabis is a drug and use can turn to abuse and lead to reduced focus and motivation; this is a risk that is easier for a pot user to deal with when it occurs than it is for an alcohol user. And when it does occur, it is usually when cannabis is taken in combination with the addictive drug, tobacco. You are more likely to hear pure smokers talk about getting high, and tobacco mixers about getting stoned.
From The Lancet Editorial Nov 11, 1995
All leading independent research has come to the same general conclusion that Cannabis
"…in its natural form is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man" –
Also from the 1989 BMA report findings "…there are no known cases of death in humans from Cannabis…" (The Pharmaceutical Journal Vol 254 No.6843 pp772). In comparison Tobacco is attributed to over 100,000 deaths each year in the UK. Alcohol, which is responsible for over 30,000 deaths each year is also implicated in 60-70% of homicides, 75% of stabbings and 50% of domestic assaults."
Cannabis smoking was never perceived as a major threat to society, or associated with crime, until the 1930’s when fanatical and ambitious Harry J. Anslinger became America’s first drug tzar. He made it his major mission to stamp out smoking of the evil drug ‘marihuana’, and the hemp plant on which it flowers. He had the backing and support of publishing baron William Randolph Hearst, and his timber-owning buddies, in whose interest it was to wipe out hemp cultivation. It was the threat of hemp’s competition with timber, as the raw material for paper, that motivated the press magnate to give his considerable media backing to Anslinger. America’s thousands of hemp farmers would soon have to change crops or go bust.
It has even been suggested that drug czar Anslinger and the timber lords were involved with promoting the ‘cult’ movie REEFER MADNESS, a bizarre piece of anti-cannabis propaganda made in 1936. My father graphically remembers being shown it aged fourteen, and had the impression that it was screened to teachers and students throughout the USA. Its hysterical attitude certainly defined America’s attitude to pot smoking for many years to come. Those who profit from pot’s continued illegality have more sophisticated techniques today, and are still winning the propaganda wars. This continues, notwithstanding the fact that nearly all of the official reports commissioned by governments, here and abroad, have come out in favour of legalization.
The range of drugs referred to as psychedelics all have their original roots and inspirations in natural substances that our species has used for millennia in the search for altered consciousness and greater understanding of the nature of God and the universe. The state bans these substances for the same reason that they issue passports and control which borderlines we cross. Psychedelics are the travelling drugs – they do not, generally speaking, work by stimulating or reducing urges or inhibitions. They are not addictive, have a very high lethal dose, if any, and account for barely a handful of fatalities per annum.
They take us into a different place – we travel to other dimensions, or see new dimensions in the world around us. In many ways the familiar world we live in, with brick houses, plumbers, parliaments, radios, cars, roads, suits, restaurants and so forth is but one channel on the set of all possible channels. Because this is the 'reality' we have created within the world around us we are tuned to it to such a degree that we can easily become oblivious to the deeper nature of the vast Universe that encompasses the little fleck of matter in space which we call Earth.
Psychedelics are not taken as an 'escape' from this world but as a ticket to see it from a different perspective, even from a different dimension. It is hard to emerge from this voyage without developing a realization, amongst many others, that those 'in power' are possessed of a narrow vision fuelled primarily by the desire to stay in power. Their viewpoint is of one channel only – the one that represents the status quo in whatever country they control – and their efforts to fine-tune this channel to a micro degree can often appear ludicrous. Thus, these drugs reveal clearly that “the emperor has no clothes” and must be prohibited at all costs.
Many of the psychedelics grow naturally on this planet and have been utilised from the early days of our species along with the other gifts of the Earth that we use to feed, clothe and heal ourselves. Their popularity, and their undeserved illegalisation, has led to a growth in man-made alternatives such as LSD, Ecstasy and 2CB; substances which are themselves routinely banned as soon as it becomes apparent that yet another means to acquire a passport has been found, another door opened. Unlike experiences with tobacco, alcohol, chocolate or heroin, you rarely find cannabis or psychedelic users who continue to take these drugs whilst professing a constant desire to quit taking them. Psychedelics should always be treated with respect – and are fully capable of giving their own stern reminders when this is not done.
Not all drugs are as safe and non-addictive as cannabis. Some, like heroin, cocaine and controlled pharmaceuticals, carry serious risks and can create dependency and addiction. These are routinely made illegal in the belief that this will reduce consumption. The evidence could not be more to the contrary. Both the organised drugs dealers and police forces grow in strength and stand to make more money or preside over bigger budgets in an illegal drugs climate. Products are sold without identification, industry controls, manufacturer name, usage instructions, safety cautions, or any buyer's guarantee or maker's liability. In a free market, the legal liabilities for makers of crack cocaine could be a lot more frightening and inhibiting than the ineffective drugs squad.
In a free and informed drugs market fewer would choose the dangerous drugs, and the evidence in the UK and Holland supports this, as the majority of drug users choose the far less toxic cannabis and psychedelics. Many of these users have sampled drugs such as heroin, crack cocaine, amphetamines or alcohol and simply not become regular users. People are able to make intelligent choices and when they are enjoying life they are naturally interested in preserving their own, and act accordingly. Yet the state steadfastly refuses to let us exercise our own judgement in drug use. We live in a world where if you choose to make up your own mind about what you do with it, you can go to jail – for your own good of course.
This crazy attitude has embroiled most of the world in a virtual Third World War under the guise of America's internationally exported War on Drugs. Whole economies have been ravaged, and vast sums are spent each year from our taxes and confiscated from our citizens, while the numbers imprisoned worldwide must equal the annual casualties of a great ongoing war. This Third World War does not defend us from some great Evil threatening society and serves no useful purpose but to fatten the coffers of those waging it – from the countless worldwide bureaus, agencies and police forces, to the ever-expanding prison industry and makers of testing apparatus.
Perhaps the zeal with which this new war is waged reflects the state's own dependency on the massive tax revenues it raises from the approved drugs, and hinges on its cosy, centuries-long relationship with distillers, tobacco companies and the pharmaceutical industry – the biggest drug dealers in the world.
Another prime stimulus to this war arises from religious bigots who fear that personal revelations of brotherhood and oneness with the Universe might not be in strict accordance with church teachings, and could thus bypass the need for a priesthood to interpret these higher matters for us.
The casualties of this war on drugs are many and varied. Most obvious are the hundreds of thousands of our world's citizens who are locked up, at our expense, for indulging or trading in alternatives to the standardized 'OK by the USA' drugs – substances such as alcohol, tobacco, Prozac, prescription sedatives, coffee and cola drinks that must be the only mood or mind-altering fare available to the world. Though it is openly acknowledged that the majority of illegal drug shipments do get through to their markets, the casualties and costs continue to mount with no benefit for society.
Another level of casualties in this war evolves from the distortion of the natural market, which drives people to take more dangerous drugs than they would choose in a free market. The laws banning cannabis cultivation and use carry more responsibility for the growth of crack cocaine than do all the cocaine barons of Columbia and the CIA. They also carry responsibility for solvent related deaths, teenage alcoholism, madness from Datura (Jimson weed), and other aspects of the drug problem than does any other single factor. Though there is justified outrage at the probable part played by the CIA in the introduction of crack cocaine to America's inner cities, the statistics would suggest that the War on Drugs itself is the largest causative factor of America's downhill slide into dangerous drug abuse.
Federal prisons only; overall, more than one million Americans are behind bars, serving sentence or awaiting trial – the highest per capita level in the world.
According to NIDA research for the USA, tobacco and alcohol kill twice as many people in a week as do all illegal drugs combined in a year. Unlike alcohol and tobacco, cannabis is neither addictive nor credited with any deaths per annum. And how can we ignore the millions made dependent upon prescribed pharmaceuticals with damaging, often lethal side-effects, excluding them altogether from the “drug problem” statistics?
This war has clogged courts and jails worldwide with drug cases. The U.S.A. has 2.8% of its adult population (5% of adult males) in jail. This is the highest incarceration rate in the world and three times the world average. America's Stalinistic forfeiture laws against drug users now routinely provide budgeted income to local state agencies as they seize valuable property, boats and businesses of people accused of being in the drugs trade – before their cases have even been tried in court! Even when proven innocent, it is difficult, costly and time-consuming to recover forfeited property. It seems evident that the War on Drugs creates far more problems than drugs ever posed on their own.
Like the American Prohibition of alcohol in the 1920's this surreptitious World War Three has no chance whatsoever of success. As we know from history, the effect of Prohibition was to double the overall level of alcohol consumption and increase deaths from badly-made alcohol. Prohibition gave the Mafia a very successful start in life, and a database of almost every club, bar or place of entertainment in the USA. The whole effort was an excellent example of the “terminal toolbag” in action.
We do have a problem with young people taking drugs as well as with middle aged and elderly people. It is a very serious problem that is getting worse. For some reason, though, the perception of this problem is focused entirely on the very small range of drugs which are being used illegally. Why do we ignore the vast problems faced by those who are using drugs prescribed by doctors, and whose lives are messed-up and sometimes destroyed as a result either of doctor error, their own abuse of the prescribed stocks, or just years of being addicted to synthetic pharmaceuticals with known side-effects? These can only be obtained through controlled channels but these channels translate into a multi-billion dollar industry throughout the world – the real drugs trade.
The most successful pharmaceutical drugs are those such as steroids, beta blockers and antihistamines which do not cure, but instead create a life-long habit for the user, often translating to hundreds or even thousands of pounds a month. These drug dealers openly lobby and encourage the state to pass laws controlling and restricting the alternative healing industry in the sale of herbal and other natural medicinal remedies. Even the deadly killers alcohol and tobacco are usually blinkered out of the vision when the vast majority talk about “the drug problem.”
While acknowledging the dangers posed by some illegal drugs, I point out that the unnecessary suffering and destruction meted out by the 'authorized' drugs trade is clearly the greater problem, despite being managed by trained people in white coats and slick PR professionals. More people will almost surely die from mis-applied or mis-prescribed pharmaceuticals in a month, probably even in a week, than from the so-called “drug problem” in a year. The statistics are not released and possibly not even tallied.
Disclaimer: Readers are advised to avoid all illegal drugs and to only ever ingest those substances that have been approved by the government, or prescribed by a government-approved doctor. Then you will be a happy, healthy bunny.
Prohibition Through The Ages
16th Century – Coffee banned in Egypt and supplies of coffee burned – use spreads rapidly
17th Century – The tsar of Russia executes tobacco users
c.1650 – Tobacco prohibited in Bavaria, Saxony, Zurich; the Ottoman sultan zealously executes smokers to no avail.
1736 – The Gin Act fails to halt consumption in England.
1845 – New York bans the public sale of liquor – repeals law two years later.
1875-1914 – 27 states and cities ban opium smoking-consumption increases sevenfold.
1914 U.S. – Congress passes Harrison Narcotics Act controlling opium and coca derivatives.
1914-1970 – Congress passes 55 laws to strengthen Harrison Act
1918 – Special Committee studies Harrison Act effects – widespread smuggling and increased use of narcotics – and calls for stricter enforcement.
1919 – Prohibition laws ban alcohol consumption in USA – consumption doubles.
1919-1933 – Use of marijuana, ether, and coffee increases.
1924 – U.S. Congress bans heroin completely-and heroin replaced morphine in blackmarket
1937 – First U.S. Federal law passed against marijuana use.
1949 – Law enforcement crackdown on non-prescription barbiturates – use increases 800% from 1942-1969.
1958 – Soviets raise alcohol prices 23% to reduce consumption – policy fails.
1959 – Concerted campaign against glue sniffing begins – causes "a boom in cocaine smuggling" by 1969.
1962 – The FDA stops legal production of LSD – LSD use skyrockets by 1970.
1965 – Amphetamine use crackdown further stimulates importation of cocaine.
1968 – Campaign against marijuana use among troops in Vietnam prompts growing heroin use.
1969 – New York city arrests 9000 more for drug use with no impact on drug availability & use.
1971 – All-out campaign against heroin use in Vietnam fails.
1971 – 900 pounds of heroin seized in New York City has no impact on price.
1971 – President Nixon declares drugs "America's public enemy No.1"
1972 – U.S.A. passes a $1 Billion anti-drug bill.
1973 – Rockefeller passes another tough anti-drug bill in New York
1973 – President Nixon declares "We have turned the corner on drug addiction in America."
1973 – Singapore sets death penalty for drug trafficking – a few years later a drug official admits that "Heroin seems to be more widely used than ever."
1977 – Bar Association concludes that Rockefeller Bill has had no effect on heroin consumption.
1980 – 300,000 youths in Malaysia estimated to be using illegal drugs.
1987 – Malaysia's 12-foot high security fence along border with Thailand fails to stop drug traffic.
1987 – Soviets increase penalties against moonshining in bid to lower alcohol use.
1987 – Soviet legal alcohol production down 30%; moonshining up 40%; home-made wine production up 300%; 200,000 prosecuted for illegal home brewing.
1988 – U.S. Senate adds $2.6 billion to federal anti-drug efforts.
1989 – Ronald Reagan declares victory in War on Drugs as being his major achievement
1989 – U.S. Secretary of State reports that the global war on narcotics "is clearly not being won."
1990-1997 – America exports its war on drugs worldwide – drug consumption increases worldwide. How long must this continue???
2007 – DRUG WAR STILL GOES ON
For comprehensive information on all drugs go to:
"Uncommon Sense: State Is Out of Date"
Author, Gregory Sams
Available from Amazon.
- Tea was such an expensive 18th century American drug that its affluent users would eat the buttered and salted dried leaves after having boiled them into a strong bitter brew. (James Trager, The Foodbook, Grossman NY). [back to text]
- Prior to the discovery of sugar cane, the primary sweetening for European culture had been expensive honey available from bees that were, of course, not fed sugar. Sugar has the habit-forming effect of raising our blood-sugar level rapidly to a degree useable only by someone running the 100 metre dash. Our blood sugar level drops soon after this rush, leading to a craving for more. [back to text]
- The cannabis plant, hemp, can produce up to four times as much paper per acre as trees, and was the first US agricultural product ever referred to as a “billion dollar” crop – in a 1938 Popular Mechanics article, which read: “…a machine has been invented which solves a problem more than 6000 years old. The machine is designed for removing the fibre-bearing cortex from the rest of the stalk, making hemp fibre available for use without a prohibitive amount of human labour. Hemp is the standard fibre of the world…and can be used to produce more than 25,000 products ranging from dynamite to cellophane.” The fictitious dangers of cannabis smoking were used as the excuse to virtually destroy the hemp industry and stave off the threat to the paper mills Hearst and his friends owned. At the same time DuPont and the nylon industry were ready to launch their alternative synthetic ropes and fibres. Hemp was the world's largest agricultural crop from 1000 BC until 1883 AD and made our earliest example of woven fabric (8000-7000BC). It has a long history of effective use in medicine. Getting safely “high” is just a minor fringe benefit that this wonderfully useful plant offers our culture. (from Herer's book The Emperor Wears No Clothes). [back to text]
- The term drug dealer is used in a descriptive and not pejorative sense. [back to text]
- It is estimated to cost about $400,000 to put a single (USA) drug dealer in jail; composed of $150,000 to arrest and convict, $50,000-$150,000 for an additional prison bed and an average five years in jail at a cost of $30,000 per annum (1996). [back to text]